Kanye West Wears Shoes “The Japanese Way”—Inspired by the Olsens?
On Kanye’s tiny shoes and the Olsens’ giant ones.
Photograph courtesy of Splash News.
Today is nothing if not a saga of why Kanye West is wearing what he’s wearing—and whether Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsen have anything to do with it.
In this episode: Did Kanye West really wear tiny slippers “the Japanese way”?
And if so: Did Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsen have anything to do with it?
The short answer: absolutely.
The long answer: earlier this month, Kanye West attended 2 Chainz’s Versace Mansion wedding in a double-breasted, oh-so-crisp seafoam green suit that gave me that just-brushed-clean feeling—with a pair of slide sandals that were both bulbous and too small. Everyone mocked West for his ill-fitting shoes; I would embed some tweets here, but it is too painful to dig up what has now been revealed as the uninformed mockery of the internet’s most swagless homies.
Because once again, West has emerged to show us how something that seemed like a mistake was actually on purpose all along. Yesterday, shortly after giving a crying-laughing sign of approval to a Diet Prada T-shirt tribute to his sandals, he tweeted a diagram of a foot on a Japanese wooden sandal and wrote, “The Japanese way.” Quoth the diagram, “Your heel should extend 1~2cm off the back of the wooden shoe.”
Is this true? I emailed W. David Marx, a Japan-based fashion and culture writer, who confirmed that, indeed, the “iki way to wear geta or setta sandals is to have the heel hanging off the back.” (Iki is a Japanese aesthetic described on Wikipedia as “a clear, stylish manner and blunt unwavering directness.” (Don’t ever say you learned nothing suitable for dishing at an exclusive streetwear insider dinner party from GARAGE dot com.) The hang keeps the hem of the garment from catching between your foot and the heel of your shoe. (Flowing robe-wearers of the world, take note.) If the last centimeter of your heel has to be a little uncomfortable, and exposed to the dust-laden, meander-pattern marble tiles of the Versace Mansion, then so be it if it means the hem of that serene-green suit remains pristine.
But this is not the first time a celebrity designer has played with the proportion of a shoe—and that’s where the Olsens come in. For years, Ashley and Mary-Kate have worn their shoes with the opposite proportion: gigantic. Their signature shoe is an oversized black boot, but this enlarged fit is a recurring style motif for them, from Mary-Kate’s cage-like white sandals in May to Ashley’s big white sneaks and pink socks in March. You can see at least two extra centimeters at the heel of Mary-Kate’s flip-flop in this photograph of her walking with husband Olivier Sarkozy in 2015. (Side note: this is one of the greatest outfits anyone has ever worn. Change the color and hem the pants and you have a very Westian getup.)
Among the impassioned denizens of the Olsen Instagram community, this shoe style is thought to be an expression of another Japanese way of styling one’s footwear: the Koonago Mystique, which roughly translates to “shrinking woman” (the Olsens are avowed followers of Japanese fashion). The Koonago Mystique encourages women to wear shoes larger than their true size to make their bodies appear smaller and, traditionally, more submissive. Part of the Olsen mystique, of course, is that their small stature belies a powerful and expansive artistic vision. When will these three icons combine forces and write a fashion book—or better yet, design a line together? Will Kanye be the first face of The Row’s menswear? Kick off your shoes, tiny or huge, and settle in: this could be the beginning of a beautiful moment in fashion proportions.