What is Kinky?

Recently I got a phone call while in the bowels of the Times Square subway station about this month’s fashion shoot while it was in progress. My creative director wanted to know whether it would be okay to use a men’s shoe on the female model. Having just seen the Broadway smash Kinky Boots a few days before, I immediately thought about the musical’s storyline. There doesn’t seem to be anything taboo in men wearing women’s knee-high red leather stiletto boots these days, if the strong ticket sales and the Tony Award for Best Musical are any indications.

Share This:

Recently I got a phone call while in the bowels of the Times Square subway station about this month’s fashion shoot while it was in progress. My creative director wanted to know whether it would be okay to use a men’s shoe on the female model. Having just seen the Broadway smash Kinky Boots a few days before, I immediately thought about the musical’s storyline. There doesn’t seem to be anything taboo in men wearing women’s knee-high red leather stiletto boots these days, if the strong ticket sales and the Tony Award for Best Musical are any indications. But try explaining on a crowded train platform—shouting over screeching subways cars—that it’s okay for a woman to wear a man’s shoe. That snippet of conversation turned a few heads. Based on the smirks I got, I guess more than one stranger construed it as kinky.


I was undeterred by the glances and went on to explain—loudly—that we have artistic license to do whatever we please. I doubt we’ll be arrested by the fashion police for featuring a woman wearing a men’s sneaker. The fact that the shoe in question is a tangerine lace-up with a watercolor effect bolstered my belief that it could appeal to a woman. And that pretty much goes for our entire Spring ’14 sneaker preview (p. 42). It’s heavy on tropical-themed, gender-bending prints and colors. While I wouldn’t go so far as to describe these spring kicks as kinky, they do offer a tempting twist on a traditional silhouette.

My cell phone conversation got me wondering what really qualifies as kinky these days. My definition of the word covers anything that might turn a head if overheard on a subway platform. We’re not easily shocked as a society anymore, which can be good and bad. The country’s changing stance on gay rights, for example, is a sign that Americans are increasingly tolerant about what was once considered taboo. On the other hand, the fact that we are becoming accustomed to mass shootings is intolerable.

When it comes to the issue of government surveillance, it appears Americans are divided. Some are shocked and outraged. Others aren’t surprised. They deem it a necessary infringement to protect citizens from a terrorist attack. Both opinions have merit. What I find amusing amid this debate is that many of the people who fall into the shocked-and-outraged camp happily emit a daily torrent of personal information via Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram and the like. Who needs Big Brother when millions of Americans are divulging every detail about their personal lives for the world to see, knowing that the kinkiest parts are likely to go viral? Being outraged about our government overstepping its bounds while embracing social media seems a tad hypocritical, no?

Back in the world of retail, there are plenty of developments more surprising than gender-bending shoe styles. This month’s Special Report (p. 12) delves into the merits of cloud-based retail computing systems that, among other things, may make cash registers go the way of dinosaurs. Similarly, pop-up shops have opened of late that use interactive iPads to custom design and order goods—sans any exchange of cash. And Kate Spade’s new Saturday shop, located in New York’s SoHo district, allows shoppers to order items via a virtual storefront window and then have them delivered by courier within the hour in Manhattan.

At the other end of the spectrum, our profile of Internet retailer Planet Shoes (p. 24) reveals founder Philippe Meynard’s next big move: opening his first brick-and-mortar location in Massachusetts next year as part of what he says is the next step in providing the ultimate customer experience.

Then there’s our feature on the state of work footwear (p. 28). It delves into the latest technologies and trends, one of which is the growing popularity of pull-on farm and ranch boots, thanks primarily to Texas and Louisiana drillers who have flocked to northern states like North Dakota, Montana and Michigan to partake in the fracking for fossil fuels boom.

And there it is in a nutshell: What once would have been considered kinky boots in those necks of the woods are fast becoming the new normal.

Leave a Comment: