Iconic Early 2000s Shoe ad Campaigns
As time marches forward, decades that once seemed real—as in, you lived through them, and they weren’t reducible to a Buzzfeed listicle—become easier to fetishize, idolize, and mentally inflate to official era status. Such is the fate of the coyly awful, culturally incoherent, and damnably well-meaning 2000s, which has officially entered that hazy extra-historical phase where you aren’t really sure what was real and what’s been re-inserted into your brain as a false memory constructed out of nostalgic fashion inspo roundups. We’re here to make the problem worse, with a cute as hell roundup of early 2000s shoe advertising campaigns. You’ll be left with a false memory of yourself as the It Girl who wore Mudd and Steve Madden, when you and I both know—if we really dig deep enough—that it was all about second hand Rugged Bear (my Limited Too wish list went unrequited and unrealized, and I’m still salty about it).
Called “the aughts,” “the naughties,” or the “double-ohs,” the obvious inability of the contemporary world to agree on a term to coin the era speaks to the 2000s inherent inability to define itself, even during its hay day. Style ranged from hokey techno-futurism to the cringe-worthy inauguration of “boho-chic.” And then there was the ubiquitous frosty, shiny, denim-crazed aesthetic that is best summed up by vintage Britney. And yet, however confusing its #aesthetic was at the time, trend-forecasters near and far are proclaiming that double-oh nostalgia is taking the place of the nineties in fashion.
So here it is. We’re hitting your brain with five nostalgic shoe campaigns that you’re probably already emulating if you get it. You’ll be left with an itch in the Y2K ghost limb you may or may not know you had.
Steve MaddenThese big-head Bratz Dolls-inspired ads were plastered everywhere a girl’s eye could see, and they induced the sort of lust only a chunky pair of shoes can. In the naughties, Madden Shoes were maybe most celebrated for their slinky slides (which are allegedly being rolled out again for sometimes in 2K17). These slides, plus a good pair of Madden leather loafers—the ones with a touch of silver hard wear for that extra punch—were everything. They’re also everywhere today; so let’s not forget the strange big-head-woman ad roots of the thicker-than-a-snicker black slide.
VansVans are getting their fair share of noise today, from the apparently endless stream of girls and guys rocking a Vans Old Skool pair, to the emergence of discerning meme-makers putting Vans-wearing skate-thot-boys on blast for being (9/10 times) bad people. But let’s look beyond the noise, and harken back to a time when skate culture was less confusingly commodified, and Vans were an authentic West Coast symbol. Let me take you back to 2001, the year Vans released Tones, a new leather technology that appeared as a plain white shoe, but turned colors once exposed to UV rays. That’s right, a mood ring for your feet.
Reebok ClassicThis was maybe one of the most genius shoe wear campaigns in recent memory. The thought process was remarkably simple: Reebok wanted their shoe to feel iconic, so they had Iggy Pop pose in them. Done. Incidentally, it appears that The Godfather of Punk turneth everything he toucheth to gold, because this 2001 campaign featured a gorgeous gold reebok laceless number that I’m extremely attracted to (or could it be Monsieur Pop on the left?).
LEIL.e.i stands for Life.Energy.Intelligence, and as a brand, it embodied all three here, as evidenced by these thick faux wood and cork-soled sandals. It’s important to distinguish between these slides and the aforementioned Steve Maddens: the keys difference being that Madden was mod, Lei was boho-chic. Hence the fabulous piping on the cropped flares going on here.
SkechersAmong the products Britney endorsed in her reign as teen pop queen were Sketchers, the iconic sexy sneaker that was at once a hiking shoe, a runner, and sometimes even a roller skate. A high moment was when Spears herself appeared on the cover of Forbes (see above) in white snap-up-the-side bell bottoms and a crop top with flutter sleeves. Forbes wondered, “Is this the new Nike?” A fair question, though it was ultimately proven false. TFW you want to be someone.
Images via Refinery29, vintage ad browser, Flickr, and Forbes
Stay tuned to Milk for more yummy fashion nostalgia.