What are Tabis? Meet fashion’s hottest shoe

2 Mins read

What is a Tabi, and why are shoes that look like goat hooves so popular?

The Lyst Index has shared the hottest fashion brands and products of the moment. Among streetwear shoes like New Balance 550s and Birkenstock Arizonas, the Maison Margiela Tabi Mary Jane reigns supreme. But what is a Tabi, and why are shoes that look like goat hooves so popular?

Lyst, a fashion technology company, releases The Lyst Index four times a year to rank the hottest products and brands in fashion. They use: “searches on and off platform, product views and sales. To track brand and product heat, the formula also incorporates social media mentions, activity and engagement statistics worldwide, over a three month period.”

Lyst goes on to say in the article: “while the Tabi has long been a ‘high fashion’ statement purchase and an enduring symbol of the brand for those in the know, Tabi searches spiked a huge 342% in September.”

A tweet reading: "I want maison margiela tabi boots so bad i'm fr gonna cry"
[Twitter/X: @lucyeshua666]

Kamila, a Tabi enthusiast, told me: “I think they’re cute and elegant. If I saw someone in public wearing them, I’d immediately think they were fashionable. I see photos of them on Pinterest a lot, even memes where they put a cigarette or wine glass between the toes. I feel like owning Tabis is like a subtle flex, not even of how much money you spent but even knowing what they are.”

Margiela Tabis, particularly the ankle boots, are a coveted piece for fashion lovers. The High Fashion Twitter community have fawned over the soft leather and cloven toes for years now, however they’ve remained an underground classic until recently, when a viral TikTok had everybody talking about Tabis.

TikTok user @nextlevellexuss shared the now viral story of how her Tinder date stole her Tabis. He stayed over at hers after a date, and the next morning her Tabi Mary Janes were gone. The Tabi Swiper — as he has been named online — had blocked Lexus, so she took to TikTok to share her story. After finding out that he’d given the shoes to his girlfriend, she finally managed to get him to give them back. She even received a pair from luxury shopping site, SSENSE.

An instagram post showing a pair of Tabi Mary Janes
The victim of the Tabi Swiper is gifted a new pair of Tabi Mary Janes [Instagram: @nextlevellexuss]

Perhaps this is why the Mary Jane style is the hottest shoe right now — the Tabi Swiper story has increased searches and social media mentions of Tabi mary janes, eclipsing the ankle boot’s cult popularity. With the rise in popularity of Margiela’s Tabi, more people are learning about the origin of the split-toe shoe.

While Margiela Tabis are a modern creation, the shoe actually originates from 15th century Japan. The word ‘tabi’ refers to the split-toe socks worn with thonged sandals, first only worn by royals but eventually available to commoners with the rise of mass production. ‘Jika-tabi’ are rubber-soled shoes still worn by workers in Japan today. Tabi socks are also still worn as part of traditional Japanese dress.

A tweet with the caption: "The 15th century is marked by a Mass production of tabi socks, the divided toes are meant to suit Japan's traditional thonged sandals." Four pictures show traditional Japanese split-toe sandals.
The origin of the Tabi [Twitter/X: @olivesnectar]

For designer Martin Margiela, a trip to Japan taught him about the unusual shoe, which inspired him to make his own version. Leather was used to give the shoes a masculine look, again veering away from typical women’s shoe styles. When Margiela created his first collection in 1988, the models were wearing Tabi boots dipped in red paint, leaving its peculiar footprint on the runway.

Decades later, Tabis are synonymous with Maison Margiela. Even though Vetements and Nike have tried their own version of split-toe shoes, the love for Margiela’s Tabi has yet to be replicated. Everyone has an opinion on them, whether positive or negative, but it’s clear that there’s something charming about this seemingly ugly shoe.

Featured image by istolethetv via Flickr CC

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