The Maison Margiela Tabi is the most divisive shoe in fashion history, and simultaneously one of the most coveted. Collectors far and wide will scour second-hand online retailers, archive stores, and Instagram moodboard accounts to get their hands on their next toe-splitting pair, or to help them nurture their knowledge on Martin Margiela’s iconic design. But as of last week, the Tabi has become the centre of attention for all the wrong reasons: meet the Tabi Swiper.
What started off as a hookup ended in crime: Josh, the culprit, had spent the night at Lexus’ New York apartment. Innocent enough, right? Yeah, until Lexus woke up in the morning to find that her Maison Margiela Mary-Jane Tabis had gone for a walk. Naturally, the victim took to her TikTok account to discuss the bizarre ordeal in detail, asking her audience one thing – “Girls and gays of TikTok, please get to work.”
And get to work they did. After Josh had stolen the coveted designer shoe, TikTok heroes found out all they could about the thief. Lexus couldn’t do it herself, as Josh removed their dating profile match and all of his contact information from her phone.
Low and behold, the two did end up reconnecting – only so that Lexus could, of course, get her shoes back. Where had they been? Why did he take them? Because his girlfriend wanted this exact pair of Maison Margiela Tabis. Drama or what?
But beyond viral TikTok discourse that has served as this week’s entertainment (alongside the news of Kanye West being banned from Venetian taxi boats, Jacob Elordi tightly gripping a Pharrell Williams-designed Louis Vuitton Speedy Bag, and Poster Girl dropping the campaign of the season), there’s more to Tabi’s than just their newfound virality.
In fact, there’s more to Tabis than Maison Margiela. The design dates back to 15th Century Japan, created as a sock that would split the big toe from the rest of our toes to aid in reflexology. Over the course of 500 years, the Tabi evolved from a high-society staple to a cornerstone of working class culture – and today, the Tabi has gone full circle, appealing to only the most avant-garde of fashion’s it-crowd.
Martin Margiela debuted his take on the Tabi silhouette during his inaugural 1988 collection, titled “Deconstruction and Interpretation.” The show split opinions harsher than how Tabis split your toes – as BoF put it, “The critics loathed it. The industry loved it.” That’s because it, along with much that was presented on the unconventional playground-turned-runway, was against conventions, something the brand known for its elusive four stitches and vaguely anonymous founder and Creative Director has thrived upon ever since.
During the Spring 1988 runway show, models wore relatively paired-back Tabi shoes that saw their hoofed bottoms painted red. This left eerie footprints all over the catwalk, stamping the silhouette into the fashion history books one step at a time.
Today, the Tabi (in boot, loafer, derby, Mary-Jane, Chelsea, and now even Western Boot form), is a peak cult-status symbol. Seldom will you find your desired silhouette under $1,000, let alone in your required size – the Tabi has evolved from 15th Century socialite clobber to one of the most in-demand shoes of all time, evidenced by the longevity of Margiela’s style and the various iterations of the split-toe stunner.
Where does it leave the Tabi today? Aside from its rise to the top of the TikTok tree, it’s a style that is, as BoF puts it, “Minting Money.” With a hoard of celebrity cosigns and ever-growing in popularity, the Tabi isn’t going anywhere (and even if it does, the girls, gays, and theys have your back).
A Tabi is more than a shoe, it’s a statement. What makes its popularity growth so interesting is the fact that the Tabi was never designed to be popular, but indeed a controversial statement – one that challenged the high-fashion norms and even societal undertones. It goes to show the power of subversion, as Martin Margiela used the Tabi form to twist what sexy footwear can be. Likewise, the enduring allure of Tabis has come full circle, as VETEMENTS and Nike explore their own ways of playing with the style (notably, Nike and its Air Rift).
Maison Margiela’s Tabi was the original “weird” shoe. Now, with a list of collaborations under its belt, such as the Kim Kardashian-co-signed Reebok partnership, it has entered the mainstream (for the… third time now?). In doing so, it’s joined by Martine Rose’s Nike Shox MR4, Miu Miu’s viral ballet pumps, and JW Anderson’s frog clogs by Wellipets, and it was only inevitable that in those aforementioned shoes’ popularity contest that the epochal Margiela Tabi was always going to win.
If there’s one lasting piece of advice we can give you: lock ‘em up.
Lead Image Credit: @cssnder