Diversity has been a key concept in the 1990s and its influence is reflected very obviously in fashion. Shoes are no longer confined to a handful of styles; they're available in every conceivable style and made for any occasion. We perform a variety of daily activities, all of which require different footwear. Boots, sneakers, pumps — and sneaker-pumps — mules, sandals, and flats. Heavy, whimsical, clunky, dainty — you name it, it's out there.

Companies such as Skechers, Nike, and Birkenstock have been very successful at building brands and the accompanying loyal following. Advertising now emphasizes social and ecological values, or personal growth, just as often as the products themselves.

In the early 90s, grunge culture had a marked, albeit brief, effect on fashion. Men and women agreed that ripped jeans and plaid shirts looked great with Doc Martens. Athletic shoes gained in popularity. Perhaps too much so, considering the reports of gang violence related to sneakers. And the recent 70s revival has led to a new love for unwieldy, clunky, — and dare we say — ugly platform shoes. Fashion critics are suggesting that shoes may be the last bastion of personalization in an increasingly homogenous world.

This year brings yet another recycling of style. Flats, particularly the ballet-style reminiscent of Audrey Hepburn, in white and pastels are making their way to shoe stores everywhere. Designers are finding that consumers, at least those over the age of 16, aren't as willing to sacrifice comfort for fashion. A brief flirtation with the stiletto pump, beautiful as they were, fell flat a few years ago. Many of us say, "Thank goodness that's over!"

What will shoe fashion in the 21st Century be? Check back with us in 2099...

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