After years of bulbous footwear dominating the catwalk, the pointy shoe is staging a comeback. For Gucci’s SS24 show, creative director Sabato De Sarno paired split-front pencil skirts and low-slung jeans with spiky slingbacks in bubblegum pink and oxblood. At Saint Laurent, vampish needlepoint stilettos peeked out from under safari jumpsuits, while Dries Van Noten styled tapered-toe check-print heels with graphic tube socks and preppy blazers.

Dries Van Noten cotton, viscose and leather shoes, £525
Dries Van Noten cotton, viscose and leather shoes, £525 © Aylin Bayhan
Saint Laurent by Anthony Vaccarello leather Nour skipper shoes, £735
Saint Laurent by Anthony Vaccarello leather Nour skipper shoes, £735 © Aylin Bayhan

“The trend of pointy shoes has definitely brought back some elegance,” says London designer Nensi Dojaka, whose tulle pumps (£960, combine a razor-sharp tip with her signature cut-outs. Luisa Dames, founder of Berlin-based footwear and accessories label Aeyde, has also seen a significant increase in sales of her pointed-toe styles (from £270) in recent months, noting that their “polished” appeal chimes with the current appetite for smarter shoes. “We’re seeing a return to the joys of dressing up,” says Dames, “and pointy shoes, whether stiletto boots, pumps or Mary Jane flats, easily adapt from casual to formal settings.”

Such shoes have long been a signifier of opulence: see Marie Antoinette, who paraded through Versailles in coquettish candy-striped pointy slippers, or Marilyn Monroe, who wore Ferragamo’s four-inch Filetia and Viatica pumps both on and off set. “Shoes were a way of expressing status and wealth, the wearer having no need to walk everywhere, and could therefore take on non-practical shapes,” explains Helen Persson Swain, fashion historian and curator of Shoes: Pleasure and Pain at the Victoria and Albert Museum. The trend, she says, has been around since the ancient Egyptians, who wore sandals made of papyrus with toes chiselled to a point.

Manolo Blahnik leather Camparimu flats, £545
Manolo Blahnik leather Camparimu flats, £545 © Aylin Bayhan
Gucci patent leather slingback shoes, £790
Gucci patent leather slingback shoes, £790 © Aylin Bayhan
Nensi Dojaka tulle and leather shoes, €990
Nensi Dojaka tulle and leather shoes, €990 © Aylin Bayhan
Aeyde leather Fedora flats, £295
Aeyde leather Fedora flats, £295 © Aylin Bayhan

At their most impractical, during the craze for poulaines among noblemen in the late Middle Ages, toes were known even to reach lengths of up to 24 inches, stuffed with moss or wool to keep them erect. Women in the 17th and 18th centuries, with their long skirts, would have just had the sharp tip of the shoes visible, says Swain, “giving an impression of small feet, which was considered neat and feminine”.

Though the fashion for crinolines has long since waned, our desire to pinch and squeeze our toes into infinitesimal points seems undimmed: see Martine Rose’s AW24 show for her own poulaine-like spiky flats (£640). “I am a big fan of a pointed-toe shoe,” says Sandra Choi, creative director of Jimmy Choo, which offers glamorous crystal and pearl-embellished pointy heels (from £750). “For a 5ft 2½in person, they elongate the leg and make you feel taller.” As well as adding polish to an outfit, a sharp toe screams “assertiveness”, she says: “It almost arrows you forward.” 

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