There’s no other shoe in history that has roots as deep or varied as gladiator sandals. The neoclassical shoes, marked by a flat sole and leather lace-ups, first emerged in Greco-Roman times as the footwear of choice for Roman gladiators and plebeians in need of comfort, flexibility, durability and support. They were often commissioned by the town artist and even buried with their owner.
Gladiators didn’t reemerge until the 60s when hemlines were high and skin was in. The mod squad, the hippies and even the bombshells were sporting a pair. (Remember Raquel Welch in her iconic 1966 fantasy film One Million Years B.C.?) The strappy sandals continued their reign into the 70s, survived the 80s and popped back up in the 90s when Gianni Versace released his Spring 1993 S&M-inspired collection. Since then, they’ve teetered in and out of favor with the sartorial set. Most recently, designers like Chloe, Valentino and Alexander McQueen resurrected the statement-making shoes for Spring 2015 with bold designs worn with minis, maxis and even high-waisted trousers. Think of them as an airy alternative to your espadrilles.
Want to try the trend? Click on the gallery below for the 19 best gladiator sandals to wear this summer.