GLADIATOR sandals are so ubiquitous that strolling down Robertson Boulevard on certain days you’d swear some extras from “300" are doing their spring shopping. Fashion soldiers everywhere are buying into the trend that Kate Moss, Sienna Miller and the Olsen twins have been wearing for the last year, giving gladiators their shining moment and inspiring pretty much everyone who makes shoes to do their own version of the style.
Chanel was the first to send them down the runway last spring -- cage-like knee-high sandals that caused a sensation. Now, you can find gladiators made of plastic and metallic leather. Flat-soled, stack heeled and stiletto. Thick-strapped and spaghetti-thin. The one thing they all have in common is the piece of material running up the top and connecting to an ankle strap. Think of it as a chest plate for the foot. They are the cool girl’s must-have, an easy and -- sometimes -- inexpensive way to add a little edge to any outfit.
Giuseppe Zanotti’s gladiators are $650, quite a lot for sandals of any sort. But the gorgeous rose-gold leather stands out like no other style we’ve seen, and the five buckled straps add some heft. If you like the metallic hue, check out Tory Burch’s Alexis gold leather sandal for $275 or the bronze Ginger from Sam Edelman for $88.95, or even the bronze “snakeskin” Liz by Isaac Mizrahi for Target at $24.99.
Prada and Balenciaga are making a more traditional, earthy brown leather gladiator, but there’s nothing down-to-earth about the price: $495 for the Prada and for Balenciaga. H&M; is doing a stunningly similar version in rich, natural brown for just $39.90. It’s your basic multi-strap sandal, but it’s got a little bit of a heel which is always more comfortable and supportive than a flat shoe.
But the best version of all may be by Nine West. Its Jobilyn sandal is a traditional style -- the straps are thick, and there are no bells and whistles in the hardware. The fun part is that every strap is a different color -- lavender, teal, yellow, orange and blue, with a brown sole. That’s a lot of style for $79.
The one thing to watch out for with all gladiators: the high ankle straps cut off the line of the leg and can make you look stumpy. These sandals look best with an expanse of leg (short shorts or mini-dresses), or no leg at all (under a pair of skinny jeans). Think of them as the ankle boot of the spring-summer season, but with a Spartan style.