Glenn Martens Loves a Baroque Heel

Glenn Martens Loves a Baroque Heel

Story by Lars LalaMar 18, 2024

“I was very good at wearing heels—at least 20 years ago,” Glenn Martens tells PAPER. He is talking about his time at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp, where he was most students’ go-to fitting model due to his model-esque height and frame. “The students at the academy were so ahead of their time that they put all genders in heels — even back then,” he continues.

Of course, I couldn’t help but wonder if he was waddling around the Antwerp studio similar to the way everyone who wears his oversized boots walk. “Actually, the boots don’t change the walk, it’s just the amount of fabric that makes it look very specific,” Martens says. And as someone who has worn them, I can confirm that, while they may flop around due to the excessive amount of material, the boots are extremely comfortable — and very convenient. I’ve used a pair to smuggle a whole dirty martini cocktail set-up into Regal.

The massive boots, and the walk, have become quite the signature of Martens, at least at Y/Project, where the first of its kind was seen on the Fall 2017 runway. “They were inspired by wired hunting gear,” he explains. “Hunters’ hoods need wiring so that they stay up if it’s raining or windy.” That technique has been a running theme throughout Martens career. It’s not just used for footwear, but in pants, sweaters, t-shirts and scarves. And most prominently, it was used in what I would define as his breakthrough collection (at least in terms of footwear) for Fall 2018.

That season was when the now notorious Ugg collaboration was launched: the thigh high Uggs, both with and without heels, that everyone drooled over, desired and would have spent a fortune getting. “It actually wasn’t even supposed to go on sale,” Martens explains. “Ugg told us that our collaboration was what brought them back.” In my opinion, there’s never been a better Ugg collaboration — the way he managed to maintain the ethos of the brand, while infusing them with his own “baroque” characteristics. Brilliant.

I remembered myself as a little boy playing with female family members’ heeled boots — my tiny legs drowning in the shoes made for adult women. I thought that could also possibly be what Martens was reliving too. Turns out, I wasn’t far off. “I was in heaven when my mother brought out her knee-high ‘70s style boots like every other gay boy growing up,” he laughs.

While it is used to describe a certain style of European architecture, music and art of the 17th and 18th centuries, the original meaning of baroque is “irregular shape” in French. Both meanings seem to be true for Martens’s shoes. The first pair he ever designed was at Y/Project. “It was a black pair of mules with a low baroque heel. All of our shoes now have this kind of curved heel,” he explains. The baroque heels followed poulaines — a shift that happened to coincide with a switch in power in England when it went from the Tudor to the Stuart regime in 1603.

Although he gets to experiment as much as he wants at Y/Project, Martens hasn’t managed to get away from the Y2K fashion and is now actually quite the master of its return. “Dior was 1940s, Givenchy was the 50s, Chloe was the 60s, Saint Laurent the 70s and so [on],” he says. “Diesel was the early 2000s, and of course, as a creative director, you look back into the archive and get inspired.” And the creative director is sure that the big “D” emblem on the heels at his recent Diesel show in Milan will be his next big shoe hit.

Photos courtesy of Lars Lala