Nothing in the world seems certain—and this ambivalent mood includes shoes. Last spring, a clutch of mega menswear designers, including Dries Van Noten and Jil Sander, put out ballet flats, while Jonathan Anderson continues to reinvent the crunchy clog into something sublime. Some observers have predicted that this signals the demise of the sneaker, while others have pointed to the ascendance of the loafer. But in truth, it seems the world is at a shoe impasse. Anything goes, and yet nothing quite looks right.
Except for one shoe. This shoe is flexible. It is comfortable. It goes with everything.
It is a jazz shoe.
Repetto, the French ballet brand, first released the Zizi in the early 1970s, with an intended audience of dancers, who require flexible soft leather footwear for the technicalities of razzling and dazzling. It quickly became a favorite of Mick Jagger, who was then parading onstage with even more aplomb than the present day, and Serge Gainsbourg. For Gainsbourg, the Zizi was practically orthopedic. His then-partner, Jane Birkin, was trying to treat his “sensitive” trotters, as the New York Times once put it, by finding, in Birkin’s words, “gloves for his feet.” He found the answer in the Zizi, whose goatskin upper and performance-sole (as in…performing a dance) make it soft and malleable, but not flimsy. It’s like wearing a sock, but with more structure—and spiffiness. It’s a babouche with laces. Apparently, Gainsbourg went through 30 pairs a year until he died in 1991. Nearly every photograph of Gainsbourg wearing them shows them thrashed—the surest sign of a good shoe.