For over three decades, the Tabi shoe has been denoted as one of few garments that can draw raw emotion and strong reactions at first glance. Since its introduction into the house Margiela, Tabis have shaken fashion at its core. They are divisive and demonstrate how extreme simplicity can have enduring effects. However, their history goes back hundreds of years before that of Martin Margiela.





The Tabi shoe originated in 15th century Japan amidst the height of trade between China and Japan. Cotton was exported heavily from China and led to the mass production of textiles within Japan, more specifically socks. Socks in Japan were created with a split toe to fit traditional thonged sandals known as Getas.

In the early 20th century Japan saw the return of the Geta in a new form known as the Jika Tabi. The Jika Tabi was designed to be functional outdoors and served as a workwear shoe, suitable for manual laborers. According to holistic reflexology, the split toe promoted agility and balance.





While on a trip to Japan with the Antwerp Six, Martin Margiela discovered the Jika Tabi and became bewildered in amazement. Enamored by the design, Margiela took a pair back with him to Europe. Margiela sought to reinvent the shoe for his label but struggled to find a cobbler to produce them. The Tabi proved to be too radical for traditional workshops. It was not until Margiela was introduced to an Italian craftsman named Mr. Zagato that the shoe would come to life.




In 1988, Margiela would debut his Tabis on the runway. Models that wore them were dressed in white lab coats and had the bottom of their Tabis painted red to leave a “hoofed” trail behind them as they sauntered the runway. At the time of their introduction, Tabis were seen as unconventional and entirely unknown in the west. Initially, Margiela struggled to sell the shoe but continued to push the idea, even repainting Tabis that did not sell in previous seasons.

Over thirty years, the Tabi has become synonymous with Maison Margiela, becoming the brand’s most sought out and emblematic piece of footwear to date.

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