The Story Behind Tabi Boots

The Story Behind Tabi Boots

« While working as a team, you push yourself forward and move outside the boundaries. It’s a great thing. » — Martin Margiela

Dear Miuse’s readers, whether you know what Tabi are, or not, let us introduce you to these shoes that have been called for a long time “the goat shoes” and their designer : Martin Margiela.


The author if this eccentric art work is nothing more than Martin Margiela, he entered in 1974 at the Academy of Arts in Anvers. He collaborated for a long period of time with the greatest, such as Jean-Paul Gaultier for example. And the man that we called “faceless” for a long time has finally decided to create his own house in 1988. His singularity resided and continues to do it through atypical and original clothes ; a lot of handmade ; excessive use of white and of course his Tabi, to quote only the best known example. In addition, he always wanted his shows to be in harmony with his very personal creative and artistic world. They always were marvelous, unique and different from what the others were doing. His character reminds mysterious, but also very transparent, he is a key figure for the fashion industry, Christian Dior himself said “He is the master of all of us”. A designer who always knew how to freshen himself and proposed new alternative in this world and many designers got inspired by him.

However the concept of Tabi was not invented by Margiela himself. His inspirations for these were from traditional Japanese shoes and socks from XV century. The purpose of their design was to favour balance and they were usually used by farmers and workers.

Even though he was not their original creator, he knew how to make them fashionable and for his first spring summer 1989 collection, he soaked his tabi with red paint to make model’s footmarks visible on the runway. For his show, he wanted to create the illusion of a naked foot leaning on a high-heel.

Fun fact : Before his collaboration with Jean Paul Gaultier and the creation of his brand, Margiela was already owning his own shoe brand. And when he wanted to create his first collection, shoemakers in Paris refused to make his well-known Tabi, who found the model too harsh.

Thankfully, he met at this exact moment Geert Bruloot, a fashion entrepreneur, who made him met the one who was going to be his next Tabi producer : Mr Zagato. In fact, at that time, Mr Zagato was already in charge of Tokio Kumagai’s collections, but when this one died one year before, he found himself with not much apart from slender collections and he even thought of leaving the industry.

However, during a dinner organised by Bruloot, Mr Zagato took notes of Martin’s concept for his Tabi for the first time and was immediately captivated.

Tabis boots « Top Less » Spring/Summer 1996.

Tabis boots « Top Less » Spring/Summer 1996.

This is how Tabi made their places in the tough world that is fashion, an industry that is constantly evolving. This pair of shoes was considered “ugly” and “chic” for a long a time. Margiela said “The Tabi boot is the most important footprint of my career: it’s recognisable, it still goes on after 25 years, and it has never been copied". And he was totally right, today, many people decided to adopt them, from celebrities such as : Cody Fern at the Golden Globes 2019, Aleali May the stylist in vogue, who whants to impose women in streetwear, to Instagram celebrity : FengFan, well-known for her Tabi collection. —  One thing is certain, Tabi are definitely back, more than ever.

ALEALI MAY, CODY FERN (VOGUE) & FENGFAN.