Throwback flats: 9 styles from the '80s and '90s to swoon over (again!)

When glancing downward this summer, you may have a powerful feeling of déjà vu when it comes to your footwear. Styles from 20 and even 30 years ago have made a major comeback, particularly those that are seriously comfortable thanks to a flat sole or small heel or wedge.

“We first noticed the revival of these youthful '80s and '90s trends on the spring 2013 runways and saw the fashion community quickly readopt these silhouettes; from jellies and sport slides to cork footbeds and flatforms,” shares Tom McClaskie, president and creative director of Børn Shoes. “Right now, footwear is having some lighthearted fun reinventing these casual styles for the modern woman.”

We couldn’t agree more! Here are nine blast-from-the-past styles that have both feet planted firmly in the present.

Leather double-strap sandals

More commonly referred to as Birkenstocks (for the brand that popularized the look), this style managed to ditch its hippie origins and regain traction among the fashionable crowd. It's made appearances everywhere from the runway to summer music festivals for its general comfort and ease of wear. Pair these with everything from skinny jeans to a maxi dress.

Free People

Arizona Birkenstock, $120, Free People


Ceri Snake Print Double Buckle Footbeds, $52, Boohoo


Betula Licensed by Birkenstock Boogie Women's Slide Sandals, $80, Kohl's

Boat shoes

A preppy staple of the ‘80s, boat shoes have become bigger than ever this summer. The new versions are found in a plethora of designs ranging from floral patterns to animal print and everything in between. The silhouette itself has undergone some changes, too, becoming more feminine and flattering thanks to a slender and shorter toe.

Famous Footwear

Sperry Top-Sider Women’s Laguna Boat Shoe, $70, Famous Footwear


Estella by ShoeDazzle Boat Shoes, $46, ShoeDazzle


Renuwal Metallic Boat Shoes, $79, Aerosoles


Croft & Barrow Boat Shoes, $55, Kohl's


This style has been popular for hundreds of years in Central America and had a big moment in the states in the ‘80s. Now, it's once again making a splash on the fashion scene. Current offerings range from the traditional silhouette to more contemporary interpretations, complete with the signature, intricate hand-woven leather detailing. These look great paired with shorts and breezy cotton beach dresses alike.

Børn Letitia Leather Slip-Ons, $79,


Dove Leather Women’s Huarache, $129, Toms


IX Style Huarache Sandals, $90, J.Crew


Shauna Huarache Sandals, $20, Target

Jelly shoes

If you're like us, your childhood summers were filled with this effervescent footwear style. Though it went on a long hiatus since the '80s, it has since been reborn in sleek styles that look equally as chic at the office as they do on the boardwalk. Almost every luxury label now has a version of the jelly shoe, though we love the classic thick rubber and translucent styles that pay homage to the original.


BC Footwear 'Wild Child' Fisherman Jelly Sandals, $30, Nordstrom


Steve Madden Swirly Ballet Flat, $25, DSW

Kate Spade

Kate Spade New York Odessa Jelly Sandals, $79, ShopBop

Neiman Marcus Last Call

Melissa Shoes Planehits Rounded-Toe Flat, $59, Neiman Marcus Last Call

Lace-up canvas sneakers

Canvas sneakers — namely Keds — were a serious wardrobe staple back in the day. Now that the styles of the '80s and '90s are being revived, it only makes sense that these shoes would make a solid comeback as well. The Keds Champion style is a timeless classic and feels quite modern these days thanks to new printed fabrics and materials like linen, cork, lace, eyelet and perforated leather. When in doubt, stick to a crisp, solid-white pair that looks great with everything — as long as you keep it clean!


Champion in Picnic, $50, Keds


Champion in Eyelet, $50, Keds


Bucketfeet Floral Sneaker, $68, Nordstrom

Footnotes Online

Converse Women’s Chuck Taylor Lace Up Sneaker in White, $55, Footnotes Online

Slip-on sneakers

A signature of surf and skate culture, the slip-on sneaker is a decidedly unisex design that recently got a luxe makeover. It's now found in perforated, sequined, snakeskin, velvet, suede, calf-hair and even holographic versions. The shoe has moved beyond its simple canvas and rubber roots to a fully fashionable style, appropriate for almost any occasion.


Matte Iridescent Slip-On, $55, Vans

Banana Republic

Brenna Slip-On Sneaker, $118, Banana Republic


Dolce Vita Flat Slip On Sneakers in Zaren, $139, Bloomingdales

Shower sandals

In the early ‘90s, it was the epitome of cool to wear shower sandals ... outside of the shower. Pair them with baggy pants and an equally roomy top and you were "it." The style predominantly included a thick rubber swath of material covering the toes and tops of the feet, bearing the sports brand’s logo emblazoned across it with some offering a “massaging” footbed of tiny rubber bristles (these were even occasionally paired with socks). For 2015, the basic shape has been reinterpreted to include soft leather iterations that read more sophisticated than sporty and have no style restrictions — although you would NOT want to wear this version in the shower!


Cole Haan Women's Augusta Flat Slide Sandals, $98, Macy's


Quilted Flat Slides, $70, Zara

Sole Society

Eliana Flat Slip On Sandals, $65, Sole Society

Athletic sandals

Remember the days when you could do anything in a sporty sandal: ride a mountain bike, hike, traverse streams, etc? That was thanks to a shock-absorbing sole and woven straps that securely kept your foot in place via buckles or Velcro. Teva Sandals, the purveyor of the look, is certainly having a moment again thanks to the rise of “athleisure.” The classic shoe has been revamped in finer materials, but still maintains that fitness-oriented appeal. You could also blame this resurgence on the rise of the “normcore” trend. No matter the motivation, the athletic sandal is the centerpiece of the strong reemergence of the throwback flat!


Teva 'Original Universal' Water Friendly Print Sandal, $40, Nordstrom


Neda Silver Metallic Sandal, $105, Børn

Nasty Gal

Privileged Evoque Sandal, $95, Nasty Gal


Skechers Cali Women's Counterpart-Breeze-Warped Platform Sandal , $55, Amazon


A true trend of the ‘90s (think Mary Janes, lace-up boots, sneakers and the Spice Girls), flatforms today are a true style hybrid. Many of the styles we’ve already mentioned can be found in a flatform silhouette, making them the epitome of a throwback affair! For the summer, expect these soles to be adorned with woven espadrille or rubber trim.


Tayah by ShoeDazzle Canvas Slip-On Flatform, $55, ShoeDazzle


Teva Flatform Sandal, $50, Zappos


Fox Sunken Flatform Sandals, $65, Topshop

Forever 21

Faux Patent Leather Flatform Sandals, $30, Forever 21