Get out the corn-plaster blasters. Sandals are sizzling again, and the barer the better.
While the strippy high-heel sandal is the headliner for spring and summer, all types of summer sandals, from the classic Egyptian thong to platforms, are hot-footing it into fashion.
"It's the longer skirts that have brought about a resurgence of the sandal," explained Ginny Sydorick, fashion director of Saks Fifth Avenue stores.
The return of the sandal also is ushering in a renewed feeling of femininity and romance for the '90s, she said. High-heel sandals, not seen since the '70s, look great with chiffon and lace skirts teamed with a man-tailored jacket, but they don't replace the office pump for suits, she said.
"Sandals are always popular in the spring and summer," Ms. Sydorick continued, "but we're seeing a lot of novelty styles. . . . Perhaps it's because we're looking for a little fun and a lot of relief from the economy."
That emphasis on summer fun is what makes sandals such a California tradition, said Joe Kosta, women's shoe manager at the Broadway in L.A.'s Sherman Oaks.
"Women have always bought sandals because they can wear them for such a long period, all the way up to November," Mr. Kosta said. "However, this year I've noticed they're buying several pairs for dress, casual and beach wear, and I think it's the trend to colorful styles.
"It certainly isn't the price, because we're selling sandals priced at over $100 a pair."
Footwear News, the worldwide weekly trade newspaper for the shoe industry, said people are tired of basic black flats and are turning to sandals. Bright colors, styles with fabric details such as polka dots, gingham and color blocking are selling well. And stay tuned, she said, as the platform style will continue to be strong for fall's longer skirts recently seen on New York runways.
Echoing the same sentiments is Cindy Zunke, women's shoe manager at Nordstrom in Topanga Plaza in Canoga Park.
"We're selling out of the ornamental-style sandals. It seems the more decorative the better, and they're being bought by women, not just teen-agers," she observed.
Ms. Zunke also noticed that the past week has been the busiest. "We got the sandals in January but we've had so much rain in L.A. that nobody was interested. It's the sunshine that brings out an interest in bright colors and unusual styles."
Today's thong resembles the style first created in about 2000 B.C. by the Egyptians, who were so wedded to their footwear that they were buried with their gold-crafted sandals on.
That dainty metallic gold sandal has remained a summer classic. Variations on that theme include this year's crop of flower, jewel and fabric trims by designers such as Andrea Pfister, Susan Bennis, Escada, Stuart Weitzman and Louis Del'Olio of Anne Klein.
The Romans and Greeks imported the sandal and made it their own, creating the sturdier gladiator and fisherman styles that have endured through the ages.
But it's the feminine, bare-the-painted-toenail designs that offer fashion relief, much as in the '40s when the "naked sandal" was created for the New Look fashion silhouette. The open-toe sandal resembled a pump with a slender strap around the ankle.
Fashion aside, the return of the sandal also might foreshadow the state of the economy, said Mary Stephens, fashion design chairman at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in Los Angeles.
"Sandals are offering us the fantasy of easier times and the feeling of luxury," she said.
So if baring your toes and risking collision with a hefty oxford gives you pause, think of it as one small step for economic recovery.