Skip to main content


Courtesy of Maison Margiela
Courtesy of Maison Margiela

A love letter to and FAQ about the ugly-chic shoe our relatives seem to hate, but we simply can't get enough of. Also: how to cope with Black Friday sales

While Gen Z's adoption may have transformed the once-niche Maison Margiela tabi into a widespread trend, we refuse to let go of our love for these iconic hooved shoes. Collectively, we have amassed a total of 8 pairs in the past few years, and there’s no shoe we wear more often than our tabi derby and tabi ballerina shoes—the split-toe design instantly elevates any outfit. Last week, we discussed tabi rain boots (on sale in black here and in beige here), but there’s one more pair our wardrobes seem incomplete without: the tabi Western boot

Side note: initially, we hesitated to address Black Friday, as overconsumption and unnecessary purchases go against our principles. We believe in advocating for thoughtful wardrobe choices instead of succumbing to impulse shopping. However, we recognize that some pieces from our carefully curated WARDROBE are currently on sale. We wouldn't want you to miss out on these opportunities to enhance your wardrobe without breaking the bank. But, we urge you not to be swayed by percentages alone. Take a moment to ask yourself: Do I really need this? Is the quality long-lasting? Can I style this in multiple ways? Will I still love this in five, ten, twenty years?

If the answer to all the above is yes, here’s what you need to know. For coats, there's the Coperni belted faux shearling coatSaks Potts Ada Shearling coat at 40% off with code BF40, the Filippa K classic Tailored Coat, Low Classic Wide Collar Peacoat at 22% off and the mother of all coats, the Khaite Bontin wool coat at 30% off with code MATCHES30. In the tops category, consider the Lemaire black V-neck, the perfect RAEY long-sleeved wool basic t-shirt, RAEY cashmere roll-neck sweater (30% off with MATCHES30), All-in off-white Pillow Camisole, and the effortlessly cool Saks Potts William shirt. As for bottoms, our current favorites are 40% off on Luisaviaroma with code BF40 including the Saks Potts Salma jeans, Y/Project jeans in black, Y/Project cut out jeans in rinsed blue, and the Saks Potts Nicoline wool midi skirt. Get 30% off with code MATCHES30 on the RAEY corduroy trousers. For shoes, check out the Jil Sander classic riding boots, Jil Sander beige Tripon loafers, and the Ann Demeulemeester Jay 50 detachable-cuff leather boots. In the bags and accessories department, don't miss the Maryam Nassir Zadeh Julien bag, the Jil Sander sphere necklace and enjoy 25% off with code BLACKFRIDAY on the Maison Margiela red tabi socks, also available in green (which pairs well with tabi ballerinas and allows you to wear them throughout colder seasons).


A love letter to and FAQ about tabi

Flashback to February, when we found ourselves in Maison Margiela's Paris headquarters in the 16th arrondissement, with a jaw-dropping view of the Eiffel Tower. The pr team introduced us to a fresh take on the iconic tabi: slouchy western boots with an almond-shaped split toe, available in sleek black leather and luxurious beige suede. We'll be honest; we weren't exactly wowed at first sight. Ironically, our response mirrored the perplexed expressions we get when wearing tabi on the streets. Tabi footwear is like art in shoe form, stirring up a whirlwind of emotions—confusion, a dash of discomfort, fascination, and even a touch of "ew," all swirled together. Truth be told, this specific pair even had us questioning. They didn't exude the same ugly-chic charm as the tabi ballerinas, boots, or slingbacks; this particular pair just felt wrong.

Flash forward to nine months later, and all we can think about are these hooved western boots. So, what changed? We weren't quite ready to embrace them back then, but now? We're all in. You see, the cowboy tabi isn't just ugly-chic; it's unapologetically ugly-cool. Plus, it's a silhouette that's yet to be explored. When we bought our first pair years ago, tabi boots were like a secret handshake among people who worked in fashion. Wearing them felt like owning a piece of fashion history, a subtle nod to fellow Martin Margiela devotees—a silent iykyk. Beyond the fashion industry, no one seemed to get it. It was the ultimate act of anti-establishment fashion rebellion.

However, ever since Gen Z stumbled upon tabi through TikTok, they've become a widespread trend. Legend has it that there are even men on dating apps attempting to snatch your tabi. Their popularity has surged to the point where their resale value has tripled. 

But that doesn’t stop us from wearing and collecting them. Why? The answer is simple: there is no other shoe quite like the tabi. Tabi boots possess a unique transformative quality, similar to how sunglasses can elevate an outfit. Pair them with jeans and a t-shirt, and you instantly radiate an effortless coolness that makes them an irreplaceable staple. In the ever-rotating carousel of trends, tabi stands as an enduring testament to the transformative power of one pair of shoes to redefine an entire outfit.

All you need to know before investing in a pair of tabi, answered below in our FAQ.

Are tabi comfortable?

The early pairs from the 90s—not so much. They were stiff and often led to blisters between the split-toe. Nowadays, tabi boots and shoes are just as comfortable as any pair of boots, ballerinas, loafers, brogues, slingbacks, or Mary-Janes. While it may take some time to get used to, you'll gradually notice that you forget your big toe is even separated. Surprisingly, the original Japanese tabi, dating back to the 15th century, was believed to promote balance through the separation of the big toe—a holistic reflexology method that encourages mental clarity and is considered to be connected to your sense of self. While we wouldn't go as far as saying that wearing tabi is indeed a holistic experience, it's safe to say that tabi promotes balance in its own unique way.

Are tabi true to size? 

When it comes to tabi sizing, opinions vary. Some say they run large, while others claim they are true to size. In our view, they generally run true to size. However, if you find yourself on the borderline between sizes, we recommend sizing up. Nevertheless, as with any footwear, it's essential to try them on in stores or order two sizes to compare before making a final decision.

Which model would you recommend investing in? 

For fall, black lace-up brogues make for the perfect staple. They complement our go-to fall uniform of tailored trousers and oversized knits beautifully. The knee-high boot, on the other hand, is a year-round star. It pairs effortlessly with dresses, skirts of all lengths, capri pants, tights, jeans, and even beneath tailored trousers—it truly goes with anything. The ballerina is a true hero for warmer seasons but can still be worn with socks and leg warmers until the freezing weather sets in. For a complete indulgence in our favorite tabi, visit our WARDROBE.

Subscribe to the newsletter below or join us on Substack.