As soon as summer hits, we're all about walking around in the nude. No, not that way (although give us a few more weeks of working from home and that could very well change) — we’re talking about flesh-toned shoes. Neutral footwear has long been a popular styling choice because of its versatility, but the category hasn't always been done well. Because despite what countless product descriptions have been selling us for years, there simply is no single shade of skin so finding nude heels can prove to be a challenge.
The naked truth here is not pretty: fashion has a diversity problem, and the use of the word "nude" as it pertains to color palettes is just one example. For far too long, the footwear market has offered a restrictive interpretation of the shade as being very light, and very beige — excluding a tremendous number of female shoppers while simultaneously favoring one skin tone over all others. When it comes to flesh-colored footwear, Christian Louboutin was among the first to address this issue with a debut collection he hoped would provide more options for women looking to match their stilettos to their skin tones. It's a category Louboutin has continued to develop and expand since its 2013 launch, and as the designer makes strides towards a more inclusive industry, a few companies have taken to following in his red-bottomed footsteps. There are also independent designers like Rebecca Allen and Jeneba Barrie who have channeled their personal struggles of finding the right flesh-toned shades into the launch of their own shoe brands. The necessity of this work does more than just expose the problem — it's revolutionizing how we use the word "nude" in fashion.
Ahead, find a list that we'll continue to update featuring companies that are getting it right.
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Designer shoe label Stuart Weitzman is known for producing compliment-worthy, celebrity-adored footwear staples including an impressive Nude Essentials collection. Expect to find barely-there pumps, sandals, and boots in an assortment of neutrals, including cleverly named hues of Basket Brown and Bambina Beige.
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As a Black woman working in finance, founder Rebecca Allen always wanted to look professional without sacrificing clean, sophisticated style but couldn’t find the perfect nude pump to complete her outfits. So she developed the New Pump in five shades to be a timeless choice that leaves its wearer feeling truly comfortable in their own skin.
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This recently launched category from Nine West features five different neutral shades — from Ivory to Brown — to complement a wider range of skin tones. Dubbed the NW Nudes, the collection comes in all of the brand's best-selling silhouettes like flats, pumps, and block-heeled sandals. With both patent and leather options, the possibilities are endless to expertly curate your perfect pair.
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According to Brother Vellies founder Aurora James, the designer originally launched her collection in 2013 using a peachy color she referred to as "nude." But in an effort to re-contextualize that word within her own work, James has since launched ‘The Nudes’ program to challenge the way the industry sees, wears, and talks about neutral shades. "It will now be a part of us forever and each season I will add a new style or two," James writes on her site. "We chose the color names collectively as an office — the names of iconic women throughout history that have inspired us to imagine who we could be in this World when the rest of the World suggested we couldn’t be much." The eight variations pay homage to Grace Jones, Frida Kahlo, and Maya Angelou, to name a few.
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This influencer-approved label is the product of years of experience and expertise in design. Founded by seasoned fashion director Marina Larroudé, the brand often sees certain stand-out styles flying off its shelves. But its most popular shoe, the Gloria (named for the designer's daughter - aw!), isn't just back in time for all those IRL events you've got on the calendar this summer, it's also available in new and more inclusive shades of nude.
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By day, Jeneba Barrie is a full-time lawyer and mother. By night, she's the designer of her own namesake label created to introduce 13 skin-tone shades to the restrictive world of footwear. You can even order a swatch book to find you perfect shade, be it Rosé, White Truffle, Champagne, Silk, Caviar, Cacao, or Cacao Truffle.
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Banana Republic's True Hues collection features a range of wardrobe essentials in inclusive nude shades. From camisoles to sling backs to satin slip dresses, there's plenty to choose from — and the shoe selection does not disappoint.
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Jamela Acheampong's designs are the product of countless hours spent researching shades in order to ensure that her UK-based shoe brand has something to offer for the majority of complexions around the globe. Each shade is named after the women whose skin tones have inspired Acheampong throughout this journey, and each style is named after a different woman who has played a pivotal role in her life.
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While the Designer Shoe Warehouse doesn't have a dedicated in-house collection of flesh-toned shoes, they definitely have a big selection from all sorts of brands you already love. Search the word "nude" on their site and you'll be met with thousands of styles, from a light beige March Fisher heel to chocolatey brown Calvin Klein pumps and everything in between.
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Salone Monet is the founder of an eponymous shoe brand offering thoughtfully designed flesh-toned shoes in six different shades to highlight each wearer's complexion. Her commitment to accessible and inclusive luxury starts with manufacturing: every pair of Salone Monet heels is crafted of the highest-quality materials by skilled cobblers in Italy.