Project Runaway: the ankle monitor is a fashion status symbol again

From Lindsay Lohan to Anna Delvey and Carrie Bradshaw, surveillance anklets are getting reformed, reappraised, and rehabilitated

Abolish prisons but abolish the Apple Watch first. Originally conceived for the kind of man who dresses like an estate agent but feels like Inspector Gadget (which is a uniquely erotic combination of characteristics) its owners blether on about the life-changing potential of receiving “notifications” with all the charisma of a Sat Nav. But if someone truly wants to know what it’s like to be dehumanised – hooked-up to the grid, life experiences reduced to step counts – then it’s the ankle monitor that is pop culture’s most beloved status symbol. A chic, shameful schadenfreude that has managed to re-enter the zeitgeist during a spectacularly boring period of celebrity. 

Locked onto the ankle by a probation officer, these cumbersome tracking devices are totems of a time when famous people made headlines for trying cocaine “10-15 times” and not for whatever mundane thing Olivia Wilde happened to say about Florence Pugh. This isn’t to romanticise capital punishment – or gawp at those who are still forced to wear electronic tags – but to honour the petty DUI-ers who had the gall to spin their most scandalous moments into aspirational fodder. It’s Kris Jenner framing Khloé Kardashian’s prison portrait. It’s Lindsay Lohan tweeting “can CHANEL please help me out by getting me some stickers to put on my scram bracelet so that i can at least wear a chic dress?! maybe!? x.” It’s Karl Lagerfeld showing a line of quilted ankle-bags inspired by that very monitoring machine.

For SS07, Chanel debuted miniature double flaps in patent red leather, crinkly gold lamé, and tweed – all with matching heels. If Twitter had been around then, people would have called it trauma porn, much like they did when Alessandro Michele strapped lipsticks to the top of shoes during his SS20 show. “Gucci selling house arrest accessories now?,” one person Tweeted. But things have seemingly escalated since then: chunky perspex anklets were fastened to the end of legs at Alaïa this season, while at Burberry, Riccardo Tisci offered amped-up stilettos with ungainly plastic straps. Then came a BTS shot of Sarah Jessica Parker in the Sex and The City reboot, cradling a JW Anderson pigeon with a Fendi purse clasped onto her ankle. Like Naomi Campbell in her metallic Dolce & Gabbana column dress, it was as if Carrie Bradshaw had been sentenced to a stint as community janitor. 

The whole thing reeks of Anna Delvey, who last week emerged from prison cloaked in a black satin trench, a widow’s head scarf, and a visible tag. And then, as if to iconise the audacity of that moment – the smugness and the crocodile tears – the Soho swindler was shot for the cover of this week’s ES magazine, her ankle tag bedazzled with rhinestoned initials. “This is disgusting! And everything whos wrong in our world! Stop this bullshit non sense,” a pearl-clutching influencer commented on the publication’s IG post. Yet therein lies the allure: the celeb-gone-bad, undermining the justice system with an up-do and an up-cycled tracker. So knowingly above reprehension, so “this is a big inconvenience for me”. Crime is obviously wrong… but it so often feels very right.