Ugly shoes are the new craze in America.
Stretchy laminated sneakers and weird, fur-striped sandals are being sold by Zara. And celebrities and fashion editors are wearing clunky black-and-white Adidas slippers. Some mystifying, ultra-shaggy slip-ons were designed by Gucci. Awkward, curvey cork wedges were tried to be sold even by Chanel.It’s as if everyone’s racing to make the ugliest shoe.
And into the widening sea of unpretty footwear, the latest brands to dive in were Ugg and Teva.
Deemed so universally grotesque that fashion publications proclaimed them the ugliest shoes of all time, the brands, both owned by Deckers, unveiled a crossbred sandal-boot horror. With an awkward hunk of fuzzy sheepskin sitting on top, one style looks like a sandal. A chunky wool-lined boot with inexplicable openings at the bottom—you know, like the medical boots you wear when you break a foot, the high-top version is perhaps odder. “Suspend Your Disbelief” is the tag line that they are being sold under.
Some have been unable to comply. Racked called them “an abomination, for sure.” “The stuff of nightmares” was what the Huffington Post dubbed them as.
“We can’t even begin to imagine a scenario that these shoes are suited for.” Are they for the hot or cold months? If they’re supposed to keep feet warm, why are the toes exposed? Where could you possibly wear them, wrote Glamour.
There may be something to this phenomenon oddly enough. Hideous shoes seems to fascinate U.S. consumers. Ugg boots and Crocs clogs are two bastions of practical yet absurd footwear that they’ve helped build. While Crocs makes $1.1 billion, Ugg hauls in more than $1.5 billion in annual revenue. Their ugly classics remain best-sellers even as both have expanded into lots of other kinds of shoes, from wedges to loafers.
Fashion insiders are also entranced. The affinity for cheap, bizarre lucite platforms from Yandy and contoured cork Birkenstock sandals can’t seem to be hidden by sditors at Vogue. At London Fashion Week, rubbery Crocs on his runway were put by designer Christopher Kane. Ugg collaborated with Preen by Thornton Bregazzi, another London label, to make flats.
Since there’s now less social pressure focused on your feet, shoppers might be more willing to try new, weird shoes, suggests Jennifer Baumgartner, a clinical psychologist and author of You Are What You Wear: What Your Clothes Reveal About You. Trying to flatter, conceal, or make their feet look better are issues of lesser interest for Wearers. Now due to stigma surrounding body type and size, especially in an age where they’re bombarded with images online and on social media, we feel fear about clothing but that is not the case with shoes anymore.
Their latest offerings are “unique and fashion-forward” and that they “celebrate the expression of freedom” and the “art of footwear design”, contend executives at the parent of Ugg and Teva.
With subversive, anti-establishment styles, Irony has muscled its way into fashion in recent years. Perhaps everyone wants to relieve the anxiety we feel about our appearance by laughing at their feet.
“One of the ways to do that is poking fun of what we wear. Sure, it might burn our eyeballs out, but there’s something funny there, wearing these deliberately hideous shoes,” Baumgartner says.
(Adapted for Bloomberg)