The Ugly Shoe Trend
Everywhere you look, fashion editors are gushing over the dominant trend for 2018: The Ugly Shoe. They can't really explain the purpose or benefit of this trend, because who could? But they're all on the bandwagon, urging us on to compete in the Ugly Shoe Sweepstakes.
There's a consensus that Balenciaga's ugly trainers are a must-have. I'm not sure how they've come to this conclusion. There must be a metric formula that combines visual horror with price. Many other brands have devised trainers that are at least as ugly as Balenciaga's, without generating a crazed appetite or wait list.
Now, along with the ugly trainer, we have the ugly Crocs, which sounds redundant until you see what's in store for us. Again, Balenciaga is leading the pack with hideous platform Crocs, but Christopher Kane, who reintroduced Crocs a couple of years ago, has upped the ante for Fall with a hideous bedazzled running shoe that looks like it's balancing on a doorknob.
You want ugly, designers are saying, we'll show you ugly! Some are referring to these big ugly sneakers as “Ugly Dad Trainers”. As if anyone's dad would be caught dead in Louis Vuitton's awful clunky trainers! Shoe historian Elizabeth Semmelhack explains the trend as the perfect antidote to fashion's seriousness and a way for women to make a powerful statement. "The majority of people are wearing them in a kind of ironic way," she notes. Before you can say DUH, she goes on to link the trend to the #MeToo movement.
How do ugly shoes empower women? By scaring off suitors, or what? Personally, I don't feel empowered by ugly shoes, but I do enjoy a good laugh. Loewe's hideous Dinosaur sneaker, at $650, is a great buy in terms of laugh-per-wear. Normal people will point and laugh hysterically, while It-Girls will faint with envy. The long curly pointed toe is reminiscent of the crazy boots worn by a Mexican subculture that went viral a few years ago as a too-weird-to-believe meme. Maybe this is the essence of disruptive fashion: What was once beyond belief is now a necessity.
Shoes have a cultural significance that I can't begin to dissect, not being a scholar but merely a consumer. I do know that shoes are an indicator of status, and rarely designed for comfort or durability. Today, shoes are as much an indicator of social rank (i.e., coolness) as anything else we can buy. We look at each other's shoes to discern tribal allegiances. Remember when kids shot each other for their designer sneakers? Now, we just size each other up without bloodshed, but judgements are immediate and irrevocable. Puma's mean one thing, and Vans mean another.
Deliberately ugly shoes mean you're too cool to reflexively buy something normal or classic. You're not tethered by the rules of aesthetics. Proportions mean nothing to you. You're edgy. You dare to look stupid, because you know how much money went into it. You sneer at those classic, nothing-looking leather sneakers that everyone wanted last year.
So, now that you caved and bought your ugly shoes, you will wonder how to style them. Luckily, there are several guides online that struggle to help out. Wear them with cropped jeans, is the most popular directive. That way, you can expose the full horror without your jeans bunching up around the main event. One advisor says to wear them with "interesting socks." Another Trend Alert article offers a variety of street-style photos, featuring all sorts of fashion mash-ups like some ugly bulky trainers with a long tulle ballet skirt and plaid overcoat.
There's no "right way" to style these shoes, alright? Everything will just point to the fact that your shoes are too big and too hideous. If you want to embrace the trend while still maintaining a posture of minimalism, Celine's coveted bulky sneakers are monotone and businesslike, except for the lavender rubber sole that screams "$850!" Wearing them will give you the status you're after, while conferring the look of a mean Scandinavian nurse or prison warden.
If you're like me, and you want this fad to go away as soon as possible, try screaming every times you encounter an on-trend ugly shoe. I think it will help. At least it will make you feel like you're doing something. It's better than passivity. And remember that beauty isn't in the eye of the beholder, it's a ploy by designers to have a good chuckle at your expense. Literally.