How fashion is obsessed with footwear that are a little less than conventional


The trend now calls for you to step out in footwear that are less then conventional. Photo (from left): MCM, MSCHF

Forget sexy stilettos or cute kitten heels, this season is all about stepping out in “ugly” shoes.

The fashion trend is sweeping social media, with scores of celebrities spearheading the movement (if you can even term it as such).

In one scene of the recent Barbie film, the iconic doll – played by Margot Robbie – is shown having to choose between high-heeled pumps and sandals to go discover the real world. Spoiler: she picked the latter.

The sandals featured is none other than a pair of Birkenstocks – yes, the very footwear lampooned for being “funny-looking”. Back in the 1990s, the people who wore them with socks were even called dorks or geeks.

At one point in Greta Gerwig's film, Barbie was shown having to choose between Birkenstock sandals and high-heeled pumps. Photo: AFPAt one point in Greta Gerwig's film, Barbie was shown having to choose between Birkenstock sandals and high-heeled pumps. Photo: AFP

Fast forward to the 2020s and suddenly, the cool kids are sporting the same style.

In July, model Hailey Bieber shared a picture of herself wearing sandals with socks. There is no question about the look being stylish now, when it is embraced by someone regularly featured in Guess, Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger ads.

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Her husband, Justin Bieber, also favours the look. He has even paired sliders with socks.

Also, remember how Crocs was teased for its offerings of clunky footwear? No one is laughing now.

Slowly but surely, Crocs slip-ons captured the hearts of those in the fashion industry.

In 2017, designer Christopher Kane sent out his models wearing Crocs embellished with gems, fur and metallic flowers. Balenciaga has released several versions of Crocs, each kookier than the other.

Hailey Bieber puts to the rest the argument that wearing sandals and sock is just plain ugly. Photo: Instagram/Hailey BieberHailey Bieber puts to the rest the argument that wearing sandals and sock is just plain ugly. Photo: Instagram/Hailey BieberThe Crocs brand scored numerous collaborations with other luxury fashion labels too. MCM very recently released a Crocs collection, and the campaign showed actress Lindsay Lohan wearing the design.

Another footwear often denigrated is the classic Dr Scholl’s sandals. The style has even been called (mean-spiritedly) “granny wedges”.

A specific design, one with a square buckle detail and wood midsole, had a moment in the 90s, when it was filmed on the feet of Sarah Jessica Parker in Sex & The City. Somehow, it lost appeal in the following years.

In 2017, actress Lily-Rose Depp brought back the style and now, it is fashionable again.

Similarly, Ugg boots reached peak fame in the 2000s – then faded away from the fashion scene.

Oprah Winfrey featured a pair on her famous favourite-things list in 2000. It resulted in Ugg boots becoming a celebrity staple worn by stars such as Paris Hilton, Beyonce and Kate Moss.

In 2010, it transformed into something that you would be teased about for wearing. Perhaps a classic result of overhype.

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In the past couple of years however, Ugg scored a comeback. Fashion’s it-girls like Dua Lipa, Kendall Jenner, Kaia Gerber, Gigi Hadid and more have been photographed wearing the boots.

Think that some the designs mentioned above are just plain cartoonish? You are right. Yet, brands have embraced the insult and owned it.

Enter the MSCHF’s “big red boots”. They are reminiscent of the ones worn by manga character Astro Boy.

While a head-turner alright, such an unconventional silhouete is not everyone’s cup of tea. Well, you don’t call them statement pieces for nothing.

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