ugly shoes

Ugly Shoes No Mo’: How These Former Fashion Castaways Became All Sorts Of Cool

You do you, point blank, period.

Polarizing and personal, the expression of fashion leans in on the unique, showing a newfound appreciation for what once was filed as “ugh, as if!” Look who’s laughing now, because among others, ugly shoes are all the rage these days.

Hate is such a strong word, we know, but at some point, the extremely fickle and stubborn world of fashion has turned its back on certain trends that were all the rage for a period of time. “One day you’re in, and the next day, you’re out,” and so goes the ominous reminder of the wise Heidi Klum at the height of Project Runway. A slave to the currency of cycles, trends don’t only come and go, but they are often tossed out after a few months, even if to be completely honest, they weren’t really bad to begin with. It’s just that in the seasonal calendar, it has overstayed its welcome. So, naturally, the all-knowing gods of fashion would deem it dreadful and move on to the new, now, and the next. The victims? The unfortunate branding of ugly shoes, ugly prints, and ugly pants, among many others.

Fashion as an expression is personal, which also makes it very polarizing, especially for those who don’t necessarily subscribe to a specific point-of-view. This also adds insult to the injury to the smearing of certain choices and filing it as “ugly,” because in the objective sense, these trends may not necessarily seem conventionally fashionable, but it is at the very least functional, comfortable, and interesting. The new age adage is gospel here when you want to try on what others call the ugly shoe or whatever else: you do you, period.

If The Shoe Fits

For so long, the world has been fixated on archaic rules, unnecessary pedantry, and soul crushing perfection that anything that goes against the grain is not only frowned upon, but often laid to rest at the behest of fitting in. Thankfully, the last few years has seen a revolution of sorts, where barriers have been broken and rigors replaced with respect and liberty. To each their own, and rightfully so. Naturally, the resurrection soon followed and everyone started to wear what felt like regardless, ugly shoes especially.

In fact, there has been such a predilection for wearing what one pleases and makes them happy that the “uglier” it is, the more interesting it gets. With the tables turned, what one wouldn’t get caught dead in before suddenly became all sorts of cool. Ugh as if? More like, yes, please. “It may be considered aesthetically unpleasing,” explains cognitive psychologist, Carolyn Mair, Ph.D. of the proliferation of disruptive fashion such as the once frowned upon Birkenstocks, the ultimately detested Crocs, and the are-you-seriously-wearing-that dad sneakers. “But it’s this exact feature that appeals to others…Wearing something different that draws attention could be interpreted as risk-taking, which may be perceived as exciting, adventurous, and fun.”

Gone are the days of fitting in, because today, it is all about letting one’s freak flag fly high and proud. Let’s be real, we all have quirks that make us unique. So, why hide it? Life is too precious to waste on figuring out if something is worth wearing. If that ugly shoe makes you smile, then by all means, wear it. “People don’t want to just look good, they also, crucially, want to look different,” add Dr. Matt Johnson, consumer psychologist.

Seriously, Get Into It

All things considered, this should also serve as a lesson for us: if it does you no harm, don’t hate on it. Let people enjoy the things they want to, even if it doesn’t fit what you think is fashionable or not. It’s not your life after all. The only thing that you should be concerned with are the choices you make and if it, to borrow another nugget of wisdom, brings you joy—nothing more, nothing less.

Time may not have been entirely kind to these formerly unfortunate faux pas, but well, the joke is on those were in on the fashion mob mentality, because things like the ugly shoe are no longer worn as irony, but it actually looks awesome. Clogs, Jesus sandals with socks, and jelly shoes, get into it. There are more serious things to dispute about in the world today, like say, the destruction of democracy and decay of humanity. Seriously, wear that pair of ugly shoes. It actually looks pretty good.

From castaways to all sorts of cool, these pairs of ugly shoes are back with a vengeance. Now, this is a Cinderella story we can get subscribe to. True enough, no pair gets left behind.


Suddenly, everyone is in a pair of Crocs today, Jibbitz and all. It seems like it wasn’t too long ago when these colorful rubber clogs were generally abhorred, or at the very least relegated as a guilty pleasure. But thanks to its long-standing coziness and penchant for collaborations, it has become some sort of generational footwear. From Bretman Rock to Justin Bieber, everyone who’s who has stepped into these modern-day slip-ons. Recently, the brand introduced its latest partnership. Irreverent in form and function, the Transformer-like pieces from the Crocs x SANKUANZ collection have stirred everyone to attention online. Conceptual and comfortable, the progressive pairs in meta black, eternal white, and acid green are far from being ugly shoes. They’re bad-ass.


When the world pared things down in a severe attempt to go minimal, fashion wasn’t too far off with its contribution in normcore. (Remember that?) While it was predominantly sedate, it did have its swing into the ugly shoe business with the excess of toes wiggling towards freedom or warmed up in socks through Birkenstocks. Once filed as folksy or religious, the humble pair of sandals has inched closer to the mainstream, sole imprints and all. Its signature cork, leather, and suede have served many generations well, but today, it also earned its badge of cool with updates such as big buckles, as well as of collaborations with Proenza Schouler and Stüssy.


The re-emergence of this ugly shoe trend needs no further introduction or description, because to this day, the waves of this disruption is still felt and seen. From the chunky mix of rubber, mesh, and a lot of neutrals, every brand has jumped on the dad sneaker bandwagon, capitalizing on its unlikely but nonetheless vindictive resurgence. Eventually becoming a normal sight, as it was decades ago, the dad sneakers has seen breezier times with the likes of Balenciaga, Alexander McQueen, and your standard Nike, Fila, and New Balance putting on their, all of which will surely make any dad proud.


Everyone who wanted to look cool and stand tall were most likely in Isabel Marant’s ubiquitous Bekett trainers. A signifier of the decade that has past, the wedge and sneaker hybrid spawned many wannabes ever since it was spotted on Beyoncé’s Love On Top music video. Ever since then, a waiting list famously existed for people to cop a pair. Now, Isabel Marant is spinning this nostalgia to her advantage with the re-work of the Balskee trainer, which takes off from where its sister pair left, except this time, taller, chunkier, and edgier.


A fixture of many a childhood, the familiar sparkle, sheen, and scent (ah, bubblegum), the jelly shoes that many young girl have taken a fascination for returns to the mainstream. From princess daydreams to 90s Sunday’s best, the glittering PVC sandals are no longer a part of one’s past. Making a slow and steady comeback across the decades, more so in the past few years, the plastic pair have shifted from transparent to opaque, without losing its sturdy appeal. The prophet of quirk himself, Alessandro Michele, has subverted many of his whimsical collections at Gucci with similar slides and slides that everyone suddenly wants in on again.