You can say that it started with Celine around 2013, when it offered Birkenstock-esque slides lined with mink fur for its Spring collection. Sure, Birks were the footwear of choice among hippies in the ’60s and ’70s, but between then and Phoebe Philo’s interpretation, they were largely thought of as kicks for those concerned more with foot health than flair.

Then, there was the comeback of Tevas a year later. Originally designed for outdoor activities, the velcro-laced sandal style was adapted by Prada and Marc Jacobs for S/S ’14. Fast forward to today, and the California-based brand itself is officially cool. Creative types in Tokyo (I lived there for a while) wear them religiously, while Pedder On Scotts here hosted a series of events in collaboration with it for F/W ’16.

None of this, however, has quite prepared the fashion crowd for just how far designers have pushed footwear into the anti-fashion territory this season. The boldest statement comes from Christopher Kane, who teamed up with Crocs – yes, Crocs – on stone-studded variations that, according to WWD Footwear News, will be produced for sale. MSGM created a shoe akin to a ballet flat-meets-sports trainer-meets-ankle monitor, what with its cushioned sole and extra thick ankle cuff. Meanwhile, Prada’s sandals seem to have come from your neighbourhood auntie’s wardrobe: plasticky, bubble-gum-hued and available plain or adorned with tacky florets.

ugly shoes
MSGM added thick ankle-cuffs to canoe-shaped slip-ons.
ugly shoes
Christopher Kane’s Crocs come barnacled with geodes.

Miuccia Prada – purveyor of elegant ugly chic since the ’90s – once said: “My true point of view in fashion is to go against the cliches of beauty and sexiness.” Save for the truly progressive, things that don’t fall into the conventions of good-looking never sit well –that is until enough of the hip set get into it. How else could Demna Gvasalia have become the most important man in fashion today? (Vetements’ key S/S ’17 shoe, by the way, is a waist-skimming wader-style update on pretty Manolo Blahniks.)

That’s not to say that I’m rushing out to get some Crocs  (I already live in Tevas). But here’s a tip for anyone thinking about it: You can’t go wrong as long as your dress is pretty.

This story first appeared in Female’s Jan 2017 issue.

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