The Designer Affair with Ugly Shoes
People went wild over Christopher Kane’s SS17 show in London this September. Not for the sleekly, slitted leopard pencil skirts à la Anne Bancroft or the meticulously embroidered tulle dresses, but for the shoes.
We’re sure you’ve already heard, but Christopher Kane brought Crocs back. The marble-printed clogs donned shoe charms (Jibbitz is their official name) made of sparkling rocks and crystals which paired seamlessly with Kane’s signature metallic and shimmering style.
As soon as the shoes graced the runway, media outlets hit the typewriters with fervor. Reviews were generally mixed, but publications like British Vogue and Man Repeller released content in general favor of the collaboration, even instructing readers how to style the Croc themselves.
Ugly shoes on the runway are far from new, however. Strappy Teva sandals have appeared in shows like Marc Jacobs and Charlotte Ronson in the past few years, and Alexander Wang just did a rubber flip flop with a buckled ankle cuff (we never thought of that, either).
In 2014, both Dior and Chanel showed jeweled sneakers at their couture presentations that took people by surprise. These are the pinnacles of French design whose religion is elegance, and here they have models march down the runway in shoes not far off from light-up Sketchers. Could ugly sneakers be trendy with a few sparkles and a designer price tag? John Galliano is probably crying in disgust somewhere at the thought of such a question.
Ugly shoes are simply ugly shoes, a designer name doesn’t change that. Yet, as the keepers of the fashion industry, isn’t it our duty to support someone’s right to individual style like we do the First Amendment? Yes, but do the Dr. Scholl’s sandals and the clunky sneakers we see on the runway serve a different purpose than they do in the regular consumer world?
As long as haute couture is still about creativity over functionality, the answer to that is yes, too.
Kane explained to British Vogue his choice of incorporating Crocs into his collection, saying, “I always work with unexpected items and combinations, transforming the everyday into desirable luxury.” The thought of an ugly shoe as a desirable luxury is arguable, but he gets at something that is especially important in fashion: trends and expectations of what is “tasteful” should not hold a designer back from presenting something different and unexpected.
So while we give designers free range to weave beauty with the ugly and the unconventional, that doesn’t necessarily mean we’re required to wear something just because it’s shown at fashion week. We love Alexander McQueen’s SS07 collection for its “I’m an early 20th century rich widow” grand theatrics, not for its effort to comment on current realities. Crystals or no crystals, Crocs are still ugly. Sorry, Mario Batali.