Rarely does a person intentionally try to look ugly. Most people want to put their best appearance forward in the hopes of making good impressions on those they encounter throughout the day. To accomplish this, an individual will style their hair, assemble an outfit of attractive clothes and perhaps apply makeup. And then, if they are particularly stylish, they might don a pair of ugly shoes.
Ugly shoes are not a new fashion phenomenon. Objectively ugly footwear has existed for almost a century, but only recently have ugly shoes come into fashion focus as trendy accessories for appealing outfits. Here is your guide to ugly shoes, so you can start filling your shoe collection with the ugliest fashion-forward footwear around.
There is no singular definition of an ugly shoe because ugly shoes come in so many different shapes and styles. Most often, ugly shoes are chunky, with bulbous accents or platforms, and often, their unappealing look is balanced by a comfort-first design that provides support and relieves the aches and pains caused by more fashionable footwear. Though aesthetic trends may come and go, most ugly footwear continues to have detractors, even when it swings back into style and becomes popular amongst fashion-forward crowds.
In the realm of women’s shoes, there are many well-known examples of ugly footwear, to include:
- Birkenstocks. Sometimes called the original ugly shoe, these sandals were historically beloved by the granola set before they became beloved by the Olsen twins. Today, Birkenstocks come in almost any color and material, and their look is much copied by other footwear brands.
- Crocs. The ugly shoe to end all ugly shoes, these sandals are unapologetic in their lack of visual appeal. Always shaped like a thick duckbill and made of perforated rubber, Crocs are notoriously comfortable, and their distinctive look has attracted designers, who add as much flair as they dare.
- Uggs. Thick and plus, Ugg boots feel like slippers, and their visual weight was used throughout the ‘00s to balance low-rise mini-skirts and leggings. The brand is named Ugg because it has fully embraced the unattractiveness of its signature footwear from the start.
To understand the rise (and fall and rise again) of the ugly shoe in the fashion industry, we must turn to psychology. According to researchers, fashion trends come and go because the human mind is wired to pay attention to ignore what it has seen before and focus on objects that are new. In fashion, this means that silhouettes and styles that have dominated runways and retail for some time are likely to be overlooked, and interesting, innovative clothing and accessories are likely to garner more attention. In this sense, all attractive shoes are the same — but all ugly shoes are fascinatingly unique and worthy of notice.
It is typical for brand-new looks in fashion to be met with revulsion at first; what we are unfamiliar with often feels strange and unappealing. However, as time passes, people become accustomed to seeing these new styles, and the disgust is often replaced by curiosity. Usually, those who first experiment with ugly shoes in fashion are considered risk-takers with exciting, adventurous, and fun senses of style. In many cases, the only factor differentiating an ugly shoe from a popular one is time.
How Should You Wear Ugly Shoes?
In the case of almost all ugly shoes, you are going to be dressing casually. Ugly shoes are not appropriate for formal events or even semi-formal or business settings, where you probably want to appear put together in a more traditionally appealing outfit. Typically, you should reserve your ugly shoes for when looking fashionable is optional — like errands, daytime outings with friends or weekend excursions with family.
Specific pairings of clothing and shoes will depend almost entirely on which ugly shoes you are looking to style and the colors and textures within your wardrobe. You can look up images of celebrities styling their ugly shoes, or you can experiment at home with the clothes you have on hand to find outfits that make you feel comfortable and confident. In truth, the only rule of fashion is that you have fun.
Ugly shoes are probably not here to stay — but if you love the ugly shoe trend, you can keep your ugly shoes in your wardrobe as long as you like. After all, ugly shoes are likely to come back in style eventually, and you could be on the cutting-edge of style when they do.
Iskra Banović is our seasoned Editor-in-Chief at BlueFashion. She has been steering the website’s content and editorial direction since 2013. With a rich background in fashion design, Iskra’s expertise spans across fashion, interior design, beauty, lifestyle, travel, and culture.