A Brief History of Ugly Shoes on the Runway

But how did we get here?

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Just three years ago, it seemed like we were living in the golden age of ugly footwear. Normcore and '90s nostalgia had converged to make Birkenstocks trendy, Adidas pool slides were once again a valid choice (ushered into style by high-end Céline versions), and Tevas were on the rise. Then we all got distracted by minimalist white sneakers, and by the time we looked up, ugly shoes weren't so shocking anymore.

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That could be why designers are upping the ante this fashion month, and collaborating with The Last Bastions of Ugly Footwear: Crocs (as seen on Christopher Kane's runway) and Uggs (revived by Preen, for spring 2017). Let's hop in the fashion wayback machine and figure out how this happened, shall we?

Pool Slides

Céline Debuts Fur Slides, Spring 2013

A tiny fur coat, for your foot. Céline, spring 2013.

It's hard to pinpoint exactly when pool slides became a thing again, but tracing a trend back to Céline is usually a safe bet. In October 2012, Phoebe Philo showed mink-lined shower sandals and "furkenstocks" for spring 2013, and people lost their damn minds. (This was before Rihanna's fuzzy Fenty Puma slides and Gucci's fur-lined loafers, when our eyes hadn't yet adjusted to cuddly footwear.) By the time spring 2013 actually rolled around, designers like Marc Jacobs and Chloé were turning out souped-up pool shoes of their own (minus the fur), for resort.

Are they still shower slides if you can't wear them in the shower? Marc Jacobs, resort 2014.
Pool shoes with serious hardware. Chloé, resort 2014.
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Misha Nonoo Makes Adidas Slides Happen, Resort 2014

Business up top, pool party down below. Misha Nonoo, resort 2014.

Rather than create her own version of the pool slide, designer Misha Nonoo went straight to the source—Adidas. Inspired by her prep school uniform, Nonoo paired the striped slip-ons with boxy knits, slouchy trousers, and schoolgirl skirts.

Tiny Street Style Star Aila Wang Wears Shower Slides, Spring 2014

Fashion's best-dressed niece, hands down.

In September 2013, just a few months after resort 2014 collections debuted (the fashion calendar is nothing if not confusing), tiny fashion icon Aila Wang was photographed at her uncle Alexander Wang's spring 2014 runway show wearing Jordan Hydro II slides, thus cementing the trend (for us, anyway). Sidenote: how cute would an Alexander Wang kids' line be?


J.Crew Hops on the Birkenstock Train, Spring 2013

The J.Crew-Birk Partnership is still going.

Sensing a trend, J.Crew teamed up with Birkenstock on a men's capsule collection for spring 2013, then brought the footwear brand back for a women's collab in spring 2014. The shoes proved to be a convenient styling tool for taking some of J.Crew's dressier looks down a few notches.

Giambattista Valli Introduces Studded Birkenstocks, Resort 2014

Running away from my credit card bill like. Giambattista Valli, resort 2014.

Shortly after Céline's "furkenstocks" hit the runway, Giambattista Valli launched a studded Birk, which quickly flew off shelves despite its $850 price tag.

Givenchy Shows Designer Man-Birks, Spring 2014

A casual, errand-running look. Givenchy Menswear, spring 2014.

Riccardo Tisci outfitted his models in double-strap sandals for Givenchy's spring 2014 menswear show.

Women's Runways Are a Birkenstock Free-for-All, Spring 2014

White Birkenstocks, white dress. Edun, spring 2014.


At New York Fashion Week that year, Birkenstock created custom sandals for Houghton, and the shoes showed up on Edun and Shades of Grey's runways. Trina Turk also debuted an embellished take on the two-strap sandal.


Marc Jacobs Does Fashion Tevas, Spring 2014

Just a Victorian mourning dress and Tevas, nbd. Marc Jacobs, spring 2014.

At this point, fashion needed a new comfort-shoe to latch onto, and Marc Jacobs was there to answer their prayers. The designer showed glittery, Teva-like sandals in his Burning-Man-inspired spring 2014 collection.

And So Does Prada, Spring 2014

This is what happens when Prada meets Teva. Prada, spring 2014.

A few weeks later, in Milan, Miuccia Prada also showed Teva-like velcro sandals, covered in jewels.

Opening Ceremony Gets in on the Teva Collab Action, Spring 2014

Stacked-platform Tevas happened.

Not one to pass up a trendy collab opportunity, Opening Ceremony teamed up with Teva on a collection that featured fashion-y twists (platforms! extra straps!) on the brand's signature styles.

And So Does Urban Outfitters, Fall 2014

How does this photo make you feel?

Hoping to solve the sock-and-sandal conundrum, Urban Outfitters partnered with Teva and Woolrich on matching combos later that year.


Christopher Kane Debuts Bejeweled Crocs, Spring 2017

The day has come. Christopher Kane, spring 2017.

And here we are! Crocs are the ugly shoe line we weren't sure fashion would cross, but Christopher Kane laid our doubts to rest when he outfitted the models in spring 2017 show with straight-up, jewel-festooned Crocs Classics.


Ugg and Teva Combine Their Powers, Fall 2016

We didn't ask for this.

Behold, the Tugg—a velcro sandal with fuzzy fleece lining.

Preen Partners with Ugg, Spring 2017

This is, in fact, an Ugg. Preen, spring 2017.

Finally, Justin Thornton and Thea Bregazzi of Preen unveiled their upcoming collaboration with Ugg on the runway during London Fashion Week, and, surprisingly, fleece booties aren't involved. Instead, the brands teamed up on mega-flatform sandals, topped with oversized bows.

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