It is a well-known fact that ugly shoes are better for your feet. I would hate to name any shoe brands in particular as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, of course. But every time I step out in fancy, impractical, blister-inducing footwear I berate myself for not wearing ‘sensible shoes’.
What gets to me is that there is a presumption that once you are ready for comfortable shoes you are also ready to hang up any stylishness that you have procured throughout your life. I realised this most recently when I styled a job for a character – a 65-year-woman. The general idea I was fighting against is the notion that 65-year-old women are frumpy, dowdy and sans style. This was very hard for me to get my head around, as the women I know anywhere near this age category are rather fabulously dressed. Case in point? The stars of Sue Bourne’s fantastic documentary Fabulous Fashionistas. I can only imagine that this notion comes from the image of 65-year-old women from previous decades. The women who are 65 now grew up in the 60’s and 70’s, so these are women who championed mini skirts, crochet and platforms. They were the first generation to really have fun with their clothes.
While this is a preconception about an older generation’s style which we must fight, when it comes to footwear that’s a different matter. Working as a stylist, I’m on my feet all day long, so I crave comfort in footwear. During preproduction I am dashing around shops, hire houses, driving and carrying, and on shoots I can be on my feet for up to 18 hours a day. I have always favoured the Converse low top or a ballerina, but am now finding these less comfortable day to day. I have recently followed the pack (shock horror) and invested in a pair of Air Max 90’s to put some actual max air between the ground and me, and I must confess they are enjoyable to wear. However, I am not a teenager and I fear this look must be restricted to work only.
Men have spent years complaining about women, complaining about their shoes; walking slowly, limping occasionally, blistered bleeding aching feet ahoy. However as soon as we switch over to practical-looking, clumpy safe choices they are up in arms that women now don’t look sexy and we all look like we knit our own muesli. You can’t have it all mate. Or can you?
For several seasons now the Ugly Shoe has been creeping into collections. And now it has finally infiltrated the high street, it is officially a trend. Style reference? See Celine’s fur-lined Furkenstocks for Spring 2013. These have translated into a slightly more practical non fur-lined version for this summer, featuring a criss cross grosgrain strap and Birkenstock styling. Birkenstocks themselves have enjoyed several summers in the spotlight now and joyfully this success looks set to continue. Who wouldn’t want a super on-trend, cool, practical, flat, soft cork-lined footbed with arch support and a roomy toe box hmm? And even Vogue said it was okay. And Alexa. And remember the images of Kate taken by Corinne Day back in the 1990’s? See.
Givenchy Spring 2014 was styled exclusively with leather sandals, and the Prada collection featured some chunky rhinestoned neoprene rainbow brite practical sandals that I just can’t decide whether I secretly love them or openly hate them. The Prada offer brings me on to the other big hitter in this slightly ugly and strange trending footwear department – The Humble Poolslide.
I spent the majority of last summer trying to persuade the various Directors of E4’s Misfits to let me style a pair of poolslides into the show, alas to no avail. I was saddened to notice them appear in countless shows and on pretty much every catwalk subsequently and I now mourn the passing of my poolslider trendsetting moment. Now here is an item I have championed on holidays since the 1990’s, loving its chaviness, especially with white towelling sports socks. My father had a thing for poolsliders and socks, and as much as we berated him and I hid in shame as a teenager, it is a style I have adopted with gung ho as an adult. These beauties are making a mainstream reappearance on the high street too. You can even design your own at Adidas for under £30. That’s semi bespoke footwear for under a bullseye. Bullseye indeed.
For full ‘I don’t give a blister’ ugliness I like all-black sandals, but white is super nice for summer too. You can get glitzy with metallics, which are huge for 2014, and there are some delicate florals and cool stripes to be had too. Bright or pastel, natural leather, anything goes. The great thing about this trend is it won’t break your bank or your feet. The real battle is now not whether your footwear is seen as fashionable but how sexy it makes you feel. And your feet may well be considered sexier when they are not covered in blisters and plasters. The dilemma continues…