Croc horror! 'The world's ugliest shoe' is given a high fashion makeover
Right now, nothing screams fashion with a capital F louder than an ugly shoe.
Sure, sexy stilettos and prim courts skip in and out of style every few seasons, but for serious fashion points the rule to follow is the uglier and more orthopaedic the better.
The front row is a well-trodden battleground when it comes to 'challenging' shoes. But some styles are just too hideous to be redeemed - aren't they?
I'm all for a bit of ugliness - give me geography teacher sandals and bovver boots any day - but I'm yet to make the leap to Crocs, even if London designer Christopher Kane has whipped up crystal encrusted versions. Bloggers such as Leandra Medine of Man Repeller, and Eva Chen, head of fashion partnerships at Instagram, who wore hers into the labour ward (practical) have the necessary flair to make them look on trend rather than tragic.
My style, however, is considerably more low key, I worry I'd just look as though I'd slipped into the closest shoes to the front door. Or that I'd given up completely.
Beloved by hospital workers, gardeners and the under-10s (including Prince George, above) the world over since Crocs debuted 15 years ago, at a boat show in Florida - which probably tells you all you need to know about their style credentials - the lightweight clog has been much maligned by the style set. Sure, there may be a purely-utilitarian pair lurking in even the chicest woman's walk-in-wardrobe, but she wouldn't be seen popping to the corner shop for a pint of almond milk in them, let alone striding out for a day of high-powered meetings or cocktails with friends.
But, if Christopher Kane has his way, that's all set to change. Adored by everyone from Kate Middleton to Rihanna, the designer is well known for playing with established ideas of good taste and his ability to find beauty in the unusual. For SS17, he accessorised jazzy cocktail frocks and leopard print skirts with customised Crocs, with marbling effects and exclusive colours.
The usual juvenile clip-on charms depicting Elsa, Ariel and other members of the Disney sorority were replaced by great, glittering hunks of crystals and chunky minerals. For autumn-winter 2017 he's done mink-lined versions.
Thought not stocked in Irish stores, they are currently available online at brownsfashion.com and mytheresa.com for €325 - an impressive mark-up from the €34.99 classic Croc.
Yet, even with Kane's alchemic abilities, Crocs are proving a difficult sell. Surprisingly so, for they have all the hallmarks of fashionably ugly (rather than simply badly designed) footwear. They're clumpy, which has the benefit of making one's legs look slimmer in comparison. They're flat too. And given that a recent survey by British brand Hotter Shoes revealed that 70pc of women still opt for looks over comfort when it comes to footwear (with the blisters and bunions to prove it), perhaps Mr Kane is on to something. If only we can be convinced.
High heels can of course be fashion-ugly - see Margiela's cult cloven hooved Tabi boots in - but the truly hideous are usually flat-soled and with a distinct whiff of utility, sports or Dr Scholl about them.
The fashion world's love affair with fugly footwear is nothing new. In the 1970s, Go-go boots hit the big time when vinyl options (popular with true disco divas in an unforgiving white hue) were produced. Brothel creepers, rendered in velvet with a giant flatform, gave a punk rock edge to the 1980s, while the Spice Girls regularly championed a sky-high sponge platform in their 1990s heyday.
Post-millennium, A-listers like Kate Moss and Paris Hilton made Uggs world-famous. The early Noughties also brought us the clunky wooden-soled Swedish Hasbeens clogs, favoured by Carrie Bradshaw on Sex and the City, and the ever-polarising kitten heel, which made a comeback this season.
It's easy to mock, but the right pair of fashion-ugly shoes, whether they're pool slides, Teva's Velcro sandals or a trusty Birkenstock, makes everything you wear them with instantly look edgier. And if you select properly, you'll even be able to walk in them.