U.G.L.Y.

Sneak­ers — oh, the irony

Fashion Quarterly - - Contents -

Ear­lier this week, I had a night­mare that I lived in a colour­less dystopia run by mil­i­tant sol­diers. I woke up, un­set­tled, to a text from a col­league who’d dreamt I showed up at work in Louis Vuit­ton’s lim­ited-edi­tion ‘Arch­light’ sneak­ers. Vi­su­al­is­ing all

$1600 worth of com­i­cally pro­por­tioned, ag­gres­sively de­signed, spacey, sporty street-style bait, a new wave of hor­ror washed over me. Sud­denly, dystopia didn’t seem so bad.

On this I stand alone in my 12cm stilet­toed an­kle boots that make me a li­a­bil­ity to any­one need­ing to get any­where with me in a hurry, not to men­tion more than a lit­tle bit un­fash­ion­able at a time when sky-high heels are de­creas­ing in pop­u­lar­ity as fast as the col­lec­tive fe­male ca­pac­ity to tol­er­ate pay in­equal­ity and un­wanted sex­ual ad­vances. Fly­ing off the shelves in the days fol­low­ing their Fe­bru­ary 2018 re­lease, the Arch­lights, their de­signer con­tem­po­raries and their high-street equiv­a­lents have dom­i­nated fash­ion front rows, style pages and Google searches for some time now.

Blame the evo­lu­tion of norm­core, a fash­ion move­ment that gained pop­u­lar­ity a few years ago for com­bat­ting os­ten­ta­tion and con­trived au­then­tic­ity by cel­e­brat­ing same­ness, and which was mainly man­i­fest in the re­vival of ‘sneans’ (sneak­ers and jeans). Painfully earnest in its irony, norm­core has since had its sense of hu­mour drawn out by the likes of Demna Gvasalia, cre­ative di­rec­tor at Ba­len­ci­aga and founder of Vete­ments. Expensive and at their core un­ex­cep­tional, Gvasalia’s street-luxe de­signs are as ironic as they come. But thanks to some ex­tra quirky ad­di­tions (a smi­ley face emoji here, a bit of well-placed fake dirt there), the idea is that they — and those who wear them — don’t take them­selves too se­ri­ously.

You might, of course, ar­gue that any­one who spends more than $200 on a pair of sports shoes is a se­ri­ous fol­lower of fash­ion in­deed. I’m in­clined to think so, any­way. But then, in my imag­i­nary life where my imag­i­nary level of wealth al­lows me to fil­ter prices from high to low on Net-a-Porter, I wouldn’t think twice about spend­ing that amount of money on a pair of em­bel­lished Aquaz­zura party heels, so it’s kind of a moot point.

Then again, it’s not, be­cause the les­son here is to wear what­ever makes you happy. Chris­tian Louboutin once talked about a high heel as the source of a woman’s power, which res­onated with me in a big way. But if yours is in a chunky, springy, triple-lay­ered rub­ber sole, more power to you. You wouldn’t be the first. Let’s cast our minds back 20 years to the last time a chunky sneaker was as­so­ci­ated with (girl) power. In­spired by ’80s rave-wear, the Spice Girls’ footwear of choice was many a millennial’s first en­counter with the ugly sneaker; the nos­tal­gia fac­tor alone ex­plains the item’s ap­peal to to­day’s gen­er­a­tion.

Also on its side is its sur­pris­ing ver­sa­til­ity. As the Spice Girls proved, the ugly sneaker does not dis­crim­i­nate. No mat­ter your stature or style per­son­al­ity, there’s a way for you to wear it. Whether yours is a Mel C-in­spired up­date on the Adi­das track­suit, an an­i­mal-print en­sem­ble that would make Mel B proud, or a metal­lic mini dress that could’ve once caused a cat­fight be­tween Emma Bun­ton and Geri Hal­li­well, it’s the ac­cent that will take your look from cos­tume ter­ri­tory to cool. Just ask Bella Ha­did — seem­ingly on a cru­sade to prove that there’s no out­fit the ugly sneaker can’t com­plete. With enough style per­son­al­i­ties to form her own girl group, Bella’s love for sneak­ers and suit­ing begs the ques­tion whether there’s an open­ing for a ‘Busi­ness Spice’ in any ru­moured re­union tour.

She may want to keep her sched­ule clear, be­cause like a pre-Beck­ham Posh Spice tot­ter­ing around the edges of the Spice World boot camp in body-con camo while the rest of the band crawls through the mud, there will al­ways be some who sim­ply can­not get on board — and that’s okay. Again, fash­ion should be fun, and if you’re not feel­ing a trend, faking your love for it is a waste of en­ergy, not to men­tion a wardrobe of clothes that turn you into the best ver­sion of your­self.

In other words, own your look. And if, like me and Vicky B, the ugly sneaker isn’t it, just hold tight. Sooner or later, peo­ple will start wear­ing stilettos iron­i­cally, and then we’ll be away laugh­ing.

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