When did shoes get so ugly? It's something I frequently wonder – especially in summer when, it seems, shoes get more and more malign and hideous.
For once, fashion isn't to blame. There are ugly shoes on the catwalks, of course – Prada came up trumps with stout, flat ankle-boots with corrugated, injection-moulded plastic soles that resemble the stuff pedicurists use to plump out toenails whilst painting them.
But the slippers Alessandro Michele offered at Gucci, snaffle loafers cleaved in half and lined in kangaroo fur, were kind of revolting, too. They reminded me of Meret Oppenheim's 'Breakfast in Fur' – that surreal teacup wrapped in gazelle pelt. Oppenheim's idea was that wrapping your chops around that cup would be, in a surreal way, kind of revolting – it's kind of revolting to stuff your feet into Michele's furry footwear, too.
However, I'm not talking about the catwalk, where ugliness is a considered aesthetic statement. I'm talking about people on the street, who I see far more of than catwalk models (at least, at this time of year, before we dive head-first into the spring/summer 2016 shows).
Their shoes are frightful. I don't mean that they're misjudged, or off-season in that weird way fashion people are caricatured to talk – the idea of wearing platforms when everyone else is in stilettos being parodied as the cardinal stylistic sin. Rather, I mean plain, out-and-out, eye-gougingly repugnant. Here are the unpleasant podiatric perversions I've spotted thus far: those awful neoprene shoes with pockets for each toe, making your foot look like a malignant, mutated anemone; foamy sandals that wrap your bridge and instep, as if preparing you for a dreadful medical procedure. There's lots of quasi-surgical, pseudo-sportif allusions to the fabrics, and all that weird trussing.
Unlike the hideous shoes of Gucci and Prada, this isn't a considered, intentional ugliness. Aesthetics aren't at play here: the ugliness is down to function, not form.
But, is it? Do these shoes really do something that a nice, normal shoe – the kind we've been wrapping our feet in for years – can't? Is it necessary to isolate each toe, to avoid a hard sole, to cushion your arch with gel and virulent, violet foam-rubber? Because that's a considered visual choice too, all those garish colours, the studied oddness, the ugliness even. Comfort doesn't always look that way.
I blame Crocs myself, those tumescent, cumbersome clogs of foam. Cumbersome is actually the wrong word – they look bulbous and ungainly, but are, apparently, extremely comfortable. I'm taking other people's word for it: I have never touched a pair, much less worn them. And I never intend to.
Maybe Crocs are the true 21st-century equivalent of Oppenheim's fuzzy tea-cup? If it's a toss-up between the two, I'd rather have a gobful of gazelle.Reuse content