The world's ugliest shoe ...
... is now walking out of the shops. Darren Gough reports
Sunday 16 February 1997
Clarks, that purveyor of so-called "sensible shoes", is finding its men's styles dating back to the late Sixties and early Seventies in demand not only with twentysomething lads, but also as inspiration for the Spring/Summer collections of a brace of designers.
Most favoured is the Wallabee, a suede moccasin that resembles nothing so much as a Cornish pasty. A favourite of elderly folk the world over for 31 years now, it became a cult with ravers in the heady summer of 1989. Now it's back again, with the original design doing brisk business in London and Manchester while designers both fashion- and sports-orientated have drawn on its clean, curvy lines to create casual shoes that are the perfect antidote to the increasingly fussy direction trainer design is taking.
Shelly's has leapt on the Wallabee bandwagon with its similarly-styled boot. "A lot of blokes who buy them think they're really ugly at first," admits an assistant at its Covent Garden store.
So ugly, in fact, that the Los Angeles shop Blakes proudly advertises the Clarks Wallabee on the Internet as "the world's ugliest shoe". Always by far the largest market for the Wallabee, America is also seeing it undergo a renaissance. There, however, it's selling to a different kind of customer. While over here it appeals to neo-casuals and the less purist element of the latter-day mod movement, in the States it's constantly eulogised in the rhymes of East Coast rappers. Couplets like "Wallabees be the apparel / through the darkest tunnel" (from the current album by Fugees associate Nas) have ensured that it's much in demand with their fanbase. Having spent as much as $200 on a pair, the thing to do in NY right now is to paint them in two-tone colour schemes strangely reminiscent of the bowling shoes that our mods have thankfully forgotten this time around.
Noting this, Californian skate shoe manufacturer Vans recently launched the "Day Tripper", a Wallabee-inspired boot "to give skaters something more formal than skate sneakers," while our own Ben Sherman has just unveiled its debut footwear collection featuring, among the retro-tinged styles, the McQueen; a slip-on take on the Wallabee. And the Wallabee's influence isn't confined to street-level fashion: check the footwear sported in the current Hugo Boss ads.
But Clarks remains ahead of the game: another of its styles, launched in 1972 and still on sale, is an even hipper item than the Wallabee right now. Like a desert boot with a seam stitched down its middle, the Desert Trek has existed for all this time, without ever becoming fashionable. It might look like the sort of thing your ageing geography teacher wore, but recently it's been spied on the feet of Damon Albarn, Liam Gallagher and various Beastie Boys.
This, predicts Red or Dead head honcho - and Clarks wearer - Wayne Hemingway, is the shape of things to come: "There'll be a huge move towards a geography teacher look," he predicts, "with beards and everything."
Maybe we'll soon see young and old united for once by a love of classic functional footwear. Or perhaps not. But it's surely time we stopped referring to these designs as "sensible". There's nothing sensible about a shoe that looks like a traditional pastry snack, is there?
Life & Style blogs
Surgeon backs 'good death' plans - and reveals his own
NHS hit by stealth cuts of £2bn as tariffs received for medical procedures are reduced
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter
Company breaks open Apple Watch to discover what it says is 'planned obsolescence'
The confessions of men who ordered mail-order brides
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Migrant boat disaster: Ukip candidate mocks victims in sickening Twitter post
Nigel Farage wants the BBC to stop making programmes like Doctor Who, Strictly Come Dancing, and Top Gear
Global warming: Scientists say temperatures could rise by 6C by 2100 and call for action ahead of UN meeting in Paris
General Election 2015: Britain would become a 'communist dictatorship' under Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon, claims wife of Michael Gove
- 1 I've been called an abusive and dangerous parent, when all I did was listen to my transgender child
- 2 Company breaks open Apple Watch to discover what it says is 'planned obsolescence'
- 3 Teaching profession headed for crisis as numbers continue to drop and working lives become 'unbearable'
- 4 The most powerful passports in the world
- 5 Chinese student carries disabled friend to school every day for three years
£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...
£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...
£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...
£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...