Alexa Chung’s Ugg and beyond: why ugly shoes are winning

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Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Alexa Chung’s Ugg and beyond: why ugly shoes are winning” was written by Priya Elan, for theguardian.com on Monday 17th October 2016 11.01 UTC

Can Alexa Chung make Ugg boots cool again? Chung has been hired as artistic director for a new photo shoot for the label. And the brand – forever associated with the fag end of early 00s celebrity culture – is clearly hoping Chung can sprinkle the same magic pixie dust that she did for Marks & Spencer.

Uggs have been attempting to make their way out of TMZ infamy and associations with Britney in recent years with celebrity associations. Hailey Baldwin modelled in a campaign and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley was appointed as the women’s ambassador. Chung, for her part, has publicly called Uggs “a classic, something along the lines of a Barbour jacket”. Yet still the stigma remains, not to mention their appearance: a soft, large and lumbering Yeti foot that’s the exact opposite of the streamlined silhouette that has come to define women’s shoes. But there’s a change afoot.

The news that sales of trainers had overtaken that of high heels (37% of women bought trainers compared to the 33% who bought shoes with a heel) and that Birkenstock was the most searched-for shoe on Google in the summer, suggested a shift away from glamour and towards utility and practicality. Street style celebrities and members of the Frow wore classic Old Skool Vans trainers during fashion week, while on the actual catwalk a high proportion of “ugly” shoes dominated. Christopher Kane, whose theme was Make, Do and Mend, featured Crocs at his London show decorated with precious stones such as sodalite, red leopard, malachite, diaspro and zebra Jasper. While Maison Margiela featured an elevated hiking sandal featuring velcro straps and multicoloured patchwork. Additionally, both Rick Owens and Balenciaga took the boot shape and reworked it: Owens created a Muppet-like crushed boot, while a feature of the Balenciaga collection was pointed boots featuring a strong line of fabric .

Baby Spice platforms at the Fenty x Puma show.
Baby Spice platforms at the Fenty x Puma show. Photograph: WWD/REX/Shutterstock

Rihanna’s Fenty x Puma show featured a raised trainer in baby pinks and whites, recalling Baby Spice’s moonboot platforms. While platform heels – the uncool 70s throwback associated with early Abba – were also present at the Sacai and Vivienne Westwood shows.

But why are ugly shoes making a comeback? The boundaries of what is considered tasteful or not are constantly shifting season to season with a movement towards the geeky (Alessandro Michele’s Gucci) and normcore extreme (Vetements). With that, the shoe detail has become a calling card for designers to express their humour and their rejection of traditional tastefulness. As Diana Vreeland famously said: “We need a splash of bad taste … no taste is what I’m against.”

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