If you Google ‘orthopaedic shoes’ – go on, do it now, I dare you – you’ll be hit with a barrage of downright corrective looking shoes, as the search term might suggest.
‘Wide range footwear’, ‘extra roomy for swollen feet’ and ‘specially-designed footwear’ are all phrases you will come across, neatly bolstered by ads promoting the ugliest special shoes in current production. How lovely. If you fall victim to swollen feet – I do, weep, and I bet you know at least one person that does, for not enough people talk about it – then these such ‘designs’ are the podiatry equivalent of Long Tall Sally.
But I am not here to talk about water-retention or sitting on your feet for too long in the day. A revolution has come upon Net-a-Porter. Ugly shoes.
My first experience with misshapen shoes came last year. In the office we had a pair of black leather monstrosities – not requested, I might add – so we stood there and gawped. ‘How and why would anyone ever wear these?’ said one. I was volunteered to parade them (my feet are sample size) but sadly, ahem, all photographic evidence has been destroyed.
In my pre-style bible days, I thought fashion meant pretty. And sometimes, it does. There is a pair of white Proenza pumps that I need: they are not ugly, they are beautiful. But the Marni pair that sits next to them online are not, to me. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
I was recently given a pair of Topshop sandals as a leaving gift. They are bold, silver and shiny, all adjectives I would usually avoid in pursuit for the perfect shoe. They let the water in front, back and sides but are, by accident, a size too large for me. Happily that means that they fit perfectly in the summer ‘heat’. They defy all my usual style guidelines but bizarrely, I’ve found myself reaching for them in a half-awake 8am daze almost every day.
They go with pinafores (the thick sole is slimming), jeans (boyfriend cut especially) and if I’m feeling daring, a Little Navy Dress a la Phoebe Philo. Because here’s the thing: ugly is in vogue. Queen Phoebe popularised the Birkenstock for SS14, lining hers with yellow fur – very Sesame Street – but it’s caught on. Friends swear by them, so does my Mum. I can’t help but think for different reasons, though.
I am not aboard the Birkenstock train. I acquired my first and last pair during the summer of 2006, and that’s where they’re staying. Like many trends, they’re too obvious. Once fashion’s fickle wheels spins once more, they’ll be out before you can say peplum. But ugly isn’t going out. Mannish style is top of the style maven’s list – see last week’s trousers – and there are more thick soles stamping down the catwalk than ever. They’re not sexy or slinky, simply a safe investment.
So, my pretties: an edit of my favourite butt-ugly shoes that will see you through to colder climes. You feet won’t thank you but the street snappers might.