So-called ‘ugly shoes’ have been around for a while – in Milan, Marni and Prada have long nailed the art of clunky, covetable footwear, while in London Christopher Kane caused a furore for AW17 by putting glammed-up Crocs at the centre of his collection.
Never a city to be outdone however, Paris this season saw Balenciaga, Saint Laurent, Maison Margiela, Balmain and Rick Owens take the aesthetic to a new extreme.
It started underneath the Eiffel Tower, where Saint Laurent chose to stage a spectacular opening evening to the week. Models walked down an enormous runway in a dizzying array of statement boots. Here yeti-esque knee-high boots in cerulean blue and midnight black almost (not quite) managed to steal attention away from the large sculptural forms that towered around model’s heads, while slouched suede versions of the glittering shoe which garnered mass Instagram hype for AW17 ensured that big, baggy styles are firmly cemented as an SS18 trend.
At Balenciaga, clashing patterns on the clothes were trumped by stand-out stilettos replete with spikes that will engender their own health and safety checks, and swathes of printed tights, worn over pointed heels. But if Demna Gvasalia (Vetements’ founder) needed a way to generate more hype (which of course, he doesn’t) he found it through a collaboration with Crocs. Christopher Kane may have casually thrown these highly un-fashionable shoes into the mainstream, but Denma took the idea to the next level, literally. These shoes came sky-high, covered in patches and presented in bold pinks, greens and yellows.
And on the street, ugly trainers reigned supreme too. New Balance offered a simple finish to oversized skirts and jumper combinations – Parisian style is nothing if not undone – but again, it was Balenciaga who took the crown. Every man who knew how to attract the attention of photographers was wearing Balenciaga Triple S – the recently dropped shoe which comes in a winning combination of green, yellow, black and beige. Whether they were being worn out of the the Supreme store in Le Marais or in front of the Vivienne Westwood show in the 1st arrondissement – these shoes were inescapable.
For women, street style centred around the red patent boot. Worn thigh high and with a point stiletto heel, they offered a strange hybrid of elegance and tackiness, which certainly made for a statement wherever wearers went.
So what then brings ‘ugly’ footwear to a city famed for is understated elegance and timeless style? Perhaps it’s the Parisian way of flexing their sartorial muscle, and showing that they too can play into the hype game, though they don’t need to; perhaps it’s the desire of designers and visitors to end a month of fashion shows with a final statement flourish; or perhaps a new era of French style awaits.
Whether the streets of Paris will be awash with Crocs by next season only time will tell, and in the meantime distraction can always be found in a shot of espresso and a pistachio macaroon.