Yes, it would be perfectly fair to call them ugly — not as an insult, but rather, a pointed recognition of the effort they are making to eschew beauty. It’s different from sneakers of normcore yore; theirs was an aesthetic born of apathy, whereas this new class wears their ugliness like a poster board sign of protest.
I like Pandora’s theory that ugly sneakers are “back” in style as a means of stabilization amidst weighty political and global turmoil, but I think they do more than simply ground us. They’re also an extra pair of middle fingers pointing towards anything and everything that threatens to uproot us.
Beyond the why, though, I’ve been thinking a lot about the how: how to incorporate them into a wardrobe without being too on-the-nose. Let me know what you think of the following outfit ideas, staged amidst Central Park’s freshly fallen leaves because it’s fall, baby, and these sneaks are here for it.
Don a pencil skirt
If you’ve been plugging your ears and sticking out your tongue while reading this story up until now, unplug and unstick for this one glimmer of styling wisdom I’ve gleaned from years of trial and error: the less you think two things “go together,” the more they probably should. I knew right off the bat I wanted to pair ugly sneakers with a pencil skirt because it felt so…wrong, and that’s the sweet spot where an outfit takes its first newborn baby breath.
Dress ’em up
For my second experiment, I decided to dive deep into another channel for contrast, but it wasn’t a particular item so much as a vibe I (and probably others) like to call “matchy-matchy.” In a plot twist 101 Dalmatians never saw coming, I combined this extremely glamorous matching coat and dress with sneakers that closely resemble the white velcro pair I wore 365 days a year without fail throughout all of middle school.
Go full dad
Sometimes you just have to lean into the dad-ness, which is what I effectively tried to do by means of a chunky cardigan, awkward-length trousers and a collar buttoned all the way to the top. I added a beret and Pepto Bismol-pink gloves at the last minute because this dad is here to party.
So what do you think? Would you wear? Are you already wearing? Tell me everything.