How Comfortable Shoes Became the Coolest Thing in Fashion

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One picture within the trendy lookbook from Palace Skateboards, the idiosyncratic British skate label, feels in some way even extra Palace than the relaxation: loud colors, eccentric information, and a smidge of sartorial subversion. The version inside the photo, acclaimed songwriter Will Oldham, is sitting on a hunch; his pants have risen to reveal maroon-red socks with the British label’s wildly coveted “P” logo. His pose puts the picture’s recognition at the socks and footwear—but the image doesn’t feature any of Palace’s hyped-up Adidas sneakers or even their Gucci-on-acid snakeskin loafers. Instead, Oldham is carrying…Dansko clogs? Somehow, the designed-for-consolation shoe commonly found in hospitals and kitchens had squirmed its way into a purple-hot lookbook—and it looked adore it belonged.
On an adjacent nook of the Internet, fashion-crazed guys are nonetheless ranting and raving about the continuing collaboration between Rick Owens and Birkenstock: starting the final year, the gothic grasp of avant-garde menswear teamed with the cherished cork-soled shoe brand on a few extraordinarily off-kilter sandals and clogs. He wasn’t by myself: in advance this month, at New York style week, the arthouse label Eckhaus Latta despatched a couple of rarefied Ugg boots down the runway, where it appeared right at domestic in the brand’s collection: effects high priced with a hint of in-the-Bushwick-recognise cool. And final yr, plastic shoemakers Crocs enlisted pioneers of New York streetwear Alife for a streetwear-inspired collaboration. Then the brand teamed up with the vastly famous singer Post Malone on a line of bewildering footwear. Both collaborations sold out immediately.
Even by way of 2019’s wild-fashion requirements, some thing bizarre has came about: The suburban shoes relied on by way of non-fashion-savvy people for comfort and durability has absolutely and infiltrated the sector of modern-day fashion.

The spot in the market is there: for a while now, guys’ footwear has been a chunk of a lawless mess, with designers and wearers alike gambling rapid and free with the definition of what “cool sneaker” virtually means. It’s been exciting to observe. However it hasn’t always been pretty. The vast Balenciaga Triple S unleashed a fury of bulky unpleasant-on-purpose sneakers in its wake. Then that trend collided with the modern-day affinity for utilitarian workwear, and all of the sudden rugged trail and mountain sneakers starting shooting up inside menswear’s inner circle. It appears now that the subsequent frontier of men’s shoes is not ugly footwear nor mountain footwear—but the kind of complete-on comfort footwear worn with the aid of individuals who drive around town in a minivan.

Nowhere is that this shift extra was hanging than in the sudden preponderance of fuzzy, fleecy Uggs on excessive-grade influencers. Despite its recognition as shoes you put on on the way on your freshman records magnificence, Ugg has been dating the sector of fashion for some years. “I feel that the ‘cozy’ movement has allowed guys to view slippers as out of doors shoes,” says Ian Stewart, VP of Marketing for Ugg. “Being comfortable is now cool and comfort is no longer visible as taboo.” Recent collaborators encompass Japanese label Sacai and American fashion designer Heron Preston, but Ugg turned into operating with fashion designer Phillip Lim in 2017 and Junya Watanabe (for Comme des Garçons) as a ways lower back as 2014. “Collaborating with terrific fashion and streetwear manufacturers allows us to connect with a new purchaser,” explains Stewart. “We’ve been capable to interrupt via some perception problems through leveraging the popularity and esteem of these manufacturers.”
Matthew Henson—a avenue-fashion normal and stylist to A$AP Rocky and The Weeknd—is partial to Ugg, going as a long way as to put on a pair of the logo’s slippers in the course of New York’s heavily photographed fashion week. “I fell in love with the Tasman style from Ugg awhile in the past on a shopping experience in Japan,” he says. “It turned into so cold, and my ft had been freezing sooner or later I popped right into a random store and purchased a pair. I usually laughed at the memes that circulate approximately Uggs. However I copped them anyway.” Henson mentions that the slippers stored his toes warm and cozy that after he became trying on new clothes at the same time as buying that “they appeared top notch with nearly every fit that I was putting together.”

Ugg isn’t by myself. In latest seasons, Birkenstock has worked with Concepts; a liked sneaker retailer with brick-and-mortar shops in Boston and New York; 032c, a sleek German art magazine that has its in-residence style label; and Opening Ceremony, the purveyors of downtown Manhattan cool. (And of the route, Rick Owens.) But it’s perhaps the collaborations that didn’t manifest which are the most important signifier of the brand’s newfound cachet in fashion. Last 12 months, Birkenstock’s CEO Oliver Reichert instructed New York Magazine that it turned down partnerships with both Supreme and Vetements, arguably two of the largest—or at the least most influential—gamers in the contemporary fashion landscape.
“We are past style,” a consultant from the worldwide Birkenstock headquarters told me through e-mail. “Fashion is an important cost. However well-being and comfort are similarly valid. Our product has the same orthopedic footbed and history because 1774. Creatives all around the industry wear our sandals.”
Whether or now not Birkenstock is “beyond style,” positive restricted-version collaborations have invited a frenzy, not like the one that accompanies the discharge of hyped footwear. When Concepts dropped a collaborative lime-green, white-soled Birkenstock, streetwear blogs wrote about it as if turned into a rare Air Jordan launch. (It sold out simply as speedy, too.) But, considerably, menswear bloggers and style influencers are also sporting the run-of-the-mill variations. The love for the non-confined shoes fits feels proper at domestic with how properly-dressed guys have embraced non-fashion manufacturers like Dickies, Carhartt, and Patagonia of their day by day wardrobes.
The main players inside the sneaker international is aware of that comfort is a key component, too. Adidas iterated away at its Ultra Boost generation until it finally unlocked a cushion-y streamlined sole that has become a runway hit. The majority of Nike’s maximum current hits—the React Element 87, VaporMax, and the Air Max 270—are all engineered to either be softer or better-cushioned than the brand’s other soles. An elegant silhouette, it appears, will simplest get you so far these days.
The comfort wave is cresting in more esoteric corners of menswear, too. The tech-heavy sandals made via Japanese brand Suicoke maintain to benefit recognition among American men strengthened with the aid of stateside collaborations with labels like John Elliot and Aimé Leon Dore. John Mayer, a professional-level wearer of recent-wave footwear, confirmed off his private series of $six hundred Visvim Christo sandals for this very mag. Tyler, the Creator, is thought to put on sandals with fits, and it seems that no sum of money will forestall Justin Bieber from carrying inn slippers in public. Even Supreme is releasing a pair of terry fabric slippers this spring.

We’re at a curious moment in men’s shoes. Is everyone tired of carrying cool, hard-to-get footwear? (Or just the trouble of trying to shop for fresh, difficult-to-get footwear?) Perhaps it’s miles that as men’s fashion gets wilder and wilder, guys are turning to those longstanding shoe manufacturers for a moment of normalcy. It also can also truely be that men just want to wear secure kicks. If you’re wearing steeply-priced Prada trousers with Patagonia fleece jackets, or Dickies pants with Dries van Noten button-up shirts, a pair of sensible shoes feels like a breath of clean air, an anchor to hold an outfit from floating into the absurd.
Every day men have been sporting this form of regular consolation-centric footwear for many years. This is going past wearing a couple of New Balance 990s or Nike Air Monarchs, satirically or no longer. Wearing arc-soled clogs or fluffy slippers united states the ante, veering into Mom Shoe territory and making the unique dorky dad shoes sense fashionable using comparison. But it’s no coincidence that hundreds of thousands turn to those manufacturers to cover their ft, whether it’s the ergonomic layout, easy-to-put-on silhouettes, or best comfort at play. It seems that for once, it’s the style crowd which can be the ones playing catch-up. And as we’ve seen, nicely-dressed dudes can nevertheless make regularness and comfort footwear appearance elegant-as-hell. The days of lusting after confined-edition Uggs or Birkenstocks or Danksos with the equal fervor as Virgil Abloh-designed Nikes may still be far to head. But if and while that day eventually comes, as a minimum we’ll all be furiously looking to cop something that is equal components hype and luxury.