Is Ugly the New Black?

Unflattering cuts and garish colors strut down the runways of Chanel and Armani. Ridiculous furry slippers adorn the feet of the industry’s most beautiful women. Elegance is out; ugly is in.

Trust me, I don’t consider myself a style expert. And I believe in the right—and responsibility—of designers to push the limits of fashion and overcome long-standing societal norms. However, I can’t help but notice the glorified potato sacks swallowing models and neon patterns casting an eerie glow on their razor-sharp jawlines and cheekbones.

Let’s give some context to the situation. Iconic fashion houses pay these people millions of dollars to continue to bring fame and respect to the label. These designers have countless teams of bright, talented people at their disposal. Plus, the cost of these contraptions is insane! Most pieces come with a light price tag of several thousand dollars.

If you’re interested in bringing the latest and greatest of high fashion into your closet, I thought I’d provide you with some viable options. For the low price of $890, you can be the proud owner of the Vetements x Champion Cold Shoulder Hoodie, a red, misshapen number that features one gaping hole over your left shoulder and a grungy white panel on the side of the hood. If you’re more into footwear and are searching for an orthopedic aesthetic, I recommend checking out the Balenciaga Triple S, Adidas x Raf Simons Spring/Summer 2016 Collection, and the YEEZY Runners.

Still, the “ugly-chic” trend is not limited to the runway or New York Fashion Week. Like many fads before it, the style has seeped into the general public and Bergen County… and Urban Outfitters.

We’ve all seen the comparisons between “Air Messiah 11’s” and Birkenstocks, the sandal of choice for hippie girls and guys seeking the ultimate sole beneath their arches. I, personally, like the minimalist, casual vibe that a pair of Birks exudes. However, many people simply can’t stand the bulky, clumsy look of both Birkenstocks and their water-friendly counterparts, Tevas.

I cannot conclude my exploration of the strange world of ugly footwear without mentioning one pair of boots: Uggs. It is beyond me how these shoes have captured the fascination of women across the globe and have come to symbolize a specific demographic (white girls).

Uggs are the suede, shapeless, easily-ruinable cousins of a nice pair of leather boots. Also, the shoes are ridiculously overpriced, which makes me wonder if girls use them as less of a real fashion statement and more of a subtle nod to their economic status. Still, I can’t argue against the comfort of the shoes, even if they inevitably make your feet sweat in weather over 50º.

Intent on combining the fuzzy goodness of Uggs and open-toed supportiveness of Tevas? Look no further! For $225, you can rock a pair of ankle brace-like Ugg x Teva sandals! This ungodly hybrid incorporates Tevas’ signature nylon straps and soft Ugg panels to create a look that is… like no other.

Don’t think that pants have escaped this “ugly-chic” fad. Mom jeans and cropped culottes make my eyes burn as I scroll through online shopping sites. In all honesty, the jeans aren’t that bad. The right pair can fit nicely and give women a laid-back, vintage aura. But the awkward, wide capri pants are simply inexcusable. Plus, the thought of the chilly drafts endured by the legs of fashion-forward wearers makes me shiver. I would also be remiss without mentioning jorts and Canadian tuxedos, the subjects of many ridiculous puns and Britney (circa 2001) memes.

However, this bizarre trend is nothing new. In many cases, it is simply making a comeback.

Take, for example, Crocs. In elementary school, my brother and I used to make a bee-line to the Jibitz bowl on the counter of the Ridgewood Bootery. We would fling off our dirty, dusty Crocs to reveal our grimy feet (complete with tan-lines in the shape of circles and squares from excessive summertime use) and look longingly at the latest vibrant color as the salespeople tried to interest us in other options. Then my brother would have a tantrum on the floor when my mom would refuse to buy him the Spiderman Jibitz.

Surely, my mom recognized that Crocs were just what they looked like: weirdly shaped, overpriced, rubber shoes. Now, I see Crocs on the feet of some of the least likely people in the school. I’m not sure if they choose to wear them out of sheer irony (Look at me! I’m wearing ugly shoes! I’m so funny!) or if they genuinely appreciate the way the rubber subtly squishes with each step. However, I will give Crocs credit where it is due; somehow, those Coloradans made a shoe with a playful, carefree (almost iconic) personality.

In any industry, designers and executives seek to bring the unexpected and unusual to their consumers. After all, innovation is the fuel of capitalism and competition. But when “innovation” takes the form of the ugly, it is the duty of consumers—and critics—to bring fashion back to its roots.

Sophia Swanson
staff writer

Graphics: Amelia Chen

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *