Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Courting Controversy

Every so often a trend comes along that tests even the most steadfast of trend-followers' resolve. The emergence, and subsequent explosion of the 'ugly shoe' has divided and rocked the fashion community. On the one hand, fashion is wearable art, and therefore a celebration of beauty; on the other hand, it is a constantly-evolving industry which seeks to challenge ideas of normality, rejoice in inventiveness, and redefine standards of beauty. 

I have always harboured a secret curiosity about Birkenstocks - this was only exacerbated by their appearance on almost every blog I saw, and in well-styled outfits on Instagram. "So..." I thought, "...it wouldn't hurt to try a pair right?" 

On a rainy Tuesday lunch break, I slipped (literally) into Urban Outfitters in Covent Garden to try on a pair in bright white...

...later a black pair were in my Amazon basket (I always find that branded shoes are cheaper there. It's worth a look - my Birks were about £30) 

Even though I once swapped glasses with my 70 year-old deputy headteacher, only to find that my prescription was stronger, I'm not blind. They are fugly, and I'll willingly admit it. But that's part of their charm - they're chunky and awkward, and look out of place in a pretty outfit, but in a cool way (kind of like me, but without the cool) , I'm aware that these are a brave choice. They are a statement, a declaration of the fact that I am the sort of person who embraces different, who enjoys quirky, who might be an art history lecturer. 

And yet, I hesitate when I find the perfect outfit to wear them with. This might be because of something a friend of mine said, when I mentioned I had bought Birkenstocks and Nike Roshes in the same month: 

"That's what happens when you get older, you stop caring about what looks good and you just think about comfort". 

I have several qualms with this statement:

1) I'm not older. That word is charged with judgement and thinly-veiled insult. Despite the fact that I have milk bottle glasses straight out of 1982, a vocabulary that won't quit and a fondness for wine and early nights, I'm 22. I'm far from sensible, and I spent my birthday last year in Disneyland.

2) I care about what looks good. It's not like I've given up completely and resigned myself to onesies and house slippers, it just so happens that these particular shoe styles require an alternative perspective and a respect for the slightly odd aesthetic. 

3) I have never been one to just think about comfort- I don't own heels under 4 inches, and only one pair are platforms - the rest are strappy and/or pointed stilettos, so by all accounts I'm sort of a shoe sadist. Why can't I think about both? Why can't I think that these look cool and appreciate the fact that they support my arches and feel like I'm walking on a cloud?



Personally, I can't wait for Summer to arrive, so I can style these with ripped jeans, summer dresses, cut-offs and slouchy tailoring. 

What do you think? Would you work the Birk?

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