Fugly Chic Shoes

jolie laide*

Eileen Fisher sport sandals

I’ll admit, I’m sorely tempted by these, both for the comfort and funky factors.

When Phoebe Philo at Céline sent those fur-lined Birkenstocks down the runway a couple of years ago, it was the shot heard ’round the fashion world. Suddenly “comfortable” was no longer a dirty word, and regular old Birkenstock “Arizona’s” became the street style darlings’ shoe of choice. Those who have worn and loved their Birkenstocks all along indulged in a bemused chuckle or two.


sneakers outside Colette Paris

Outside of Colette on Rue St. Honoré

It felt almost like a seismic shift when we visited Paris last year and saw so many baskets, brightly colored and even white athletic shoes, worn by the locals and not just tourists. Unlike the sleek Pumas, classic black Converse or understated sneakers we’d observed on prior visits, the kind of big, bold, in-your-face athletic shoes that one was always advised to eschew to avoid “looking like a tourist” were everywhere, on Parisians of both genders and all ages.

The latest iteration of what Karen calls Fugly Chic ties in with the current “athleisure” clothing trend (track-style pants, fancy sweatshirts). Thick-soled, a little clunky, and sometimes a bit orthopedic in appearance, these shoe styles (sometimes referred to as flatforms) can help balance the wider-legged and flared pants that are on-trend for 2015. (Slip-on “skater” sneakers are a popular subset of this genre.) I’ve been spotting thick- and lug-soled sneakers and sandals on women of all ages here in LA recently, and is it any wonder? The siren call of comfort is a hard one to ignore.

Wear with your boyfriend jeans, wide-leg or flare trousers, with track-style pants, with leggings or cropped pants. or even longer, full skirts. They can help balance the volume of over-sized tops and jackets too.

*a French expression often used to describe unconventional beauty, or beauty found in ugliness.


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  1. February 18, 2015 / 3:56 am

    Being always on the lookout for comfortable yet funky shoes I have been thrilled about this trend. I enjoyed my slip on Vans and a pair of thick soled sandals by Jil Sander all last summer and am on the hunt for some new styles for this year. The selection you gave offers some great choices. I love the title of the post and am always thrilled to find a new word or saying such as jolie laid. It seems similar to a Japanese word I like, wabi wabi something that is not perfect. It is funny how sometimes something initially thought to be ugly can turn out being so beautiful.

    Accidental icon

  2. KPL
    February 18, 2015 / 5:33 am

    Big fan of fugly shoes.

  3. Moi
    February 18, 2015 / 5:51 am

    Comfort. At Last!!! Not a thought about your feet when you’re out and about.

  4. dottoressa
    February 18, 2015 / 5:53 am

    Living half of my life with MS,orthopedic in real life is kind of must for me,as well as comfort! I wore Jolie laide ankle boots,sneakers and sandals with everything for years, making it a Fashion statement,feeling sometimes pitiful glances like :”poor woman,with no taste”. I always had a great penchant for beautiful italian shoes,had a lot of them before,now I look at shoes as a piece of art,no regrets attached!
    Last years shoe Fashion goes hand in hand ( or shall I say “foot in foot”) with my needs,so I say Hooray!

  5. February 18, 2015 / 6:09 am

    I am a fan. I love a thick sole, especially. I don’t want to risk looking geriatric, so I look for the funk. xo

  6. February 18, 2015 / 7:19 am

    it was very hard to let go of heels but moving to the great northeast with its dizzying array of inclement weather helped. I still have a few pair of heels which I’ll keep. I bought a new pair of nude heeled sandals last Spring to wear with a black dress. They are very cute. I’ve worn them exactly once. The minute the weather is warm enough up here, I’m outta the damn snow boots and into flip flops. Must be my California upbringing.

  7. citizen spot
    February 18, 2015 / 7:54 am

    Now if only someone would wear compression socks down the fashion runway, I would be a trendsetter! : )

    • Susan
      February 18, 2015 / 8:54 am

      And if they will wear full length compression stockings down the runway, I can join you as a trendsetter Citizen!

    • Jan3
      February 18, 2015 / 9:57 am

      Compression socks are the in thing for serious runners….just consider yourself an athlete!

      • Duchesse
        February 20, 2015 / 8:41 am

        Had to wear compression hose for several years, then got EVLA laser surgery on my legs; talk about a miracle! (Realize some women have other problems that do not make that treatment feasible.) But I still wear them (in black) when my legs are tired or on planes. I wore the nude ones with pants but my mother wore hers with Bermuda shorts and I thought she looked fine.

  8. February 18, 2015 / 8:01 am

    Oh you should definitely have those EF shoes! They might be a bit clunky but I think they are very stylish looking and they do look comfy!

  9. February 18, 2015 / 8:17 am

    Comfort all the way for me! I’m can’t quite get aboard the Fugly Chic train, but these don’t seem ugly to me so maybe with a tweak I could.

  10. February 18, 2015 / 9:31 am

    I love those shoes. Love them, love them, love them. And I’m living in my Vince Preston slipon sneakers – even walked 2 hours wearing them in SF this weekend. If I’d just had the foresight to wear SOCKS, everything would have been fine:). The thick soles are fun, and the woven leather adds the intentionality we want, AKA, I’m not just wearing my son’s skater shoes…If my son had skater shoes of course, which he does not.

  11. Tiffany
    February 18, 2015 / 12:35 pm

    I have a pair of slip-on skate style shoes that I absolutely LOVE – chunky shoes do highlight a skinny ankle 🙂 Also, I bought a pair of sandals with a sole just like the Eileen Fisher ones but with velcro black straps across and they have been fantastic for summer. Comfortable but not quite as frumpy as Birks (sorry to the Birks lovers out there, they just don’t do it for me). They work with rolled up jeans, with shorts and even with the right skirt.

  12. Jill Ann
    February 18, 2015 / 3:39 pm

    Guess I’m in the minority here. Can’t stand, and would never wear, Birkenstocks. Also dislike the fugly shoe trend, including big white sneakers. I have some very cute, yet comfy, flat loafers and ballet flats, so I’ll stick with those!

  13. nell
    February 18, 2015 / 4:46 pm

    Jill Ann, loafers and ballet flats for me too. Boots and espadrilles too of course. Despite my tricky feet, I could not bring myself to wear Birkenstocks. I’m not fond of the ‘crunchy organic’ overtones! I’m much more the throw-back, capitalistic, stiff upper lip type who wishes to keep her toes largely to herself, ha.

    • Jonquil
      February 19, 2015 / 7:50 pm

      I concur with Nell and Jill Ann, no fuglies for me. I have some streamlined, very flat, thin soled oxfords in both suede and leather. I also wear ballet flats, espadrilles and driving type loafers. If I feel that my feet need more support I simply add cushioned inner soles. Even the athletic shoes that I wear to the gym must be sleek, monotone and neutral colored. I do love moto and desert boots, but big, white or bright athletic shoes do not look good on me. I think that fuglies can look cute on some women, though.

  14. Duchesse
    February 18, 2015 / 5:05 pm

    Le Duc calls them “birth control shoes”, not that he insists on heels. The athletic shoes worn by Parisiennes are worn with a certain elan that is one of those in-the-mix refinements at which they excel; note those skinny pants and leggings in the Colette shot. If a woman is voluptuous and mature, the birkie-babe look is hard to pull off.

  15. JaniceG
    February 18, 2015 / 7:20 pm

    I am shoe obsessed and I have these particular EF sandals in three colours!! Once I got the first pair, I had to have every colour available. Bought them last year and haven’t regretted a dime.

  16. Cla(i)re comme le jour
    February 19, 2015 / 2:32 am

    Any Australian readers who like this style should look at the range at http://www.kolourfulkati.com.au/ – not platforms but both heels and flats.
    I have the style called ‘Frida’ in black and silver and they are indeed very comfortable.

  17. February 19, 2015 / 5:28 am

    Seriously, I almost did the Tom Cruise sofa jumping stunt when Birkenstock came into trend.. I lived (still am) in them and have multiple pairs, how can I not? When it comes to footwear, I am a fake. I have a shelf filled high heels but hardly ever use them unless for a short period of time or for the blog.. I am truly a comfort girl and comfortable footwear trend are most welcome!

  18. Ro
    February 19, 2015 / 7:15 am

    I bought them on sale @ Nordstrom. Super cool! Better yet, super comfy!

  19. Leslie in Oregon
    February 19, 2015 / 1:38 pm

    Because I want to be able to walk for the rest of my life, I gravitate toward comfortable shoes that cater to the needs of my feet. It is wonderful that there are more and more options that meet those criteria are attractive (both to my eye and to those who comment on them). I do not care whether they are also considered fashionable (no offense intended to anyone who does).

  20. sosusam
    February 20, 2015 / 10:17 am

    I own that EF sport sandal in pewter. They are incredibly comfortable (even for my cranky feet) and actually look quite cool. Elegant meets, well, sneaker. I think I need them in another color…

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