Last week, I received an email from Opening Ceremony’s newsletter, announcing that their collaboration with a lifestyle sport sandal brand was in stores after having sold out online. The photo showed two geometrically painted legs wearing the OC/Teva collabo, two lightweight, waterproof-suede sandals in shades of black and bubblegum pink. For a moment—just a moment—I thought, “I would wear those.”
No. I know. It’s wrong.
But for the past few years, we have had the comfort-shoe trend pushed upon us by designers and manufacturers alike, starting with the “cool Birkenstocks” trend that I attribute to Chloe Sevigny (per a New York Times piece in 2011, which predated the trend among fashion editors by about a year) and which, in March, reached peak cool Birkenstock in the form of a New Yorker profile. Recently, a smart piece by Alice Newell-Hanson in i-D noted the turn toward comfort shoes as a response to the tottering stiletto, and wrote that comfort shoes “might distort familiar proportions to the point of obscurity, the practical ugly shoe gives us something we at least partly recognize. It is uncanny, in the Freudian sense.”
With the Teva, I find the uncanniness most acute. Growing up in Wyoming in the late ‘90s, the Teva was the functional sandal most everyone wore, particularly because it was a time when everyone in Wyoming and Colorado seemed to be newly invested in rock-climbing. Even typing that just made me laugh—it was one of my high school boyfriend’s favorite pastimes, and it very well could have been the hobby that drove us apart. But even at a young age, I remember feeling visually repulsed by their aesthetics. The way the strap, a water-resistant mix of cloth and velcro and rubber, hit just at the base of the toes, giving the illusion of elongating them. The way the minimal design perfectly accompanied those baggy khaki shorts and bandana everyone wore “for hiking purposes,” that made them look like refugees from a Dave Matthews concert. The overarching aesthetic was outdoorsy, functional, and absolutely hideous. Cannily, I clung to my baby-doll t-shirts and enormous skater jeans with a profound sense of superiority, as my school peers paired their Tevas with socks.
Outdoorsy, functional, and hideous is revivified and “fresh”—part of the ungodly aprés-normcore hangover that shows no signs of letting up—and the foundation upon which Teva’s Opening Ceremony collaboration is built. We can be tantalized by their renovation in a shade as delectable as Bubblicious; we can be tempted into believing hundreds of trend pieces about Athleisure; we can even covet their sold-out flatform version, a silhouette which Doc Martens presaged three years ago in collaboration with Agyness Deyn, and which got a high-fashion reinvention last year. But, if we are wearing them for style, as the hordes of health goths and fashionistos have been (with a sense of irony?) for a year or two, there is no reason we won’t look back at this moment in three years, or even next year, and feel the weight of fervent regret.
Empirical evidence: I asked two separate, fashionable Deadspin staffers about this issue, as Teva is marketed as a sport sandal (I also asked them if “rock climbing” is considered a “sport”). When presented with the evidence of the male Teva fashion shoe, each responded to my question with some near-identical variation of “What; no; get out of my face.”
(Rock climbing is, indeed, a sport.)
This is what I must tell myself, each time I look at that pink Teva and think, “Maybe...” I value comfort as much as anyone—I have several pair of actually adorable heels that I barely wear because the height is painful and ungainly—but I don’t believe we have to embrace full fugs or revisit our traumatic pasts to do it. To the fashion Teva I must say: What, no, get out of my face.
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Image via Opening Ceremony newsletter