Why is this Generation So Obsessed With Ugly Sneakers?

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An unequivocal staple of streetwear is the ugly sneakers. These fashion faux-pas were once decidedly dismissed as the uncool categories of trends until streetwear houses came along and reimagined dated footgear for the latest generation of sneaker mania. Arguably, no one did it better than Balenciaga when it comes to preying on the millennial obsession with nostalgia by revamping dad running shoes with retro logos, disproportionately overbuilt soles, chunky silhouettes, and grooves and tongues that are decrypted as ironically cool. Balenciaga sits at the pinnacle of such a polarizing trend, offering cyclical reboot of its own lines of bizarre, ugly sneakers each season with pragmatic yet avant-garde touch-ups.

Balenciaga’s latest sneaker release offers a streamlined and futuristic update of the ugly sneaker trend. Conceived by Creative Director Demna Gvasalia, who has pioneered the ugly-chicness since taking the helm in 2015, the collection is a continuation of Balenciaga’s flirtation with new, unique silhouettes in the name of technical advancement. The new sneaker has recently generated buzz online as the latest addition to the house’s longline of ugly, yet viral shoe trends. Pioneering one of this generation’s biggest fashion obsessions, one must wonder– why are we so obsessed with ugly shoes?


Balenciaga’s latest reiteration of ugly sneakers first debuted on the Fall/Winter 2020 runway. Entitled “Toe”, the capsule line marks a collaboration with footwear brand Vibram, and consists of two limited-edition sock sneaker and a high-heeled shoe. Realized in recycled knit, the collection fuses Vibram’s patented FiveFingers flexible sole separating each toe with Balenciaga’s tacky jock appeal, suspended by a heavy-duty string heel that stokes extra height and bounce to an already super-sensory footwear experience. As the latest stage for Balenciaga’s natural evolution of ugly shoes, there’s no deny to Toe’s inexorable market virality and Instagram buzz to come.


For Balenciaga, Speed Trainer was the OG that started it all; not only was it a massive hit that has become the blueprint of streetwear sneakers, it’s also been reiterated in numerous bootleg renditions since first ground-breaking out in 2016. Its dynamic, sock-ish visual that is sleek and minimalist in design but maximum in coolness and strength was a trailblazer in footwear. Featuring an exaggerated knitted sock upper and a subtle branding, Speed Trainer was known for its a light, shock-absorber sole unit that has evolved from a one-piece, triple-arch design in the inaugural version, to a sole unit split into five segments in the latest 2.0 rendition. Though not quite emulating the tackiness of ugly sneakers, Speed Trainer was bound to make a cultural impact, and its sock-iness was soon integrated by luxury brands such as Givenchy, Louis Vuitton, Valentino, and Fendi alike.

Triple S

Balenciaga Triple S was probably the most impactful and viral of all; it’s become synonymous with chunky dad sneakers. Debuting on Balenciaga’s Fall/Winter 2017 runway show, Triple S was glorified for its oversized, pre-distressed silhouette. Donning an experimental appearance and a muted colorway of faux-pas hues, Triple S was a visual composite especially distinguished for its decoratively paneled upper and the dramatic thick-stacked mid sole. Its striking, monstrous layering boasts a vintage worn-in aesthetic as if the sneaker takes shapes from different sneakers and stacks them on top of one another to create the distinctive bulky sole and chunky silhouette. The mixed response from consumers was instantaneous but did not stop Triple S from rising to one of the most coveted luxury kicks for the next several seasons to come. And in no time, Balenciaga Triple S became the singular, iconic cult item of streetwear fashion.


The ugliness of Balenciaga’s ugly sneaker evolution perhaps reached its apex with the meme-worthy Platform Crocs. This cartoonish pink, towering rendition of the classic Crocs retain the perforated upper of the original design encrusted by a bevy of gibbits, magnet-like pins attached to the upper. As with Triple S, this platform version of the iconic slip-on sandal received waves of divided reactions. Evidently, these Balenciaga-branded Crocs took the experimental aesthetic of street styles and the word “chunkiness” to the next level, and they soon became a sold-out hit as expected.

In spite of trepidation and mixed responses, Balenciaga’s ugly sneakers continue to burgeon as viral cult items even after undergoing dozens of reinventions in four years. This phenomenon is the testimony that we are living in the renaissance of sock sneakers, dad sneakers, and funky crocs. Creative minds in fashion like Gvasalia are capturing the utilitarian, aesthetic, and comfort values of these shoes; and as they roam between sartorial bravery and the nostalgia of uncool sneakers from bygone eras season after season, something very fashionable has emerged from wearing these unassuming but functional shoes. As anti-fashion as Balenciaga seems, it’s un-stylishness that rebels against the laws of luxury is exactly emblematic of our current era, that fashion can be as irreverent as it is innovative, as expressive as it is reflective.

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createdAt:Mon, 19 Oct 2020 15:47:34 +0000
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