by MIA FREEDMAN
At the end of last year, I bought the ugliest pair of shoes you’ve ever seen.
I’m not going to tell you where from because I don’t want to shame this particular fashion chain. It’s not their fault. Frankly I could have bought them at any store because this chunky hybrid shoe – the Sneaker Wedge – is everywhere. And it looks like this:
How does that happen? Why is every shop suddenly selling the same ugly shoe? I think it proves two things: that ‘going viral’ isn’t purely an online phenomenon and that groups of women can, on occasion, collectively lose their minds.
This isn’t going to be a column about who or what women dress for because I believe we put that one to bed around 1992. After endless angsty magazine articles on the subject, we concluded that women dress for a myriad of things including comfort, body image, our jobs, sex appeal, trends, breastfeeding, income, personal taste, our mood, our weight, our shape, our age, our faith, the weather, how we want to be perceived and what’s not mashed up in a ball at the bottom of the laundry basket.
Usually it’s a complex combination of at least six of those factors. Depends on the day.
We concluded a couple of other things too. Clothes can be transformative, creative and fun. And enjoying fashion does not make you stupid or shallow. Just like NOT caring about clothes doesn’t mean you’re smart or deep.
OK, so let’s get back to my ugly shoes.
Here’s who we can blame: Isabel Marant. She’s arguably the most influential designer in the world right now and the sneaker wedge is her creation. It has a hidden platform inside, fastens with velcro and has been described as a “shoe-brick” a “celebration of ugly chic”, a “dick-deflator” and “the worst trend of 2012”.
Oh wait, I forgot this salient point: Marant sneaker wedges cost U$500 – US$760 and they’ve sold out all over the world. Desperate women have been forced onto eBay where one pair recently sold for US$1435.
Yes. For the mutant love-child of a sneaker and a moon-boot.
Meanwhile, fashion’s trickle-down effect means most stores now sell their own version. Mine only cost $49.99 and I bought them as a kind of a test because look, I’ll be honest; I briefly considered buying the real deal and I wanted to trial the style first. This is how fashion warps your brain: after initially writing them off as hideous, I’ve seen the Marant moon-boot on so many stylish women that my brain subconsciously began to associate them with looking good. Hot even.
Oddly, this over-rode the other part of my brain which (correctly) associated them with looking like you have white goods strapped to your feet with velcro. It’s all very Emperor’s New Clothes.
So I bought my cheapie sneaker wedges and my God, are they comfortable. Supremely ugly yet comfortable. Not unlike the way I once felt about my gold Birkenstocks. And for shrimps like me, the hidden platform is ingenious and possibly inspired by the shoes Tom Cruise and Prince have been wearing for years I’m just saying.
Whenever I wear my new wheels, fellow victims nod their acknowledgement. Others cringe. And many simply say, “Man-Repeller” which is true. This term was invented by New York fashion blogger Leandra Medine who defines man repelling as “outfitting oneself in a sartorially offensive mode that may result in repelling members of the opposite sex. Such garments include but are not limited to harem pants, boyfriend jeans, overalls, shoulder pads, full length jumpsuits, turbans, sequins, formal sweatpants, jewelry that resembles violent weaponry and clogs.”
In other words, man-repelling clothes sit at the opposite end of the fashion spectrum from short, tight dresses or anything else considered traditionally sexy and feminine. On her blog, The Man Repeller, Leandra helpfully provides a quiz so any woman can establish if she too has man repelling style. My favourite question is this one:
This spring you can’t wait to wear:
a. Things that look like vaginas.
b. Floral frocks and full mini skirt.
c. Lingerie as outerwear. Look out for the lady in a pearly thong, it’s me.
IF YOU ANSWERED MOSTLY A’s: Congratulations, Man Repeller. Sartorial freedom is yours.
Naturally, The Man Repeller owns a pair of the US$760 moon-boots (in fact, she owns several) :
…..and so do tens of thousands of other women. Not to mention the hundreds of thousands of chumps like me who bought the rip-offs. Being man repellant has never been a purchase barrier for women and the proof is in the harem pants, sequins and boyfriend jeans that have occupied space in most of our wardrobes over time.
There are few man-repelling trends I haven’t embraced. I often combine several at once such as my sequined harem pants – which happen to go really well with my ugly shoes.
The good news is that the rip-off version have sated me and I won’t be re-mortgaging the house and telling the kids next Christmas is cancelled because Mummy wants to look like an off-duty Naomi Watts. Sorry Isabel.
Look – moonboots:
Have you embraced a man-repelling fashion trend?