Ugly shoes are taking over the world

Footwear brands new and old are leading an ugly shoe renaissance and making billions of dollars along the way.

You’ve seen them. The white New Balance sneakers lovingly referred to as “Dad Shoes.”

Once heralded as the pinnacle of ugly shoe excellence, the style is now just one option in a crowded space.

According to Bloomberg, a mix of new and old brands are leading a full-blown ugly shoe renaissance that’s pulling in billions of dollars.

So who are the key players?

One of the primary participants is Deckers Outdoor Corp., which offers a variety of aesthetically ignorant footwear brands, including:

  • Uggs: The Australian boot brand has long been the company’s bestseller and inspired a long list of questionable fashion decisions in the early 2000s
  • Teva: The velcro-laden sandal brand originally conceived by a Grand Canyon river guide saw sales grow 66% last summer
  • Hoka: The French running shoe brand with cartoonish styles is now Deckers’ crown jewel, with sales increasing 47% last quarter

On the strength of its ugly shoe triumvirate, Deckers is forecasting $3B in net sales this year.

But Deckers has company

Ugly footwear has been around for years, and a pair of O.G.’s in the space are still thriving:

  • Crocs, the foam clog trailblazer, saw its stock hit record highs last year, and is forecasting its revenue to double to $5B in the next 4 years
  • Birkenstock, and its legendary sandal with a cork footbed, was acquired by LVMH last year in a deal that valued the company at $4.9B

For the fashion-forward, there’s also the Yeezy Foam Runner, which is like putting your foot in a spaceship made of marshmallows — if you can find a pair.

So what’s it all mean?

Our affinity for ugly shoes is open to interpretation, but Carolyn Mair, author of The Psychology of Fashion, says, “Fashion, like art, likes to question beauty rather than simply aiming for aesthetically pleasing designs.”

For the skeptics who can’t fathom dressing their feet in such eyesores, I challenge you to slip into a pair of Hoka recovery slides and not find yourself swayed to the ugly side.

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