The “Ugly” Shoe Trend Taking Paris by Storm

“I counted five,” Kate mouthed from across the subway car after a group of women cleared out at the Abbesses metro stop. This investigatory tallying up became the everyday sort of conversation-slash-competition between my friend and I on our recent monthlong trip to Paris this summer. Five of what, you wonder? Not baguettes. Not croissants. Not berets. Birkenstocks. You see, when traveling to Paris (especially as a fashion writer), there’s a certain type of dress one assumes to witness. Neutral color palettes, sleek wardrobe staples, all-around effortlessness; this is why when I saw Parisians everywhere—and I mean everywhere—marching around in Birkenstocks, I was shook. Where were the ballet flats? The espadrilles? As a New Yorker, I believe I’ve mastered the art of deciphering locals from tourists, and believe me when I say these were real-deal Parisians in America’s beloved but also admittedly ugly footwear staple.

Now, of course, the way these Birkenstocks were styled was undeniably Parisian. I saw them paired with suit separates, cotton shirts, sleek denim, and other wearable summer ensembles like floral skirts with camisoles and the ilk. As someone who’s retired their Birks for the time being, I have to admit it inspired me to give them another go. I’ve always considered the ugly sandals trend to be something that didn’t quite extend to the French; perhaps it’s because it seemed too outlandish for their je ne sais quoi way of life or because the very notion of an ugly trend just didn’t seem fitting. Whatever the reason, I was proven wrong this summer.