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Ugly Shoes Are the Benedict Cumberbatch of Footwear

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Why do we love ugly shoes so damn much?

What is it about so-called “ugly shoes” that makes us lose our minds? When it comes to comfortable but weird-looking footwear most commonly associated with hippies, outdoorsy types, and vacationing dads, everyone has an opinion. Those who don’t love them emphatically love to hate them.

Tevas, Birkenstocks, and Crocs have all made resurgences in recent years, aided by the lingering Normcore craze, and cool-girl brands like Maryam Nassir Zadeh and Céline have championed design conundrums like the glove shoe. Ugg and Teva teamed up on a Frankensteinian sandal-boot this fall, as though aware of how quickly the media would seize on the opportunity to tear it apart. We did, and readers did, too.

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When fashion decides it needs a new “ugly shoe” to fetishize, and it will, I’d like to make a suggestion: the clunky, frumpy Merrell slip-on.

I don’t see them in the wilds of New York City very often, but in the town outside Boston where I grew up, they were everywhere. It’s hard to mistake the look of a classic Merrell, with its laceless top, bulbous sole, and helpful tab at the heel — “your ultimate low-maintenance shoe,” the brand’s website claims.

They’re easy to pull on, but hard to pull off, which is why I’ve been thinking about buying a pair lately.

Some people wear ugly shoes out of practicality, like the chefs and nurses who spend long shifts on their feet in supportive Dansko clogs. Some wear them for style, like the sort of woman who shops at Rachel Comey and cares more about impressing like-minded ladies than appeasing the Trumpian male gaze. Bird, a boutique oriented toward those individuals, has an entire section of its website dedicated to clogs.

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Wearing ugly shoes can be a confrontational act, a middle finger raised to the pressure of making one’s appearance easily digestible to others. It can be a non-message, because some people simply DGAF about fashion’s whims. Inelegant footwear can inspire tenderness, too. Everybody loves an underdog.

I suspect that my interest in owning a pair of Merrells is laced with a certain egotism. Making a pair of terrible shoes look cool strikes me as the ultimate styling coup. There’s cachet in repping a dad brand that nobody else has thought to plunder.

The funny thing about ugly shoes is that despite the visceral hate-attraction or affection that many of us feel for them, we chronically underestimate the universality of their appeal. Ugly shoes are like cuties with slightly strange features: You think you’re the only one who’s into them, but in reality, everybody finds them attractive.

Ugly shoes are the Benedict Cumberbatch of the footwear world. We think that liking them says something about our unique sensibilities or inherent weirdness, but it only draws us closer together in our unshakable, human sameness.

Eliza Brooke, senior reporter

Feature
Athleisure Makeup Is Total Bullshit
Pre-workout strobing.

Athleisure has taken over our collective consciousness, as leggings invade streets, restaurants, and, for all I know, boardrooms across America. And where fashion goes, beauty usually follows, which means it was only a matter of time before someone introduced us to athleisure makeup. Well, that time is now.

Tarte just dropped a line of makeup it’s officially calling “athleisure.” It includes a “sweatproof” mascara, moisturizer, tinted moisturizer with SPF, and a powder and blotting paper compact, according to Allure. There’s also a teeth whitening pen, because who wants to see yellowing teeth gritting back at them in the mirror during Zumba?

Tarte isn’t the first to offer this category, though it’s definitely the first use I’ve seen of the word “athleisure” applied to makeup. Last year, Birchbox launched a house beauty brand called Arrow, which “is designed to keep up with your on-the-go, active life, whether that means going straight from pilates to brunch or just powering through an action-packed, appointment-filled day,” according to the description. It includes items like a “cooling cheek tint,” a lip balm, brow gel, and natural deodorant.

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Today's Non-Gift Guide Pick
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Who: Leif Pettersen
What they do: Juggling Champion
What they want: Amazon Echo, $179

It may be the almost 35 years of juggling under my belt or it may be coincidence, but I have a white-hot passion for multitasking and instant gratification. While there's no denying the amazingness of having a universe of information in the palm of one's hand, if I want to access that information, I have to walk all the way over to my phone and type some stuff before I get my answer. This is unacceptable when you have the brain speed and reaction time of Spiderman.

Enter the Amazon Echo, a remarkably precise, voice-controlled digital assistant like the whatchamathing from the film Her, but slightly less sentient and sexy. The Echo, which goes by the name "Alexa" out of the box (but you can change her name to anything you want, like Mrs. Rosario Dawson-Pettersen, for example), will perform all manner of tasks for the impatient multitasker who is more than five feet away from their mobile device. Features include playing music on demand, relaying the news, traffic, and weather, providing sports scores and schedules, reading your calendar, maintaining grocery and to-do lists, expounding on practically any topic found on Wikipedia, adjusting your thermostat and lighting, advising you on restaurants and cocktails, and flipping a virtual coin, among many other Star Trek-caliber functions.

Alexa communicates via a remarkably crisp 360-degree omni-directional speaker, which, unless you're a punchy-face audio elitist, performs just fine for everyday music listening. Moreover, Alexa is loaded with innumerable Easter egg responses for when you get a little buzzed on whiskey and decide to troll her with questions like "Alexa, what's the meaning of life?" and "Alexa, are you Skynet?" Literally hours of borderline creepy "we live in the future" hilarity, I assure you.

Check out the rest of our non-gift guide picks here. Want to make donations your gift of choice instead? We've got you covered on that front too.

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