Beauty may be in the eyes of the beholder, but you have to admit some of the popular fashion today is plain ugly. From Christian Cowan’s Teletubbie heels to MSCHF’s big red boots, items which are fundamentally not cute have been attracting more attention on social media than they warrant. But why? It seems in 2023 fashion is taking a turn for the legally blind… or is there a logical reason behind our obsession with unconventionally attractive clothing?
Recently it feels as though so-called “ugly fashion” has taken over our feeds, with a new and even more ludicrous product making the rounds almost every week. But in reality, brands are actually investing in conventionally ugly designs for a more tactical reason.
Look at MSCHF – a brand behind many of 2023’s unusual yet viral garments, including a pair of BWD (“backwards”) shoes which were released earlier this year. Whilst some of their products seem ridiculous, this might have something to do with the brand’s outside-the-box and somewhat outlandish marketing techniques.
Like MSCHF, brands are quickly realising that we love to like, reshare, and comment on posts about strange and unusual fashion items, meaning that – particularly for a brand like Christian Cowen, which is known for producing some classic pieces – one ugly product going viral on Instagram essentially markets for the rest of the brand’s conventionally attractive collections. A win is a win, even if it comes in the form of a Dipsy boot.
Although, it can’t be said that brands like Maison Margiela are only producing “ugly” fashion pieces to cause a stir, because people are actually buying them. Whilst subjectively you might be obsessed with Maison Margiela’s iconic Tabi boot (which also comes in the form of trainers, pumps, heels, and more), they do objectively look a lot like a pair of hooves. However, in comparison to MSCHF’s big red boot, the Tabi is an undeniably popular fashion accessory.
Arguably, the cause behind the seeming rise in popularity of “ugly” fashion is the saturation of influencers on social media. Becoming an influencer has never been easier – all it takes is an iPhone and an adventurous wardrobe. The only issue is: when everyone’s an influencer, it takes more to stand apart from the crowd. One of the tactics people are beginning to use to stand out on social media is donning arguably “ugly fashion” trends.
Whilst some influencers don cartoonish red boots to raise eyebrows and entice people to their comment sections, others accessorise with hoof-inspired footwear in an attempt to prove their superior “underground fashion knowledge”. Despite the fact that the MSCHF boot and the Margiela Tabi convey different things, they’re both used for the same purpose: creating buzz. So basically, the reason behind the boom in “ugly” aesthetics is social media and the ongoing competition between users for our attention. How far they’ll go is yet to be seen… We can only hope it doesn’t get much “uglier” than this!
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