My husband gave me a really weird look when I put on my newly-purchased Birkenstocks -- you know, the one that says I question your decisions on everything now. He didn't care about my arguments that they are 1. stylish 2. comfortable and 3. useful, he just thought they were ugly. It was the same look he gave me when I bought my Hunter boots, my Uggs, and my Crocs before that. At least now he keeps his opinions to a look rather than a diatribe about how repellent my choice of footwear is. "Some shoes should not be worn in public," he would complain even as I tugged my shoes over my feet and walked out of the house without him. "You sure you want to wear those?" And while that's rich coming from someone who believes his chunky Doc Martens go with everything, his Birk-hating isn't the exception. Birks, like so many other shoe brands, have a reputation for being unattractive.
And to that I say, pish posh! My Birks are stylish and comfortable and useful regardless of your opinion about their looks. And that goes for every pair of divisive shoes I own or have owned before.
Behold! My divisive shoe collection:
Side note: only 5 pairs? That seems low but for the purposes of this article lets just use these 5. Eh, well. Let's start with the newest pair, the Birks.
Stylish: Oh man. Don't argue with me about how stylish Birkenstocks are. Bustle says yes. So does WWW. Hell, even the fucking New Yorker had a positive opinion about Birks. This question has been answered. I watched as my high school classmates marched down the halls wearing their Birk mules well over 15 years ago. Birks have been around for far longer though.
Comfortable: With their raised footbeds and lightweight soles, Birkenstock shoes are designed with comfort in mind. From their website, they say: "Birkenstock invented the contoured footbed, introducing the concept in the 1930s for anatomically shaped insoles with incredible support." Indeed, my Birks are comfortable and supportive. The raised footbed even keeps my feet from supinating.
Useful: I bought the Milano pair specifically because I didn't want the Arizona style or anything without a back strap. As someone who consistently trips, falls, or just plain forgets how walking works, I don't want to accidentally fling my shoes off while walking the dog (which has happened to other pairs before). One time I stepped wrong, stumbled, and kicked my old, cheap flip-flop under a parked car. Retrieving it was certainly fun and not at all suspicious or embarrassing. Now I can fall on my ass all I want to and I won't lose my shoes. My dignity is another story.
L.L.Bean Duck Boots
Stylish: Ah, yes. Duck boots. Of all my shoes, my husband has given me the least amount of guff for my Beanies -- probably because he has a pair himself. He has the taller shaft version of the same style, and we both opted to get colors that were different from the usual tan-and-blue. When I went to City Winery in the Old Fourth Ward whilst wearing my pair, one of the servers complimented me on them. And she was at least 10 years younger than me. Furthermore, they've been around for over 100 years and sell out every Winter. They're not going anywhere.
Comfortable: Rain boots do not have to be too tight or too stiff. The Maine-made rubber fits over my feet with ease, no matter how heavy my socks are. And I don't get that weird red marks around the sides of my feet after a long day of wear. I'd recommend the shorter shaft pair over the taller if you're concerned about all that leather chafing your bare ankles.
Useful: I've went on and on about my duck boots and their use in lieu of my Hunters. I hope to keep these around for years and years due to their hardy, waterproof material. The soles are my favorite part, however. Not only are they resilient and non-slick but they're tough -- I don't have to worry about tearing and breaking when I'm running around on cracked concrete.
Stylish: Every sorority girl from every SEC school has a pair of high-gloss Hunter rain boots, and now so do I even though I didn't pledge any sorority and went to a Sun Belt college. They go well with tights or leggings and over-sized sweaters and sweatshirts. They're not just a trend, either: at their very soul (sole? ha.), Hunter boots are tall Wellington boots that aren't specific to just the Hunter brand. And lets not forget that Wellies are part of British country wear, and they're the inventors of sartorial style.
Comfortable: I wouldn't go running in my Hunters, but my feet feel dry and secure. They size large, so if go a half-size down from your normal size as I do, otherwise you'll be struggling to pull them off each time you wear them.
Useful: Well, duh - they're rain boots. Of course they're useful. But that doesn't mean my husband won't complain about them. "Do you know what they would look like on me?" he scoffed after I suggested he get a pair of Wellies. "I'd look like Christopher fucking Robin stomping around looking for Pooh. I'm not wearing them!" Eh, fine. He's got me there.
Stylish: It seems like every year I read an article or think piece about how horrible these harmless furry boots are and every year Uggs have been on every celebrity and Instagram model. Don't pretend like Uggs aren't stylish at all. They come in a variety of shapes and styles for everyone. If you don't like the short shaft boots, you can get the tall ones. Or the mules. Or the slippers. Or the flip-flops. Pick a pair and you'll fit in.
Comfortable: Of every pair of shoes on my list, the Uggs are the most comfortable because of the soft, cloud-like footbed. They're cold-weather shoes, so don't expect to bring them out in the hot Summer months unless you're into swamp foot.
Useful: My Ugg boots suit my purposes, which is to keep my feet warm in the chilly Fall and Winter months. However, they've served as foot warmers for surfers, aviators, mountain scalers, and more. In fact, shearling-lined boots almost pre-dates history. Laugh all you want to because Ugg sounds like ugly, but my feet are warm, goddamn it.
Stylish: I was almost with you on Crocs being substance over style, but it appears their stylishness isn't as divisive as I thought. Despite being heralded as the leaders of the ugly shoe trend, people who wear these colorful, plastic mules defend them vehemently and former haters do an about-face when they try them on. They've even made appearances at high-fashion runway events.
Comfortable: I, too, was a Croc skeptic until I put on a pair. I was on the search for a pair of shoes that I could wear indoors as slippers but also step outside in the backyard or down the block to walk to dog. They had to be durable since I wear through slippers as fast as I do hair ties and they had to be comfortable because of the aforementioned supinating feet. My obnoxiously magenta Crocs are my best friends. The holes in the coverings allow my feet to air out and they're easy to slide into with or without the ankle strap back.
Useful: Here's a small sampling of the stuff I've stepped in while wearing my Crocs: dog poop, cat poop, mud, thumbtacks, grass, spiders, cat vomit, my own vomit, possibly human poop, and motor oil. A quick hose off or a run through the dishwasher and they're good as new. (And yes, before you ask, I did wash my feet after each incident. That was a bad day for me.)
If you're still a hater of the shoe brands I've defended above, that's ok. We'll have to agree to disagree. People have different tastes when it comes to footwear and that's ok. But if you did have a pair (or two or three or more) and you were made to feel bad about your choices, hopefully my well-sited rant above will make you more confident. After all, consider the source of your ridicule: they also may have a pair of flaking gator-skinned cowboy boots sitting by the front door.