The "Ugly" Shoe Trend You Love to Hate Will Pick Up Steam in 2021

As the fashion crowd continues to give the side-eye to antiquated fashion rules, "ugly” trends continue to blossom. These days, it’s really about wearing what makes you feel comfortable (which may include testing out those "uncool but actually so cool” looks) rather than succumbing to the conventional ideology of what’s "flattering.” And while we recently highlighted a range of the more ironic trends that style setters are gravitating toward, we thought we’d take a deeper dive into one of the more polarizing shoe styles that just so happens to be one 2021’s top "ugly” trends.

Get ready because functional sandals (you know the kind—those clunkier two-strap silhouettes) are bound to pick up steam even more over the next year. That’s right. While they’ve been hovering around in the market for a while, designers from 3.1 Phillip Lim to Zimmermann proved that the ironic, more unconventional shoe trend has longevity after showcasing them in their collections.

Whether you’ve loved or loathed the trend in the past, it’s one that could be worth testing out now given their comfortable and fashion-forward nature when worn on their own or with socks come fall and winter.

If you’re on board or have been for a while and want to refresh your offering, that’s wonderful. There’s a range of fresh shopping picks below. If you need a little extra push with some more inspiration, we rounded up how celeb and fashion girls have been wearing the cool trend over the last year as well as how designers interpreted the silhouette.


On celebs:
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Style Tip: Wool socks and two-strap sandals paired with sleek trousers and a fuzzy sweater create one of those unexpected yet incredibly forward looks come fall.

On Kendall Jenner: Adidas trousers; Balenciaga sunglasses


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Style Tip: While just about any shoe style would work with this black button-down dress, the unconventional sandal choice is particularly cool.

On Gigi Hadid: Sandro dress; Birkenstock sandals


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Style Tip: Test out this formula containing a T-shirt, cropped jeans, and sandals while the temperatures are warm. You can get the same vibe by adding in an oversize sweatshirt and cozy socks when it’s cooler.

On Elsa Hosk: ACNE Studios tee; EB Denim jeans; Birkenstock x Rick Owens Arizona sandals


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Style Tip: Keep it comfortable with socks and sandals, joggers, and a puffer coat.

On Kourtney Kardashian: Yeezy sweatpants; Birkenstock x Rick Owens Arizona Sandals ($252)


On the street:
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Style Tip: Socks and sandals are cool for the upcoming season with cropped jeans, a crew-neck sweater, and a moto jacket.


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Style Tip: Patterned two-strap sandals bring a laid-back feeling to an elegant dressed-up vibe.


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Style Tip: Go for the unexpected by wearing a pair of functional sandals with modern tailoring.


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Style Tip: The contrast between black sandals and a monochromatic white outfit feels so right.


On the runways:
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The patent orange sandals at Altuzarra pop against the gorgeous red skirt-and-top look.


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Functional sandals with extra hardware—like these from the Sacai show—bring a little extra edge to an ensemble.


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These 3.1 Phillip Lim black flat sandals feel even cooler with the coordinating loose leather pants.


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Zimmermann’s gold sandals will take any outfit, including this pretty shorts ensemble, to the next level.

Shop the trend:

Next, check out the "ugly” jean-and-shoe combo fashion people are embracing right now.

This post was published at an earlier date and has been updated.

Bobby Schuessler
Market Director

Bobby Schuessler is a fashion editor with over a decade of editorial experience covering shopping, style, and beauty. He's spent over seven years at Who What Wear, currently leading the market team to deliver highly covetable and convertible content. He creates data-driven shopping guides featuring top retialers like Nordstrom, Shopbop, and Net-a-Porter and is at the forefront of Who What Wear's shopping tentpole strategies, including Amazon Prime Day. He also works on branded content initiatives and appears on camera in video and shopping livestream franchises. He has also worked across a variety of other media brands and fashion retailers like Refinery29, PureWow, Men's Health, and Gilt covering commerce, trend reporting, women's and men's fashion, home, and lifestyle.