At this point, the obligations of a wrong shoe are obvious. This is something that must jar on a visual, and conceptual, level with the rest of an outfit. See: Charlotte Rampling’s discoid mules, Kylie Jenner’s Sportmax pedi-spreaders, Florence Pugh’s brocade wedge platforms and Irina Shayk’s thong boots. Of course, it’s not so much about the shoe itself (a “wrong” shoe is a “right” shoe in certain circumstances), but how it shifts an otherwise logical and sensible look into a nonsensical direction.
“I realised what makes a look feel interesting is the addition of accessories that feel slightly ‘off’ or mismatched,” stylist Allison Bornstein, who first debuted the term on TikTok in June, said. “It just forces you to mix things up and try something that might totally blow your mind.” Like a 2006 Lily Allen in a prom dress and sneakers or a 2022 Bella Hadid in her Miss Sixty jeans and loafers, it signals that there is some intention and choice (and therefore a sense of the person themselves) behind the outfit.
To wear some deflated wizard slippers with a spring/summer 1998 Yohji Yamamoto wedding dress at The Met Gala, or flip flops with a custom Dior gown on the red carpet at Cannes, suggests that there is a little mischief to your character. That you’re not some guileless consumer of fashion, but someone with a well-trained eye capable of spotting the beauty in something unusual. Some shoes are born “wrong” (more on that later) but the point stands: can you see beyond established ways of thinking?
Do you have the imagination to break from protocol and start living as a luxurious weirdo? Could you wear stilettos inside your tights like the models on the Givenchy and Jil Sander spring/summer 2024 catwalks? Or scissor the ends of your socks like at Elena Velez and Wesley Harriott? Or wear UGGs on top of cork wedges like the Vaquera models? Or repurpose your most lascivious thongs into toe-baring heels like Nicolas Ghesquiere did at Louis Vuitton? Could you see toes as the new legs?
Disobedient and just a little bit perverted, all of these shoes would be considered “wrong” by traditional standards. But the idea of “wrong-ness” is perhaps more of a catalyst within fashion than “right-ness”. Fashion is, to a certain extent, driven by ugliness as a means to break with social norms. It means pulling a pair of leggings down to the base of your heels (like Kylie Jenner did) is a way to distinguish yourself from the people that would otherwise be dumbfounded at such an illogical quirk.
In fashion, at least, being wrong is right. And wearing lace socks with Crocs (gross!) or five-fingered socks with Havaianas (ew!) might move us all forward. If everyone embraced everything fashion invented, there would be no such thing as a “wrong” shoe. And there would be no connoisseurs, just consumers. So, as trite as the “wrong” shoe theory might have become, it speaks to a broader drive to be seen as individual. To live differently to other people and have that reflected in your clothing choices. Even if that means rolling some pantyhose over a knife-point stiletto, and piercing the fabric with its toes.
This article was originally published on Vogue UK.