There are certain things in life that are so ugly they’re beautiful, or so ugly they’re cute. (The French call it jolie laide; the Japanese, busakawa.) Think of bulldogs, bumpy noses — or Birkenstocks. This week, we’re celebrating the faces that only a mother could love. Welcome to Fugly Week on the Strategist.
Two notes about loving ugly things: (1) What is ugly is usually functional, and function is a virtue. (2) You’ll have to repeat that to yourself often because your prettier, richer, more stylish, less functionally minded friends will never stop ridiculing the ugly objects you cherish most.
I’ve been wearing Dansko clogs since I got my first restaurant job at 15 years old. I showed up in Steve Madden penny loafers with a chunky heel (very cool in 1998). A server pointed at my shoes and asked, “You’re gonna wear those?” By the end of my shift, my feet were bleeding, and I actually had to skateboard home barefoot. I purchased Danskos the next day.
Is there anything sexier than the phrase “medical clogs”? Those are Danskos at their heart. The notorious clunky-but-kitschy shoes were designed for nurses who spend all day on their feet, and were soon adopted by restaurant folk who also spend all day standing, lifting, spinning, and sprinting. Once your feet slip into their invisible arch support, you’ll understand. They instantly create better alignment, better posture — things that deteriorate in normal shoes.
So why do I get so much abuse from my loved ones? Because many years ago, I took my Danskos to the streets. I wear them with sundresses, jean shorts, and with thick woolen socks and cuffed jeans in the winter. I like the height they give me, and I like the weight of them, the way they hit the floor with emphasis. If I’m being totally honest, I like that they keep me grounded now that I’m not in a restaurant every day.
All the same, my car was recently broken into. They stole everything — iPhone cord, Rag & Bone ankle boots, leather jacket, Bensimon tennis shoes I bought in Paris. And sitting on the front seat, pristine, shining, were my Danskos. Untouchable.
“Too ugly to steal. It’s a sign,” my sister said. “Yep,” I replied, “that these are the only shoes I’m meant to wear.”
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