'Ugly fashion' is back and the new Crocs prove it - will you be wearing them?

The new design has already earned the inevitable 'dad sneaker' moniker and they're only one part of a bigger picture.

I have bad news for anyone who lives by the style edict of “less is more”: Crocs are back, and perhaps with their ugliest design yet. The Crocs Echo Storm is a Crocs-style sneaker hybrid that brings to mind the sci-fi stylings of the confusingly popular Yeezy Foam RNR.

Priced at $199.95, this bold new design embraces the Crocs “ugly fashion” aesthetic, putting its signature rubber construction to the forefront of the inevitable “dad sneaker” tag. But you and I may just be the only ones deeming it ugly – in fact, a stream of comments on Instagram have nothing but platitudes for the new design in grey, black and neon green. Booger green? Eh, you decide…

Crocs Echo Storm shoes pictured.
The new Crocs Echo Storm range bring to mind the description 'dad sneakers'. Photo: Supplied
Adidas Yeezy Foam RNR.
Kanye designed Adidas Yeezy Foam RNR are confusingly popular. Source: Supplied

The overwhelming embrace of Crocs amongst Gen Z has most of us non-Gen Z folks scratching our heads – but, honestly, ugly fashion is nothing new. Miuccia Prada is well known as the inventor of ugly chic, having delivered her Banal Eccentricity collection in 1996 – colloquially known as her “bad taste” collection.

“Ugly is attractive, ugly is exciting. Maybe because it is newer,” Prada herself said in a 2013 interview. And ever since those heady 2010s, when the now-defunct Man Repeller took over our feeds and Gucci brought back infinitely layered grandma-chic maximalism, we’ve had a growing love for so-called “ugly” fashion.


'Ugly' fashion thrived in the early 2000s

Feminism’s rejection of the male gaze after the almost-naked 00s was mostly behind it – and Gen Z adopted the idea with gusto. After all, they had lived through the ugliest years; they came of age at a time when Britney and Justin wore matching triple (!) denim on a red carpet, Paris Hilton (the socialite of the century) emblazoned her Juicy Couture-clad derriere with catchphrases in Swarovski crystals, and Ugg boots over jeans were the epitome of white girl fashion.

Paris Hilton poses with her dog (left), Ugg boots and jeans (middle) and Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake in triple denim (right).
Paris's famous tracksuit, Ugg boots and jeans and Britney and Justin in triple denim were all hallmarks of ugly, early 2000s fashion. Photos: Getty

The late 2010s brought with it a Kanye-fication of the minimalist female form; despite our best urges, we really can’t deny that his styling of then-wife Kim Kardashian spawned endless iterations of curvy women in hyper-minimalist Balenciaga-esque bodysuits.

Gen Z gave it a go, sure – their most prominent influencers certainly jumped on board the minimal activewear-as-outfit train – but the Covid pandemic disrupted fashion’s momentum on a global scale. Suddenly we discovered what being comfortable was again, and Gen Z led the charge back towards exuberant personal expression.

Kanye West and Kim Kardashian.
Kanye was well-known to inspire Kim Kardashian's fashion choices while they were together. Photo: Getty

We're in the midst of a fashion rebellion

All this has translated into a penchant for over-the-top individuality, anti-minimalist accessories, and poppy colour. The “weird girl aesthetic” and “goblincore”, paired with a sustainability-focused resurgence of thrifting, has delivered a lovably chaotic stream of micro trends at hyperspeed – so much so that nothing is really “in” anymore, so why not just wear whatever takes your fancy that day?

It's a fashion rebellion reminiscent of all the best eras: the carnival atmosphere of Carnaby Street, the confronting anti-government aggression of the 80s punk era, and the neon-hued futurism of late 90s rave culture. And it makes sense that the younger generation is pushing back now; aggressive personal expression is more important than ever in an increasingly divisive global political climate.

The thrift shopping fad often goes hand in hand with the ugly fashion trend. Photo: Getty
The thrift shopping fad often goes hand in hand with the ugly fashion trend. Photo: Getty

So embrace your 16 layers of thrifted grandpa-core, grace your Barbie-pink head-to-toe outfit with neon butterflies, and wear your Crocs sneakers with abandon, I say.

The past few years have been hard enough as it is, without having to restrict our chaotic fashion choices. After all, they can’t see your feet on that 10 am Zoom call anyway.

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