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One Editor's Ode To Ugly Shoes

It's not like I made the deliberate decision one day to only wear ugly shoes…and yet, here I am, writing a fashion feature, wearing bright-white Milano Birkenstocks with the back strap I spent a whole year searching for. It could have started because of a number of reasons — a heels-related foot injury, a need to be contrarian, a delayed rebellious phase gone weird — but I am a fashion editor who has written millions of words about beautiful, expensive, impossibly chic shoes with straw-thin stiletto heels and embellishments that Liberace would most certainly give two sparkly thumbs-up to…and my shoe closet is chock-full of clunkers. But that's the way I like it. I really like ugly shoes.
To clarify: I'm not an aesthetic masochist. Personally, I believe my collection of sandals, sneakers, lace-ups, and boots are beautiful. Ugliness — like beauty — is in the eye of the beholder, and while I wouldn't go as far as stating that Louboutins and Jimmy Choos are fug, I would say that they aren't challenging in a way that turns me out. Miuccia Prada recently said some really awesome things to that tune in an interview with T: "Ugly is attractive, ugly is exciting. The investigation of ugliness is, to me, more interesting than the bourgeois idea of beauty." Oh, Miuccia! Give me a lug sole Prada sandal with thick straps over a delicate Brian Atwood pump any day!
My relationship with ugly shoes, however, hasn't always been this positive. As a child of immigrant parents in the Midwest, fashion wasn't necessarily at the top of the list when it came to how to divvy up the monthly budget. No LA Lights or glitter-red Dorothy slippers for me; I grew up on a steady supply of hand-me-down boys' sneakers that were always a little too big, to ensure that they'd fit my always-growing feet for a little bit longer. As someone who already stuck out enough being the only Asian kid in a predominantly white community, each time I felt like I had to hide my Ninja Turtle kicks around the other girls' Rainbow Brite ones made me feel more like the weirdo who didn't quite belong.
So, the next time you see a pair of five-toe shoes and point and laugh? …Actually, scratch that. Those are never okay.

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