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From top: Hoka Rincon 3 ($120), Teva Original Universal ($55), Teva Ember moc ($75), Ugg Bailey Bow Tall II boot ($240), and Koolaburra Furr-Ah ($59.95).

From top: Hoka Rincon 3 ($120), Teva Original Universal ($55), Teva Ember moc ($75), Ugg Bailey Bow Tall II boot ($240), and Koolaburra Furr-Ah ($59.95).

Photographer: Logan Jackson for Bloomberg Businessweek; Prop stylist: Megan Kiantos

The Rise of the $2.5 Billion Ugly-Shoe Empire

From shearling Uggs to Hoka dad sneakers and rainbow Tevas, Deckers Outdoor Corp. keeps selling us the most hideous uglycore footwear.

Underneath the barstools at Doris is evidence of an unsavory fashion trend that refuses to disappear. A mustachioed man in a neon ’80s jacket sits on the patio of the candlelit Brooklyn cocktail bar with his toes exposed, bare feet strapped into sandals. Another guy adjusts his clogs as he waits for a friend to arrive. The bartender, a 24-year-old tattoo apprentice with fringed dark hair and platinum-bleached bangs who goes by “Shivs,” says her patrons love ugly shoes. In the summer, they walk in with multicolored Tevas, Birkenstock slides, and platformed Crocs. As the winter chill sets upon the city, they have their cold-season counterparts, shearling-lined and fur-coated. “I feel like ugly things always come back to be cool in the end,” Shivs says.

While uglycore—fashion that scorns beauty in favor of self-affirmation—isn’t new, the collective hangover of two years of barely squeezing a foot into a heel, pump, loafer, wingtip, oxford, or even a pair of ballet flats has intensified an unapologetic love affair with pragmatic footwear. Odd styles once aimed at surfers, casual errand-runners, and the podiatry-prone are now flaunted on Zoom work calls, couture runways, and pretty much anywhere the cool kids hang.