I rarely crowdsource my fashion decisions — usually, I have a very clear idea of what I want to wear and why, and I'm very discerning (and sometimes even a bit harsh) about what I find repulsive and what I find acceptable. Opening the floor to too many opinions ultimately leaves me feeling a bit flustered; like many of my choices in life, it's best if I just go full steam ahead with my instincts and mostly ignore people.
Recently, though, I came across a shoe that was so aesthetically confounding, I couldn't decide if I liked it or not. It's the Teva ReEmber Moc Slip-Ons, a quilted slip-on shoe that's made from 100% recycled ripstop, rib knit, and microfiber. Though the ReEmber might sound like your standard indoor-outdoor comfy shoe, she's not like all the other girls: She has a Look with a Capital L, and I was about to learn she's the most controversial sole in town.
Shop now: $75, zappos.com
I first saw the shoes randomly browsing the Teva website for something comfortable to wear while walking my dogs. I noticed the ReEmber because of its unique quilted design — the shoe's upper literally looks like a tiny little quilt for your foot, sewn around a rubber outsole and PU footbed cushions. They come in about a dozen different colors (my favorites are the olive, the honey gold, and the birch), and are available to shop at not only Teva, but also at DSW, Zappos, and REI. The back of the shoe intentionally folds down so you can slip them on or off, and while I was certainly intrigued by the implication of comfort and durability, I simply couldn't determine whether or not they were, well, ugly.
Shop now: $75, dsw.com
I dug a little deeper on the site, but that only further confused me. The Teva styling team did a remarkable job editorializing the ReEmber: The brand shot the shoes on impossibly cool, hot models hanging outside in rugged canyons and lounging in bohemian living rooms as if their only cares in the world were traveling to Instagrammable locations and the next Urban Outfitters sale.
With every photo I looked at, my opinion on the shoe got grayer: Were they hideous shoes only suited for bearded men who work in production and take their art too seriously? Were they best-suited for people who camp in a real way, and not in the way I camp (car parked next to the tent, cacio e pepe for dinner and probably not even a tent, but more of a luxurious cabin). Or were they comfy all-purpose shoes for stylish city-dwelling lesbians such as myself, ones who embrace normcore to the extent where everything is gross in a very specific and acceptable way?
Tl;dr: Were they ugly-good, or were they just ugly?
After seeing one particular shot — a beautiful model in white jeans and a white button down (both of which I own) and a pair of mustard ReEmbers, looking like an angel from Teva heaven — I decided I had to break my own fashion rule and ask Instagram for help. What I got in response wasn't so much helpful as it was eye-opening: For as conflicted as I am about the ReEmber, everyone else was, too.
Shop now: $75, rei.com
First, I posted a poll which proved to be extremely unhelpful. "Are these shoes ugly or good?" got me a completely divided response, with 51% of people saying they were ugly, and 49% saying they were good. Then I opened the floor to people's general thoughts about the shoe, which ranged from "These are the most comfortable and amazing shoes I've ever owned in my life," to "These look like sleeping bags for children's feet and they make me want to vomit."
Most of the positive opinions of the shoe pertained to their comfort level — there is simply no denying that even if you hate the look, tiny quilted blankies for your feet just feel good. Still, a lot of people couldn't get past the aesthetic, noting that the only reason they looked good on the models is because they are models, and some even mentioned that they had seen the shoe IRL, and it was even worse than it seemed. However, it's worth mentioning that there were dozens of people who admitted that the ReEmber shoes are actually ugly, but that they're so ugly, they're ultimately excellent. As someone with an adopted pug/shih tzu/Brussels Griffon mix, that's a sentiment I can get behind.
After plenty of deliberation and input from hundreds of people, I still can't decide, and I still don't own a pair. However, if I think about the situation philosophically, perhaps whether or not the Teva ReEmbers are ugly is beside the point. It's been awhile since I've engaged with people who felt that passionately about something as mundane as a shoe — no shade, but I have a sneaking suspicion that I would not receive an impassioned 500 word DM about the Adidas Stan Smiths or a pair of Everlane flats. For the most part, the larger apparel landscape feels full of conformity, blandness, and increasingly safer fashion choices. For better or worse, the Teva ReEmber is a shoe that inspires an endless amount of intense, emotional, over-the-top opinions, and that in and of itself makes them interesting. In other words, maybe all it takes is a little something ugly to feel a little something good — or really, to feel anything at all.
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