Athletic Slides Are Trendier Than Ever

Karlie Kloss wearing slides for ’Interview’ and a pair of Adilettes
Photos: Interview Magazine/Adidas

Look at this foot. It’s been over a year since the slow immersion of the athletic slide and its brethren into the annals of high fashion, and it hasn’t exhausted itself yet: For one, this season in New York, rising label Houghton revisited Celine’s furry Spring 2013 slippers, with similar versions in shearling and mohair for Autumn 2014. For two: A year on, designers are still pushing them in a direction you might not have imagined, or wished for—normcore, as it were, with the foot being the locus of all of normcore’s attendant politics. Marni’s Spring 2014 line, for instance, features flip-flops on a platform that align with the ’30s spectator theme of the collection but also recall some of the more awkward moments of our late-’90s adolescence. (Damn, Marni, at least it’s a platform—the further our feet are from the gross New York sidewalk, the better.)

Models at the Houghton Fall 2014 and Marni Spring 2014 shows.
Photos: Houghton/Marni

But that’s the runway. What about the true-blue athletic slide proffered by activewear giants Nike and Adidas? By last summer, they’d become key accessories for everyone from stylists to Grimes to Miley Cyrus, working their way up the chain into the higher fashion consciousness, to the point where even the New York Times saw fit to run a bit. And yet, for some, they conjured memories of fungal high school showers and post-P.E. classes during which the main image in your eyeline was not the teacher but a senior jock-boy’s stinky sock. But in the aftermath of the statement shoe, it was precisely their ease and simplicity that captured hearts. At their barest, they were utilitarian—as in, people could walk in them. In some cases, they even actually massage your foot.

Rita Ora, Miley Cyrus, and Grimes wearing slides.
Photos: @ritaora Instagram/Getty Images/MTV

They were also key to the ongoing trend that both holds up, and appropriates, “hood styles.” Rihanna celebrating the Doobie wrap at the AMAs is one example, in which she gave life and pride to a between-styles look straight out of Dominican salons; a more complicated, and perhaps troubling, look includes the grill-face currently enjoyed by the likes of Madonna and Miley, which flips very specific, aspirational mean-mug from hip-hop and turns it into the flavor of the month. There’s a really distinct tint of “trying on hip-hop” with this trend, which also includes Timberland work boots and—at its worst and most racially complex—cornrows on white girls. It’s a perfect storm of ’90s nostalgia and the corporatization of rap culture.

Snoop Dogg wearing slides.
Photos: Splash News/Getty Images

As for your feet: Athletic slides have been a poolside staple for decades, since Adidas’ Adi Lasser first invented the Adilette in 1963 for all your locker room needs. In the ’90s, they were popularized as house shoes and spread in hip-hop (via West Coast gangsta culture) a look that remains intact today. The teen wildlings Odd Future wore them with Huf weed print socks in the late ’00s, popularizing the footwear among their fans (trace Miley Cyrus’ slide obsession directly back to OF member Jasper Dolphin’s own Miley Cyrus obsession) and even Xeroxed on the runway, as with Shaun Samson’s Los Angeles-fete of a Spring 2013 collection.

Left Brain, Frank Ocean (we think), and Hodgy Beats of Odd Future in slides.
Photos: Brick Stowell

So many slides.
Photos: Chloe/Isabel Marant/Celine

Céline’s Spring 2013 slides were a re-imagination of the pool shoe and the Birkenstock as a luxury item; Patrik Ervell tried the same tack with the Teva, itself its own brand of storied athletic sandal which came with a warning the first time around in the form of a 1992 Times piece: but not two months after they hit the runway, in January of 2013, VFiles introduced their “What Ever” tag on a pair of their own signature slides, perfectly situated in their vortex of streetwear and irreverence. Do not block their shine; in fact, reflect their shine, with these bejeweled Prada Teva-esque jams from Spring ’14, tube-sock leg-gauntlet not included.

V-Files Whatever slides.
Photos: V-Files

Everything comes from somewhere. On the less rap-oriented slide tip, there was the Birkenstock, last super popular around the same time the slide was. We saw Birkenstocks on fashionable ladies for all of 2013, but they just brought to mind this Chloe Sevigny profile, which we’ve been thinking about basically since it dropped in 2011: “I bought a pair of Birkenstocks today — let’s be real. I wanted a chunky sandal that was functional,” she told the Times’ Eric Wilson. “That should tell you where I am at as far as fashion.” Two years in advance of the current wave, Sevigny was kickstarting Birks for style chicas; shall we thank her? Perhaps, with a caveat: put a platform on it, Sassy style, and maybe we’ll holler. These toes don’t do well on raw concrete. Or, you could just wear them with argyle socks, like TDE singer SZA did at Saint Heron’s NYFW party. It comes around and, pro tip: it’s OK to crack those Reeboks out the closet.

Like us on Facebook so we can be friends and follow us on Twitter @MTVstyle to talk.