Apr 26, 2024 - Business

Pringle Crocs and snoafers: Ugly shoes are hot

Side-by-side photos of New Balance "snoafers" and the biggest red boots you have ever seen in your life

Photos courtesy New Balance and Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Image

New Balance's forthcoming sneaker-loafers — or "snoafers" — are the latest in a new lineage of fashion shoes that raise eyebrows and viral attention mainly for looking offbeat.

Why it matters: Memes can be good for the brand, and shoe designers are toppling over one another to come up with the most puzzling — and thus shareable —looks.

  • Crocs' new "Pringles boots" sold out almost immediately.
  • Athletes, musicians and influencers went nuts last year for cartoonishly large MSCHF Big Red Boots.
  • A collaboration between Manolo Blahnik and Birkenstock — imagine a pair of Arizona sandals, but with crystal buckles and an $800 price tag — remains seared in a certain public memory (and scarcely available).

And now there's the "snoafer" — a shoe that's shaped like a loafer and styled like a sneaker.

  • "I think the twisted minds over at New Balance know they've made a meme first and a viable footwear option second," New York Times Styles reporter Callie Holtermann said in a recent roundtable about ugly shoe collaborations.
  • The New Balance 1906L has set the internet ablaze in recent days and appeared on runways earlier this year, even though it won't be on sale until summer.
  • "Like the liger, the Cronut and the chortle before it, this shoe is a confounding hybrid," the Wall Street Journal pointed out.

Between the lines: The pandemic and the shift to remote work changed the way Americans dress, reinvigorating comfort-first brands and giving some consumers more license to indulge their weirder tastes.

  • Once-maligned Crocs are one of the greatest brand-reinvention stories of the past several years. The sensible foam clog experienced a surge in sales during the pandemic, fueled by a combination of organic demand, celebrity Croc-wearers and smart social-media campaigns.
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