I don’t claim to be the arbiter of fashion. For Pete’s sake, I currently run in smart sneakers that resemble Flaming Hot Cheetos that took a bath in pink highlighter fluid. But friends, I’ve found a shoe crime that is beyond mere phrases like ‘hideous’ and ‘this is why we can’t have nice things.’ Behold, Balenciaga’s collaboration with Vibram—yes, that company that makes those unsettling five-toe sneakers. Did I mention these monstrosities are $1,290?
Those of us more up-to-date on haute couture fashion were probably already aware of these...things. Balenciaga debuted them at its Fall Winter 2020 runway show earlier this year. But you can forgive the rest of us who don’t have our noses perpetually stuffed in fashion mags, you know, the schlubs who fully embraced our inner pajama-wearing trolls during the pandemic lockdown, for completely missing this in our feeds until now.
The shoes come in a few varieties, although they all cost $1,290. There are low and high-heeled versions. The low-heeled versions come in “toe lace-up” and “toe sock” options, with the former looking like a low-heeled sneaker and the latter a more bootie configuration. It doesn’t matter, they all have five-toes and ribbed undersides. Both come in black, but the toe sock version also comes in a disturbing shade of red. The uppers are made from a recycled knit and feature a suspension heel and a teeny Balenciaga logo on the outsole exterior. To be honest, I am blindly regurgitating the design specs trying to understand why Balenciaga Creative Director Demna Gvasalia would do this to his fellow human beings.
The version that really just stamps out my desire to live, however, is the heeled toe. It, too, is a bootie with a recycled knit upper and textured five finger toe. Except it has a heel. It comes in black and some hideous bubblegum pink color that only belongs on Kirby.
Besides the hideousness of these shoes, I am also struggling to pick my jaw up off the floor at the price. $1,290! I could buy a base model iPhone 12 Pro Max with that money and still have enough left over to buy a HomePod Mini and a fancy pants dinner! I could buy three PS5 Digital Editions or two PS5 Standard Editions and have some change leftover! I’d be just $10 short of buying two Xbox Series X and an Xbox Series S with that money. If I wanted, I could buy 12 Amazon Echos or 12 Google Nest Audios. The 5.1.4 Dolby Atmos surround sound home theater system I’m about to start testing costs about $290 less than a single pair of these hideous f**t casings. I could probably swing a new 4K TV for this much. I could pay rent. Fuck, even if you had saved your Trump bucks, that still wouldn’t be enough to wear the ugliest heels ever made.
In my despair, I googled Balenciaga, Demna Gvasalia, and shoes and was treated to a long history of fucked up shoe design. Apparently, I slept on Balenciaga’s platform Crocs in 2018. They cost anywhere from $495 to $850, depending on if you got the version with pins all over it. Gvasalia is also responsible for the “controversial” $995-$1,090 Triple S sneaker, which the Washington Post described as a “visual assault.” The sneaker, according to the Post, has been held up as “one of the key instigators of the ugly-fashion movement” and has been studied at length by fashion magazines. I, an unstylish tech blogger, have been researching this for an absurdly long time this morning and feel my brain leaking out of my eyeballs.
It absolutely does not help that Balenciaga insists on destroying my mental health further with this Instagram post. I will go to bat for split-toe socks, mainly because 1) tabi are cool, a cultural thing, and helpful when walking around in zori sandals; and 2) the five-toed split toed socks are generally things you can hide in public. I’ve never been a Vibram fan, but adding a heel and then toe-separators with a bottle of nail polish in a photo feels like a particularly cruel form of violence.
Surely, surely, no one will buy these. Except no, Rihanna—a style and beauty icon, a bonafide queen—has bought them and was spotted wearing them on Instagram not two weeks ago. On Balenciaga’s site, some versions are already sold out. I am agog, I am aghast. I know I’ve said before that I would love to be able to run in heels without breaking an ankle, but not like this.