The Most Controversial Shoes of The Year

24th December 2020


A look at the shoes that divided opinion – and raised plenty of eyebrows – in 2020, from Bottega Veneta boots to dad sandals, Uggs and more.

chunky shoes
Love them or hate them, chunky shoes ruled 2020. Image courtesy of Imaxtree.

It’s been more than a decade that women have been flirting with “ugly” shoes – we prefer to call them unconventional – while simultaneously maintaining their long and very public love affair with high heels, red soles, and all things sparkly and Princess.

Unlike everyone’s beloved Princess heels, “ugly” shoes stir up controversy and plenty of debate: Some love them, others are very vocal about hating them and there’s also those that go from repulsion to desire, as time goes by. 

Have you ever looked at a shoe and thought it’s plain weird – too chunky, too ridiculous-looking, too masculine – then a few months later changed your mind to thinking it’s actually quite cool and scoured the entire internet to find it in your size? 

Any fashion and shoe lover will be guilty as charged at some point or another – particularly in 2020, when high heels were stored away and comfort became top of mind. Perhaps you wore dad sandals all summer or finally bought into the Bottega Veneta chunky boots, after calling them too bulky for the last two years? 

It’s all part of the game – and the genius of designers like Miuccia Prada, Daniel Lee or Jonathan Anderson who challenge our traditional understanding of beauty with their designs and make us covet something we initially thought we’d never wear. Here we look back at some of the year’s most controversial, love-them-or-hate-them kind of shoes, that have been amassing long waiting lists as much as they have been dividing opinion.

bottega veneta puddle

Bottega Veneta’s ‘Puddle’ boots were surprisingly popular for a year where nature walks became the most popular activity.

Bottega Veneta Rain Boots
It’s been two years since Daniel Lee debuted the now-famous Lug boot to the market. This year it even made a triumphant return in an array of new colors and style variations – yet you’d be surprised how many people still raise an eyebrow at the sight of its chunky soles and wide round toes. But Lee was not done with the chunky shape and brought out a rubber version rightly named ‘The Puddle Boots’. The neon coloured fashion wellies divided opinions but proved their point during a winter when nature walks were the most popular activity.


Chanel’s velcro sandals lead the ‘dad sandal’ trend in 2020.

The Dad Sandal
The name itself suggests that these sandals weren’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea. We’ve been so used to dainty lace-up styles or pretty embellished thong sandals for summer, that when the dad sandal came along, with its orthopaedic sole, Velcro straps and chunky shape, it didn’t sit well with everyone. They might not be conventionally pretty for some, yet women have been living in them for most of summer 2020. They came as a perfect refresher to traditional styles, offering max comfort and a cool contrast to feminine summer dressing. If you needed further proof, just look at the endless waiting list for the Chanel dad sandals, which have been reimagined in every color of the rainbow this year, due to high demand. 

ugg sandals

Unsurprisingly, comfort was key in 2020, which practically speaking meant the return of the Uggs. Pictured, the latest version, the Ugg Fluff yeah. Image courtesy of @Ugg

Uggs 2.0
You’d think that Uggs, alongside fuschia Juicy Couture tracksuits and diamanté accessories, were something we put behind us – and for good reason. Who would want to go back to the Paris Hilton in the ‘Simple Life’ look?  

It turns out a fair amount of shoppers. That’s why Uggs returned with a vengeance in 2020, ready to penetrate pop culture yet again, with a renewed image: They’ve started collaborating with hot young labels like Y Project, Telfar and Molly Goddard and have released a new fluffy slipper that’s just right for our current need for cozy, home-friendly items. 

It might seem unthinkable that we could ever go back to wearing those funny-looking boots, but there are already plenty of early adopters including famous names like Peggy Gou, Emily Ratajkowski, Joan Smalls, Serena Williams and Irina Shayk. 

jw anderson chain loafers

J.W Anderson infamous chain loafers are the perfect combination of quirky and cool. Image courtesy of @jw_anderson.

J.W. Anderson’s Chain Loafer
If the dad sandals were divisive, Jonathan Anderson’s chain loafers have taken things to a whole new level. Ever the provocateur, Anderson has debuted a leather open-back loafer featuring a larger-than-life gold chain at the front for fall 2020. It’s easy to dismiss the design as ridiculous at first, but style the shoes with a pair of wide-leg trousers, with the gold chain casually peaking out, and you’ll most likely have a change of heart. It’s like having a statement jewel on your feet, and they can also double as the most special home slippers you’ll ever wear. There’s something empowering about defying convention and wearing something so creative and kooky, purely for the sake of experimentation and having fun. 


Louis Vuitton Pillow boots, first seen on their SS21 runway show. The boots are likely to be a hit for the coming year. Image courtesy of Imaxtree.

Louis Vuitton Pillow Boots
Some couldn’t believe their eyes when they saw the new Pillow boots, coming down Nicholas Ghesquiere’s Louis Vuitton runway last September. What place do puffy, sock-like ankle boots have on a catwalk that’s usually populated with futuristic read-to-wear and equally fierce heels? 

It turns out however that they have indeed claimed their space on the runway and luxury wardrobes alike, getting customers so excited that Vuitton planned an early Christmas launch on its website. The boots are now available to purchase online for 850 euros. 

While they might not be what we’re used to talking about during Fashion Week or anywhere near what’s considered conventionally beautiful, their cozy silhouette, practical waterproof fabric and monogrammed lining is just what people need during a cold winter at home. 

crocs sandals

Love them or hate them, Crocs soaring in popularity. Image courtesy of @Crocs.

Crocs are perhaps the most divisive shoe of them all: When Balenciaga and Christopher Kane put them on the runway, some people loved the irony and put themselves on the waiting list to buy a pair, while others felt personally offended by the shoes’ slightly odd, clunky look. This year, popularity surged even further; According to Lyst data there are on average 135,000 searches per month for Crocs and when the brand released a tie-dye version of its signature style – in collaboration with LA street wear brand Chinatown Market and the band The Grateful Dead – a virtual queue of 45,000 shoppers was created as soon as the shoes launched. 

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