The Backless Shoe Is The New Cold-Shoulder Top


Do you love or hate these goddamn shoes?

If you, like me, have been aimlessly looking for new spring shoes for the last few days (this despite the fact that we've been under the constant threat of snow in New York City even though it's April), you probably have noticed a trend: almost every shoe is backless.

Much like the divisive cold-shoulder top—which first started to gain traction in late-2015, before reaching its peak in Fall 2017, and achieving the ultimate backlash in the form of Kara Brown's Jezebel piece "I Hate These Goddamn Tops" in March 2017—the backless shoe has been on the scene for some time now, just laying in wait for its real breakout moment, aka now. 

In a narrative ripped straight from Miranda Priestly's mouth, this trend started on the runway in the form of the now-ubiquitous Gucci Provincetown mule, which can be seen—rain or snow or shine—on the feet of every third person who is climbing the stairs in front of me at the Broadway-Lafayette subway station in SoHo. And the trickle-down effect has been enormous. When shopping online for shoes, there are now entirely new categories encompassing "mules and slides," where once there were... not. (No, really, most sites just had, like, "flats" and "heels" and "boots." But that's all changed.) 

And it was while perusing Madewell's shoe selection recently that I realized we have reached the apex of the backless shoe trend: the Sophia fold-down flat. While Madewell has more than its fair share of backless shoe options in general, the Sophia stands out because, much like the high-end Gucci fold-down loafer (the Brixton) it's emulating, it's designed to look like its wearer so desperately needed to show the world her bare heels that she, um, crushed the backs of the shoes herself. 

Madewell is not the first mid-range brand to do this (see: Jeffrey Campbell's Triumph loafer), but there's something about Madewell's entry into the extreme backless shoe fold that feels like a turning point. Probably it's Madewell's aggressive inoffensiveness. Nobody likes Madewell because they're interested in complicated fashion. So, while someone might be seeking out the Pierre Hardy version of a fold-over shoe—called 'The Secret Mule,' it's been recommended on Goop, and retails for $595—because they're trying to look unique and to stand out, that's not what anyone goes to Madewell for. Instead, they turn to Madewell to look like everyone else, and, in so doing, to look the most like themselves.

All of that is well and good, but the real question with any fashion trend ought to be: Is it easy to wear? In the case of the backless shoe, it seems like it shouldn't be. It exposes a part of the body that often gets neglected, meaning that, if you want to start wearing backless shoes on an everyday basis, you might want to start paying more attention to moisturizing your heels. And, in the same way wearing a cold-shoulder top makes it difficult to wear a bra, you can't really wear socks with your backless shoes—and feet, as we all know, can get pretty stinky. (Although, actually, if you take your backless shoe inspiration from the perfect Instagram account @thecloglife, you'll see that it's totally possible, even encouraged, to wear chunky socks with a distinctively chunky backless shoe.)

And anyway: Those issues are merely cosmetic; the pleasure of a backless shoe actually relies upon how easy they are to wear. There are no laces, no constrictions. Wearing them is like wearing your slippers out into the street, only you'll have multiple people stopping you asking where you got them. And while the backless shoe can be seen in spike-heeled incarnations, far more frequently it's found in flats or block-heeled mules or barely teetering kitten heels, making it even more the embodiment of the kind of effortlessness that most of us, consciously or not, think is the epitome of style. They're inherently casual, while also having an intentionality that's often lacking in similarly comfortable shoes. They make a statement without making you work too hard, and who doesn't want that kind of sartorial shortcut once in a while? 

Now that even Target offers a blatant Gucci Provincetown rip-off (the Kona slip-on from A New Day), will there be a backlash to all this backless-ness? Will there soon be an "I Hate These Goddamn Shoes" blog post? Maybe, but, as can also be seen with the backlash to the cold-shoulder trend, that doesn't mean much for what will surely be a long and lingering tail of backless shoes, as the ubiquitousness of the style on social media breeds a familiarity so complete that soon we won't remember a time before Madewell and the like even had a "mules" tab on its site. 

All of which is to say, maybe it's time to try the Baby Foot Peel you've also been hearing about since roughly about the time that the Provincetown first started appearing on everyone's feet. Hard to say for sure, unless you believe, like I do, that there are no coincidences in late-stage capitalism. 

Cardi B, Avril Lavigne, and so much more

Every weekend, we bring you #SOUNDCHECK—your destination for the best of the best new music that hit the web over the course of the week. Because you should always be prepared when someone passes you that AUX cord. This week's round features 21 of our favorite emerging and established artists including Cardi B, Avril Lavigne, Tacocat, and so many more. Turn up, tune in, and tune out.

"Please Me" - Cardi B and Bruno Mars
"Please Me" will pair perfectly with all of the Valentine's Day candy you just bought on clearance. Trust me, there couldn't be a more perfect time to listen to this ultra-'90s R&B track.

Head Above Water - Avril Lavigne
I'm honestly jealous of whomever Avril is singing about on "Goddess."

Tacocat - Grains of Salt [OFFICIAL VIDEO]

"Grains of Salt" - Tacocat
When I realized Tacocat was back, I literally turned around at my desk and yelled. It's a miracle.

"Can I Talk" - Caleb Steph
Caleb Steph's debut single proves that he's ready for the spotlight.

Betty - Betty Who
"You better recognize/ That you're wasting all my time" from "The One" is my new favorite response to every "photographer" on Tinder.

"Butterfly" - Kehlani
The only thing more beautiful than this cover art is Kehlani's voice.

SASAMI - Free (feat. Devendra Banhart) (Official Video)

"Free" - SASAMI feat. Devendra Banhart
I would have never predicted a SASAMI and Devendra Banhart collaboration, but I am 100 percent not complaining.

Rex Orange County - New House

"New House" - Rex Orange County
Alex O'Connor never fails to impress me with his soulful bedroom pop, and "New House" is no exception.


"Cuz I Love You" - Lizzo
Distorted guitar paired with Lizzo's belting vocals? Chills, literally. She did that!

"Heads Gonna Roll" - Jenny Lewis
Like if Stevie Nicks' voice met Father John Misty's lyrics.

"Get Well" - Donna Missal
Donna Missal tells me everything I needed to hear about breakups on "Get Well."

"Patient" - Monica Martin
Sultry and sweet.

"Whorey Heart" - TeaMarr
TeaMarrr's bouncy new song is an excellent roast of the kind of fuckboi we all know and hate.

"Ice Me Out (Remix)" - Kash Doll
Kash Doll shows that she knows her way around a beat on "Ice Me Out."

"Lips of Lips" - Tiffany Young
Definitely catch me driving around with my windows down this summer blaring "Lips on Lips."