Why I Wear Ugly Clothes

By Maddie Casey
Photographed by Fernanda Lopez

This article has been adapted for the web from our Outsider Issue.

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We’ve all experienced that feeling of seeing a piece of clothing, acknowledging it’s hideousness, and still, for some reason, really, really wanting it. I am very familiar with this sensation--I wrote my college essay about the fact that I wear Crocs. That’s not a joke, and no, I’m not sure why Northeastern admitted me after reading it. Now, Crocs are undeniably (almost) universally hated, especially in the fashion community, and understandably so. They’re brightly colored, made of rubber, have holes everywhere and specifically make cartoon-image charms to stick in those holes. There’s nothing to like. Except I do--I wear my bright blue Crocs all of the time, and not just as shower shoes. When it’s not below 50 degrees outside, you can find me sporting them around campus, to the beach, walking around the city, on walks in the woods--I’ve even worn my Crocs to parties. I know they’re ugly, but I love them. I think they’re so fun. They’re comfortable; they make me happy and they are genuinely one of my favorite pairs of shoes to wear (weird stares and all). I know that this sentiment is not shared by many. It got me thinking, though, why do people wear “ugly” clothes? And what other ugly things do other people love to wear? So, I spoke to a few fellow fashion lovers to try to figure it out.

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One item that came up plenty of times is Birkenstocks. Now, I know my mom thinks that these are ugly (she tells me all of the time). However, Birks, as they’re called by lovers of the shoe, are so trendy these days that it’s hard to think of them as ugly in the same way as Crocs. Really, though, so many things that are on trend were once viewed as ugly by the majority of people (or still are). Birkenstocks are a prime example, and people still refer to them as “Jesus sandals” all of the time. Another good example are oversized, brightly colored windbreakers. An item that was popular in the ‘80s, they were abhorred as incredibly ugly for a while, but have been back on trend lately with the rise of thrift style. Another item that fits this bill are bulky sneakers, which are really in style right now, but are also viewed as hideous by a lot of people. Plenty of high-profile brands are creating similar styles, like Fila, Reebok, and Adidas (whose collab with Raf Simons really started this trend), so they must be loved for some reason. Other people I spoke to about their favorite ugly clothes mentioned very unique, true-to-their-style pieces. Among these were Tevas, a fuzzy, pink shirt, patterned leggings, Uggs, “dad” sweaters, clear boots, and oversized, striped henleys.

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After thinking about all of these pieces, what does “ugly” even really mean? We all have our own personal styles, and just because something is viewed as ugly by many doesn’t mean there aren’t people who think it is amazing. People choose to wear “ugly” clothes all of the time, whether they themselves agree that they are ugly or they see them as a genuine fashion statement. Sometimes people even wear utterly hideous things just because they’re on trend or done by a major designer (I’m looking at you, Balenciaga Crocs). There are also people who view some of the trendiest items as ugly. As of late, one could even argue that ugly has become trendy. To wear a piece of clothing that others view as ugly that is completely off trend, though, it can take guts. Dealing with jokes from friends and stares from strangers is not something everyone is willing to do. Those who are, however, embrace and express their true selves and true style, and choose to wear what they love, despite the opinions of others--and isn’t that what fashion is really about? Since we all have our own tastes, nothing can really be “ugly” (except, maybe, Crocs). Whether it be for comfort, style or fun, there are so many reasons to wear “ugly,” so maybe we should all just embrace the fashion outsider inside of us.