There is a new creature in town, one that frightens men, women and children alike. FURKENSTOCKS. (Insert dramatic music, preferably the background music from the Californians, here.) They are fur sandals designed for the summer season. They are priced at over $1000. They are…. CELINE.
In an effort to understand these critters a little bit better, I conducted a social experiment of sorts and asked a bunch of friends what they thought of the shoes. I asked males, females, fashion people, non-fashion people, doormen, non-doormen and as expected, most opinions basically said, "OMG. WHO WOULD WEAR THOSE. HASHTAG EW." Nevertheless, the responses I got were extremely entertaining and insightful.
The overwhelming consensus was that they look mad comfy but mad ugly.
Some friends (fine, one) got really punny on me: “Are these FUR real?” “They’re FUR-IGHTENING.” “FURKEN scary.”
Here's what the naysayers had to say:
“I could mistake the shoes' new nickname for "Frankenstocks" because they look quite monstrous!”
“Who's buying these?! Are they sane? Do they live in their own little invisible igloo that allows them to be comfortable in fur midsummer? Do they realize they look like they have baby bears on their feet?"
“I feel like someone is playing a joke on us. Pay $1000 to make your foot look like a muppet.”
“Talk about a case of cold feet! Why do they remind me of cavemen? And not in a funny Geico kind of way.”
My friends are way harsh, Tai. But aren't they funny too? To be fair, I asked for their honest opinions. To summarize, these shoes are lumpy, unflattering, furry and therefore probably sweaty. They are also extremely expensive. WE HATE THEM.
Here are some of the more positive reactions:
"I mean...they are cheaper than buying a dog and probably just as cuddly. Smart investment!"
“I actually love these shoes - both from an aesthetic point and also a tactile point. I think they take risks and they work. We have all come to accept Marabou slippers, which I have always thought to be silly. Here, the tactile aspect is being put to good use - they look like they feel fantastic! And besides, aren't beards super in right now?"
"I can appreciate them. If you know Celine, you can understand their fashion sense. I saw someone wearing them in person and she was the coolest person EVER. European for sure. Super edgy. While I don't personally like them, she magically pulled them off to perfection."
The appeal: They are different, comfortable, quirky and of course, Celine. Plus, they do provide toe ventilation.
There are so many juicy things to talk about!
LET'S DISCUSS: Liking vs. Appreciating
There is a distinction between liking something and appreciating it. As most of my friends (and doormen) agree, they do not like these shoes. But what I noticed from some of my industry friends was the admission that although they’d never wear Furkenstocks, they can appreciate their existence. Being familiar with Phoebe Philo and her immense influence on the fashion industry, we can admire the wackiness of it all.
The Art of Provoking Emotion:
I’d actually like to applaud Phoebe Philo for pushing the envelope, keeping fashion interesting and provoking something in us with her muppet shoes. Whether we hate em or love em (underdog’s on top, and I’m gonna shine homie until my heart stops), we can all agree we are not indifferent about these bad boys. And people always say great art should make you feel something. Whether it’s love or hate is irrelevant, as long as it provokes a strong emotion within us. The question is, should fashion be equated with art in that sense? Or do we want and expect only universally attractive creations from today’s fashion designers? Diana Vreeland said "Too much good taste can be boring." She’d probably love Furkenstocks; “A little bad taste is like a nice splash of paprika. We all need a splash of bad taste—it’s hearty, it’s healthy, it’s physical. I think we could use more of it. No taste is what I’m against.” Preach.
The Value of a Label:
To prove their point, some of the naysayers offered a challenge. What if they weren't priced at over $1000 but instead were $79.99? What if the sole didn't read CELINE but instead it read ALDO? Would these shoes get any attention? I'm going to go off on a tangent here and say that Aldo would never produce a pair of shoes this risky and original without some sort of designer reference. And if they did, it wouldn't get nearly as much attention because yes, the brand behind the product means something. It's like seeing a pair of overalls on a style icon like Jenna Lyons and seeing them on your average Joe handyman. Of course they look way cooler on Jenna because they are worn with intention and because the person behind the overalls gives it value. That being said, it is interesting to strip the shoes of their bells and whistles (designer labels) and analyze them for what they really are: hairy Hagrid sandals.
The Furkenstock Consumer:
Some friends described the potential consumer of Furkenstocks as "fashion slaves." They can't possibly be buying them for their good looks, so it must mean they are only falling for them because they are followers who are looking to buy into a trend. But the interesting thing is that the few valiant women that have been spotted wearing these outrageous shoes are not your average "fashion slave." They are women who have "it." That certain je ne sais quoi that makes us stop in our tracks and turn into animated emojis with hearts for eyes. The ones that make us look past the fact that they are wearing baby bears on their feet and instead wonder how they managed to pull it off so well. For that reason I'd say these shoes are not trendy at all, but instead freaks of nature (quite literally), donned by a select few magical fashion avatars with mad style and mad confidence.
Exhibit A: Jayne Min of the blog Stop It Right Now looking as edgified as ever in her friendly furry Furkenstocks:
Even she doesn't justify them as beautiful shoes: "I know. I know. They're the ugliest, most confusing shoes ever. Precisely why I like them? Surprisingly not as suffocating as you'd think either. At least not any more than any of the boots I'd be wearing otherwise. There is much to be said about toe ventilation."
The Attraction to Ugly Shoes:
Maybe the whole fur-in-heat thing is akin to my craving for black in the summer and white in the winter. It's this intense attraction towards the unexpected. It's the coolification of going against the grain. It's the rush of breaking rules and getting away with it. The ability to express yourself as a Furkenstock-loving human being has got to be thrilling. I think the incomprehensibility of it all is what makes them so magical. I bet you Jayne Min does the mirror dance every time she puts these bad boys on.
Perks of Inventing the Furkenstock:
Phoebe Philo must have thought to herself "What would be the most outlandish thing I can design this season?" And BAM! Out came fuzzy dinosaur sandals. It's actually a brilliant marketing stunt. She has everyone talking about her weird shoes, et voila! Free press! That shock factor is the oldest trick in the book. Think about Calvin Klein and Marc Jacobs' controversial ad campaigns. It's all about the buzz. And in this case, the fuzz. Badum bum CH.
I'm not sure I drew any conclusions here, because I don't believe there are any. Fashion is subjective and therein lies the beauty of it. I hope I've shed some light on the concept of these friendly furry friends and their raison d'être. Stella Bugbee tweeted yesterday, “It’s so much easier to hate things than to put the effort into understanding them.” Do I get an E for Effort?
2 things before we go. 1: Jayne Min posted this amazing image of Albert Einstein, proving he was not only a mega genius but a trend setter too.
2. I present to you one of the best GIFs on the internet, created by the genius behind FashGIF:
I NEED to hear your comments on this one. Talk to me (ooooooh talk to me).