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Instagram sold me Pillow Slides. Ugly pool shoes are coming for you, too.
The puffy, waterproof sandals are the season’s social media scourge, and I had to have them.
Pillow Slides, the ugliest shoe of summer 2021, photographed luxuriously.
Pillow Slides, the ugliest shoe of summer 2021, photographed luxuriously. [ STEPHANIE HAYES | Times ]
Published May 11
Updated Jun. 4

This summer’s hottest look is “I give up.”

Oh, you thought it was going to be a sexy, fashiony summer? Wrong! Good day, sir! The pandemic has worn us down, changed us in ways we cannot reverse.

Today, I give you Pillow Slides. You might know them by a thousand names — SnugSlips, Cloud Cushion Slides, CrushSlides, Sootheez. Steve Madden makes some. If you are Kendall Jenner, your squishy sandals are $800 Yeezy slides. Other pricey interpretations come from The Attico, Bottega Veneta and Loeffler Randall.

By now, you have gone down an Amazon rabbit hole, where you will find descriptors such as “foot heaven,” “extra-thick,” “waterproof,” and “your best years are slipping away.” They come in a few colors, with no discernable stylistic point of view, other than “large.” It’s as if Adidas pool slides, omnipresent since the 1960s, took growth hormone.

Now that you’ve Googled, you will be flooded with ads that render you powerless. I know, it happened to me. Like Victoria Beckham, I would rather die than wear lilac Crocs. But that was before COVID times. Where I used to take pleasure in curating creative outfits for work, I now sit in a home office dressed like one of the Goonies.

The data reflects our changing lives. The NPD Group, which studies consumer trends, reports that dress and casual shoe sales were already declining pre-pandemic, losing ground to sportswear and athleisure. Aesthetics have relaxed, which is why everything looks so ducklike. Dad shoes, anyone?

“The more comfortable, more functional, more utilitarian — some people call it ugly — has really become today’s fashion,” said Beth Goldstein, NPD’s footwear and accessories industry analyst.

The NPD Group surveyed 1,500 social media users, and 13 percent said they had purchased something impulsively while scrolling in the past year. Only 7 percent said they would do it again.

Indeed, while one-click shopping during Mare of Easttown, every foamy slides video sailed into my Instagram feed. They looked plush, with polished toes slipping into a 4.5-centimeter sole, heels bouncing off compression material. In one SnugSlips ad, a woman stood atop the pointy part of a fire hydrant. Why? Not sure! Was she seriously injured? Dunno! Did I have to have them? Yes!

I paid $30 on pillowslides.com, choosing black, as if this might be more chic. Like, yes, I am wearing pontoon boats, but they are CHANEL pontoons.

They took weeks to arrive. I almost forgot about them, until a friend posted her yellow Pillow Slides on Instagram, claiming I inspired her. Is this how influencing works? We all just buy the same bizarre items and show each other? It is.

So, the review. I was disappointed when I put them on. They felt firmer than the tiny down comforters I had imagined. But as I wore them, I came around. They’re light, but sturdy, the kind of footwear I could picture my peasant foremothers wearing while boiling groats for stew. They can withstand any liquids. These are the shoes of a changing, resilient world.

Ballet flats, oxfords and the like will bounce back somewhat as we return to offices and events, Goldstein said. But I wonder if they will be forever interspersed with shoes that say: “Yes, I had insomnia during the pandemic, and my self-control is low, but I am still standing.”

Related: Read more columns from Stephanie Hayes

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