When crocs appeared on the runway during Balenciaga's SS18 show, the world freaked out. Here it was, the ugliest shoe of all, an ultimate normcore no-go, presented as a sick joke and real-life clickbait. It was also the perfect embodiment of fashion’s biggest obsession right now: bad taste. Platform crocs are just the tip of the iceberg – for the SS18 season, tacky digital prints, rhinestone sunglasses and shiny suits were all the rage on the runways, despite looking like they were found in a ’00s-era suburban mall.
We know it’s wrong, but how come it feels so right?
First of all, the ’00s style comeback is upon us. Vetements paved the way with their SS17 collection, which brought back Juicy Couture velour tracksuits and Manolo Blahnik stiletto heels. But there's more where that came from. Remember flame prints? Obnoxious use of logos? Wearing your trousers too low? All these things are due to come back, thanks to fashion's apparently endless cycle of repetition and citation.
Secondly, fashion today is a ruthless battle for attention, and nothing gets as much attention as something outrageous. After all, this is how fashion works: everything that was once condemned becomes desirable. But now the process is amplified even further, thanks to social media and memes.
On the other hand, as is so often the case in fashion, nothing is what it seems. This trend is not actual "bad taste," but a skillful re-enactment of visual conventions. We’re talking about high-end labels like Gucci, Calvin Klein and Balenciaga appropriating the aesthetic of tastelessness, in the same way they’d reimagine the dress code of a certain subculture. The fabricated game of "bad taste" has its own rules, and it’s never sloppy – in fact, you have to try very hard to look "bad" just the right way. In a post-Vetements world, you could pick up a few nice style tricks at Walmart, but in the larger context of the fashion industry, a "bad taste" wardrobe would cost you big bucks.
So in the end, why is fashion turning to things that look questionable, funny, or even borderline repulsive? It’s definitely part of a new maximalism, the new era of dressy flamboyance, which comes as a reaction to our ongoing obsession with streetwear. It also seems to be the climax of irony, which feels strangely liberating: if anything goes, it means that all our pre-conceptions of fashion can be redefined, sooner or later.
Crocs, in fact, are not the worst; here's 10 more runway trends that you never thought you’d be wearing.
Get ready to expose your hip bones, because trousers in SS18 hang very, very low. It's hard not to mention ’00s style icons like Britney, Christina and Paris here – low-slung jeans back then were appropriate for any situation, even the red carpet.
But it’s not just about the noughties – Alexander McQueen’s iconic "bumsters" from SS97 were cited a few times, too. Twenty years later, showing skin below the waistline was a thing at Chromat, Fenty x PUMA, The Row, Eckhaus Latta and Haider Ackermann.
Of course, nothing goes as well with low-waist trousers as high-rise underwear. According to Vogue, exposed thongs are officially back, and they were shown at New York runways by Linder and Bevza. In menswear, a combo of exposed boxers and sagging trousers has a long and troubled political history.
It arguably originated in prison, due to the lack of both belts and suitable uniform sizes, and sagging trousers have been a symbol of rejection of the values of mainstream society by hip-hop artists and skaters since the ’90s. In Ocala, Florida, authorities even tried to ban the sag.
Tough luck for them: for SS18, emerging label Barragán showed a pair of boxers patterned like a tacky tribal tattoo high above the belt, and there is a great abundance of Gucci and Calvin Klein elastic bands seen on the street style circuit, too.
Nothing reflects juvenile coolness better than a flame print. Still not convinced? How about Guy Fireri’s flame shirt, burger ads and motocross? Flame graphics has been a staple for Vetements for some time, used on both boots and hoodies. This season, it also popped up in abundance at Gareth Pugh, on Heather fur coats and Vans.
Is it possible to be dressed like a cowboy and not look like a dick? A few major designers suggest you at least give it a try. Your take on the style could be subtle, like stylized shirts and jackets at Raf Simons’ Calvin Klein and Our Legacy; eclectic, like cow-and-red-floral jackets at Marques Almeida; or over-the-top, like studded black leather Versace pieces which look more like an outfit for an ’80s S&M club. The trend is also reflected in abundant animal prints and fringe on everything – tropes which have been a taboo in menswear until recently.
Windows 98 Prints
Digital prints are definitely on the rise, looking very intensely like the back wall of your favorite pizza take-away: tights, dresses and blouses with digital prints of euro and dollar notes were the showstoppers at the latest Balenciaga show. A few other pieces in the collection featured sunset scenes and alpine landscape which looked like digital desktop wallpaper circa 1997.
Balenciaga was not the only one indulging in the over-the-top designs: OFF-WHITE had abundant flower pattens, and Gypsy Sport an imitation of crumpled exhibition posters.
Shiny suits, a staple of Eastern European weddings, are finally making it into the world of high fashion. Martine Rose elevated silky shirts and tacky ties to state of the art with her FW17 collection, Hvala Ilija channeled his Balkan heritage with light blue and purple green sparkle, and there were some great metallic orange numbers in Shayne Oliver’s Helmut Lang debut. It doesn't stop there – wearing a suit jacket over a naked chest is now also a thing, as seen at Gosha Rubchinskiy and Calvin Klein.
Your Grandma's Florals
It’s not just any flower print we're talking about here – SS18 is time for those suffocatingly cutesy ones from the curtains and dish cloths at your grandma's house. Vetements got there first with their aprons way back in SS16, but now Gucci is also there, and Supreme x Stone Island's recent puffer jackets look like they were made so that your mum would finally approve of your wardrobe choices.
Remember the days when Louis Vuitton logo bags were treated like cheap tack, and no-logo minimalism was the all the rage? Gone are those days: logos and monograms are everywhere, from Gucci (which takes it to the max) to Fendi and Lanvin, who make monograms into prints, while LOEWE try to play it relatively safe.
Demna Gvasalia’s take on Balenciaga's logo is slightly different: turned into a minuscule print, it looks almost corporate and mundane, like an office carpet. Graphics re-appropriated from the the mundane day-to-day life are also used frequently, for example Raf Simons’ “I <3 NY” sweaters and “Summer Games” corporate tees.
For more fashion think-pieces, here's why we should stop pretending Balenciaga's meme-bait is cool.