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Fashion gets a new name: “The Wrong Shoe Theory”

New fashion: Wrong shoe theory

Start your outfit on the right foot—with the “wrong shoe.” The latest viral trend for looking effortlessly cool, the wrong shoe theory. Which involves pairing beachy sandals with slacks. Or chunky New Balances with a gingham gown, in a seemingly counterintuitive move.

What is the “Wrong Shoe theory”?

The styling hack, aptly named the “wrong shoe theory,” declares that fashion-forward oxymorons like these are oh-so-right. The theory hinges on the idea that “opposites attract,” as outfits are now paired with starkly contrasting footwear that exudes a different vibe from the rest of the look.

For instance, you can pair a more feminine, floral skirt with clunky, masculine boots or dress down a polished pantsuit or gown with chunky sneakers. Toiby Hayes, a content creator with nearly 60,000 followers on TikTok, explained, “When you’re creating an outfit, there’s always a shoe that feels like the ‘right’ choice—a sundress would go with a sandal, dress pants would go with a heel or loafer-type shoe.”

Hayes, who has always embraced contrasting patterns and visual tension in fashion, believes that the “wrong shoe theory” is just another name for her age-old style. However, she emphasizes that picking the “unexpected” shoe choice adds versatility and visual variety to any outfit, expanding the possibilities of your wardrobe.

“My favourite way to style the wrong shoe is to pair an occasion dress with sneakers to make it wearable on a day-to-day basis, instead of letting it sit in my closet waiting for an event,” said the Brooklyn resident, known for her skillful mixing and matching of colors and patterns, reveling in asymmetry.

Is it popular? You bet!

While the concept is not new, its popularity has surged online in recent weeks, with over 27 million views on TikTok. Stylist Allison Bornstein instructs her clients to intentionally style sneakers, for instance, instead of just choosing them for their functionality. In a TikTok clip, Bornstein explains that people should incorporate their go-to kicks with clothes that may not typically match the shoe’s athletic vibe. She showcases examples of the so-called “wrong shoe” choice on Instagram, such as strappy sandals with trousers or loafers with mini skirts.

Bornstein believes the “wrong shoe theory” is important because it signals intention and choice, giving your look personality. Opting for sneakers instead of sandals or heels with a skirt, for example, adds uniqueness to the outfit. It’s why kitten heels and mom jeans look effortlessly elevated, or why Nike Air Force 1s make floral frocks appear flirty yet casual. And if TikTok stylists aren’t convincing enough, Kylie Jenner recently sported white sneakers with a floral sundress, further endorsing the trend.

“By doing that, your outfit feels more dynamic and interesting, and it allows the pieces to stand out and make a statement rather than blending in the way they would if it were the ‘correct choice,'” said Hayes.

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