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How Tevas Became Cool

by: Rosie Dalton | 1 year ago | Features

Image: Sandy Liang SS19. Image source

Teva sandals may be grounded in comfort and practicality, but they have become as much a part of the cultural zeitgeist as Levi’s 501s or the all-white sneaker. Case in point: New York Fashion Week’s spring-summer 2019 shows, which were awash with Teva sandals. Everyone from Collina Strada, to Sandy Liang and homegrown heroes Tome went deep on the trend, sending models down the runway in decidedly more comfortable footwear than they are usually accustomed.

Of course, the ‘ugly-pretty’ shoe trend is nothing new – Crocs, Birkenstocks and Havaianas, I am looking at you. But the recent tendency for designers to embrace the Teva sandal proves that comfort is unequivocally in. And we couldn’t be happier about it. Because, with Teva taking centre stage, this is likely to propel the influence of gorpcore to new heights – and that can only spell good news for the future of our planet.

Gorpcore is the rejection of fast fashion in favour of something that is kinder to the planet. Over recent years, it has been embodied by brands like Patagonia and embraced wholeheartedly by youth culture, in reaction to greater environmental awareness. Which is perhaps part of the reason why curators at New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) decided to include the classic Teva sandal in their recent retrospective, ‘Is Fashion Modern?’.

The exhibition collated 111 objects that define fashion in the 20th Century. And right there amongst the Breton tees, the Levi’s jeans and Steve Jobs’ famous turtlenecks, were Teva’s Original Universal Sandal. The inclusion proved that Tevas have become part of the cultural zeitgeist, but it also said something about the very fabric of our fashion landscape right now. It showed that fashion is finally moving away from frivolity and doubling down on a more conscious approach.

Image: Collina Strada SS19. Image source.

This is Teva to a tee. Because when the original shoe was first developed in the Grand Canyon back in the 1980s, high fashion was probably furthest from mind. Instead, a river guide named Mark Thatcher fashioned the footwear out of basic need. While hiking in the iconic national park, Thatcher decided he would need to create a shoe that wouldn’t float away. So he achieved this by rigging two Velcro watchbands to an old pair of flip-flops. And Teva was born.

Thatcher may not have expected Teva sandals to become a fashion statement 30 years later, but as environmentalism has become cool and people have started trading in their sky-high stilettos for basic practicality, that’s exactly what has happened. For SS18, for example, Area NYC injected the ‘ugly’ sandal with some fresh sex appeal, while Ashley Williams gave them a sparking makeover at London Fashion Week. And, at the SS19 shows, Sandy Liang’s diaphanous dresses were offset by the basic utility of Tevas, worn with white socks. Suddenly, comfort seems cooler – and more approachable – than ever. 

Image: Sandy Liang SS19. Image source

But certain tastemakers and trendsetters have seen this coming for a long time. “I bought my first pair of Tevas when I went to Yosemite in 1993,” explains Humberto Leon, one half of New York-based brand Opening Ceremony. “I needed something that I could wear in and out of water. I had turquoise patterned ones. That's where I first fell in love with the shoes.” As an early adopter of the trend, Leon says this formed the basis for a special relationship forged between the two brands; a collaborative partnership that lasted several seasons.

More recently, Teva teamed up with Beyoncé-approved singers and sister act Chloe and Halle Bailey, for a campaign that proved this is the new 'It' shoe. What collaborations like these ones have shown – along with the styling at Collina Strada and Tome – is that Tevas are now ripe for experimentation. They can be personalised with tassels à la Tome, or paired with socks in the spirit of Collina Strada. But, for us personally, the classic Teva is pretty damn perfect, just as it is.


You can shop our full range of Teva sandals over here.

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