For & Against: The Fisherman Sandal Trend

First it was the platform flip flop, then the chunky zip boot… now it’s the cult sandal of the summer. You can always count on The Row to produce a hit shoe and fashion girls are falling hard for the brand’s fisherman style this season. But its flat caged design has divided opinion among the SheerLuxe fashion team – here, Charlotte Collins and Polly Sayer share their thoughts…
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Count me in, says Senior Editor & Head Broadcaster Charlotte Collins…

I’ve always been a fan of an ugly shoe. From Buffalo platform trainers in the 90s to Crocs in the noughties (hot pink and impossibly comfortable) and fur-lined Gucci loafers before they hit the mainstream, I’ve never shied away from unusual footwear. I admit – these sandals aren’t a thing of beauty – they’re just the grown-up version of the old fashioned jelly shoe. But the reason I’ve always been attracted to this kind of footwear is because it’s just so much cooler. I dare you to name a cool shoe – the kind that makes even the simplest, most fuss-free outfit look that much more ‘fashion’ – that has ever been pretty. Stumped? That’s because ugly is edgy, and if you’re not edgy in the rest of your wardrobe, you should at least be edgy with your shoes. It’s why the dad trainers – the brainchild of Louis Vuitton, Balenciaga et al – have been such a roaring hit. Girls who don’t want to dip their toe too far into the trend can add them to a denim and knitwear combo to feel that little bit cooler, and these The Row sandals have the same effect.

Summer footwear usually falls into two camps – simple, elegant gladiator styles and chunky, tough sliders. [SL Style Director] Lu and I have long agreed that you fall into either category, rarely both, and I’m certainly the latter. So if, like me, you’re after something just a little less omnipresent than a pair of Birkenstocks this year, this quirky new style ticks every box. The perfect amount of clunky, they flash a bit of skin while still being more city than beach – ideal for the long, London summer. The key to getting it right is to channel your inner The Row girl – think sleek monochrome, silks, linens – and forgetting anything even vaguely schoolgirl-like. A pinafore dress, dungarees, gingham prints and other children-inspired trends should be left at the door, unless you want to look like you’re late for assembly. Teamed with a long-sleeve, airy white maxi or a silk midi and tailored blazer, or even black leather trousers and a knit come autumn – well, consider me officially hooked.

It's a step too far, says Junior Fashion Editor Polly Sayer… 

Like Charlotte, I’ve long been a fan of an ugly shoe – chunky trainers? Yes. Birkenstocks? Of course! Heck, I’ve just spent more than I care to admit on a pair of Chanel dad sandals. Unless I’m going to a wedding, ultra-feminine is not my style, so an edgier shoe is often the easiest way to stop my outfit from feeling too ‘done’. Sadly though, I just can’t get on board with the fisherman sandal – for me it’s just a bit dowdy, a little bit middle-aged man on holiday – you know the kind: socks, cargo shorts and an Ordnance Survey map. For now, I remain convinced that the Chanel/Birkenstock silhouette is simply much nicer to look at – the choice of colours, the quilting, the metalware… need I say more? 

It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that The Row is at least partly responsible for the renaissance of the fisherman sandal, given that the brand has hardly shied away from avant-garde footwear in the past. While the Olsen Twins’ (the pair behind the brand) ready-to-wear aesthetic is clean and pared back, their shoe designs usually inject a modern twist into what would otherwise be called an understated clothing line. Take the mesh slipper, for example – a classic ballet flat reimagined with a translucent, mesh upper that leaves the entire foot exposed. Weird? Perhaps. Impractical? Almost certainly. But it sold out everywhere. I’ve never really seen the appeal, but another of the brand’s cult favourites, the Ginza (a leather flip flop design with a platform sole), has been languishing in my NET-A-PORTER wish list since last year.

I’m happy to acknowledge the possibility that, in a month’s time, you might find me wearing a pair of caged sandals. Regrettably, I’m a slave to good trends and there have been plenty I’ve come around to in the past despite loathing them initially. While I’m not ruling them out of my wardrobe completely, what I can say for sure is that I won’t be forking out £1,000 for the real deal. Chunky sandals are here to stay, but my prediction is the fisherman will enjoy one summer of love before it’s filed under ‘fashion trends we’d rather forget’. If you must give them a go, go for one of the many convincing high-street dupes– they’re a far less expensive way to experiment (before you come to your senses). 

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