The ugly sandals I said I would never buy

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Fashion loves pool slides, but Lauren Bravo never thought she’d hop on board

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By Lauren Bravo on

I was so against pool slides, for such a long time. Proudly against them. Loudly against them, to anyone who would listen (and who understood they weren’t a flume at Butlin’s). 

It was the shape, I argued – like the towelling slippers your Uncle Rodney steals from his weekend break at Champneys. Also, the shuffling, flat-footed walk and noise they make – the slap-slap-squelch of that weird old uni housemate who wouldn’t go in the shower barefoot. I hated the rubber ones, with their confusing sporty-cum-hospital-ward aesthetic, and I hated the leather ones, which Vogue was determined we should wear, slouching, with oversized white suits and puffer jackets. They were fugly and lazy and you couldn’t run for a bus in them. They’d be over by September.

I wasn’t afraid of a tricky trend in general, you understand. I’ve gleefully bought and worn so many unwearable things in my time that my boyfriend’s default response to new outfits is: “OK, if you say so.” But everyone has to draw a line somewhere and sliders were my sticking point. Not this time, fashion! Save it for some other chump! I wouldn’t be swayed. 

Until I was, obviously, because fashion will make hypocrites of us all. 

You know how it goes, like catching flu – one day, a barely noticeable tickle; the next day, a slight temperature; and then, suddenly, BAM! You’re glassy-eyed and sweating, walking into Topshop with your arms outstretched. I finally snapped and bought my sliders at the end of summer 2015, marked down to a tenner in the Office sale (similar pair here). They weren’t even my size but, by that point, the fever had taken hold and I had to have a pair immediately. 

It’s hard, sometimes, to separate your own personal taste from the shifting sands of fashion. We’re made to feel silly and frivolous for succumbing to a trend.

I glanced around me at the till, sheepish, imagining a nightmarish court scenario – me, squirming in the dock, while they read out the evidence. “In a tweet dated 7th March, 2014, Ms Bravo, did you or did you not declare: ‘If pool slides actually become a fashion item this summer, I am crawling into a cupboard and never coming out’?”

“Are you still in your cupboard, Lauren? Have you built a new life as The Well-Shod Cupboard Woman of N4?” 

No, OK, I bloody haven’t. I love my ugly sliders. ARE YOU HAPPY NOW, VOGUE?

It’s hard, sometimes, to separate your own personal taste from the shifting sands of fashion. We’re made to feel silly and frivolous for succumbing to a trend. The true woman of substance, we’re told, ignores transient fashion and buys only timeless things like black linen shift dresses. Then, with clothes at the more, er, Caliban-ish end of the spectrum, there’s always that vague worry that it might all be a trick – that, the moment anyone actually wears them, Anna Wintour might leap out and yell, “Ahahahaha I never thought you’d actually DO it! OMG, Karl, come and look at this!” in the manner of a playground mean girl. 

Lauren in her pool slides (Similar pair available at Office, £24.99)

And it’s harder in summer, with the heat addling your brain, to work out what you actually love and what’s just a form of style mirage in the desert. We all wear odd things when the thermometer goes above 25 – even the most devoted goth can find themselves wafting about, confused, in a floral smock dress and sandals. Our bodies are suddenly exposed to scrutiny and sunburn. We panic.

Deep down, I think the truth is I’ve always been a little bit afraid of ugly sandals in the same way I’m a little bit afraid of all trends in summer. Because we all know style lies in juxtaposition – the mini with the oversized, the classy with the trashy, the hard with the soft – and I’ve never felt dainty enough to wear something so utilitarian and pull it off. In my head, summer trends are for the lithe urban wood nymphs – elegant slips of people in elegant slips of fabric – while the best I can hope to do is find some Spanx and a flattering sundress and sit the next three months out with a hand fan. 

So it was a teeny tiny rebellion, buying those sliders. Not just against my righteous former self, but also against the weird inner rule that said I had to be alluring and uncomfortable from May to August. I’ve been blistered and pinched by pretty summer shoes too many times – and, for what it's worth, you can’t run for the bus in them either. 

Two years later, fashion has branched out into new flavours of ugly shoe (backless loafers I’ll sanction, embellished Crocs I will not), but I still sank gratefully into my sliders this morning, like the romcom heroine who realises she was in love with the guy she thought she hated all along. I’ll shuffle through summer, just happy to be proved wrong. 

Click here for the best pool slides on the high street



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