Style Hack

How to wear ‘fugly’ fashion

It's a complicated trend to get behind, says our Style Director. But you can still dip a toe in

There’s one thing worse than being talked about, and that’s not being talked about.  That sentiment will resonate with quite a few people in fashion, but perhaps none more so than the small group of brands and designers who have shown recently that bad taste – or a version of it – can be good business.

Not long ago it was the fashion peacocks – flouncing in their foulards, capes and trilbies – that generated the most headlines and social media buzz in the menswear universe. Their form of dressing was decorative, refined and focused on sharply cut pieces in expensive fabrics. But these outré outfits have become predictable – a mortal sin in the eyes of the fashion fraternity. As a result,  something else has usurped peacocking as the trend du jour. I’m talking, of course, about the rise of ‘fugly’.

The term (which is a portmanteau of ‘fashion’ and ‘ugly’) first attached itself to a pair of Balenciaga Triple S trainers back in 2017. This clumpy shoe with a bulging sole looks like an orthopaedic aid, but prompted trend-hungry hype beasts to part with £600 in order to own a pair.

The mastermind behind the sneakers is Demna Gvasalia. Balenciaga’s Georgian creative director is also head designer at Vetements and is perhaps best known for reworking flea market finds and army surplus items into genuine fashion currency. Whether he set out with the intention of building Instagram-ready visual virility into his latest garments is hard to say, but they have certainly changed the fashion weather.

Not wanting to be overshadowed, Gucci, Prada, Lanvin and Rick Owens have joined the fun with mash-ups of shell suits, fleece tops, Crocs and yet more stacked trainers. So, for those that want to throw themselves into the trend with gleeful abandon, there’s plenty to choose from. But what about the rest of us?

Personally, I won’t be donning a Nineties-style shell suit this season (been there, done that) but I might just be tempted to dip a toe in the water with a rain-proof bucket hat from Prada, worn with a more conventional coat. Also interesting is a move towards technical fabrics, perhaps fashioned into a subtly padded jacket (à la McQ, below) as a contemporary nod to the shell suit nylons. If you fancy a fleece, YMC offers a more sartorial take.

Alternatively, to get in on the fugly trend, you could just customise your own gardening Crocs or, like me, ask your seven-year-old daughter to take a waterproof pen to your knackered old Converse. You’ll save yourself a pretty penny in the process, too.

Not ready to go full-fugly? Try these

McQ MA1 Anark bomber jacket

A wearable take on the nineties shell suit jacket. The drawstring waist nods towards its sporty roots.


Prada bucket hat

Inspired by the Nineties rave scene, this bucket hat offers a cheerful splash of colour on grey days.


YMC fleece jacket

This quirky fleece is cut like a jacket, but it’s not too bulky to wear beneath a coat as an extra winter layer, either.