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What’s the ‘Wrong Shoe’ Styling Theory?

Looking for a fun way to put your own twist on fall’s latest fashions? Start feet first. 

The “wrong shoe” styling principle comes from stylist Allison Bornstein. It’s an idea that’s spread like wildfire on TikTok, where this fashion trend has received over 500 million views. Essentially: pair shoes that don’t seem to match the rest of the outfit for a unique, unexpected, and edgy look. 

Think: flip-flops with tailored pants, riding boots and athletic shorts, heels with sweatpants, dad sneakers with maxi dresses — anything that feels so wrong it looks just right. 


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♬ original sound – Allison Bornstein

“Flip-flops add a casual and beachy element to a tailored trouser, and the trouser elevates the flip-flop,” Bornstein explained in Vogue. “A trouser, of course, is still super chic with a classic heel or a loafer; however, if your look feels too straightforward or one-note, this is a really easy and low-stakes trick to try.”

The wrong shoe approach to styling follows the current trend of dressing outside the box for comfort, function, or just to suit your own taste. Bornstein says the idea originally came from a client who wore sneakers to keep pace with her busy lifestyle—but the rest of her wardrobe wasn’t sporty. The choice to wear the so-called “wrong shoes” makes “the footwear seem more intentional rather than functional.” 

How to Apply the Wrong Shoe Theory

How can you apply the wrong shoe theory to your dressing? The good news is that it doesn’t require any shopping expeditions. “It doesn’t require you to buy a single thing – it’s about using what you have in your wardrobe in a new way,” Bornstein said.

Dive into your closet to see what you can mix and match. Tennis-core and loafers? Why not! Rom-com core and hiking boots? It works! Put your best foot forward (pun intended) and wear what feels good in the moment.

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