You may recall that I am working as a critic to 4th semester fashion design students at The Fashion Institute of Technology, the school where I got my fashion design degree 22 years ago. My role is quite cool. Basically, I am giving direction to these students as they develop their term garments, which are garments that they design and create as a final project for one of their classes. I have been doing it a few weeks now and it has been so much fun. I am having a blast working with the students, using a part of my brain I don’t get to use that often and doing something different from my normal workday. Doing this job has also been nostalgic beyond belief.
First of all, I am back at the school I went to, which, with the exception of attending the school’s yearly fashion shows, I haven’t really been back to since I graduated. I haven’t been in the classrooms since I was a student, making it totally nostalgic considering the classrooms haven’t changed all that much. In addition, despite being 2016 and not 1994, the students are basically the same, from the Manic Panic dyed hair, the bedraggled clothes (fashion design students are notorious for puling frequent all-nighters), the creative energy and outrageous talent (FIT is one of only two American colleges with fashion design programs that rank in the top ten in the world.) Yet, to make the nostalgia even greater, what was hot in 1994 is basically in style again. In fact, I had one student tell me she was inspired by the grunge era, to which I replied, “I was a student here during the that era.” Lord, help me. So imagine what it is like to come back to a place that looks and feels like time has stood still but you haven’t.
So here we are, looking at past trends from the 90’s surfacing again and I am seeing those backless loafers, also known as mules, that many of us wore back then and I cringe. I mean, I really cringe. How the heck did they manage to slip through the cracks and make it back into the stores? Who wasn’t paying attention? The only thing they were good for was making it possible to slip your shoes on quickly, and don’t we have ballerina flats for that?
Clearly, I’m not a fan. I wasn’t much of one when they came out the first time and I don’t see myself changing my mind now that I am older and wiser. Yet, I also recognize that not everyone will agree with my feelings. Therefore, if you are considering giving backless loafers a try again, or if you’re seeing them for the first time and think they are neat and worth buying, I have put three looks together using them. And be sure to check out the additional backless loafers at the end of this post for more.
How to Wear Backless Loafers (Mules) this Fall
First, it is important to point out that some people can walk in backless loafers and others just can’t. It takes a toe clenching technique I have often called the Eagle Claw. You need the ability to grip your toes in a way that keeps these shoes from sliding off or else you will look like an old lady shuffling around in slippers.
In the outfit above, I styled these cognac backless mules from Shiloh with a pair of boyfriend jeans from Lucky Brand, a grey turtleneck sweater from J. Crew, colorblocked poncho from White House|Black Market, and finished the loo with a pair of earrings from Ann Taylor, resin bangle from Banana Republic and crossbody bag from Shinola. I paired the crossbody with this look because it is an easy style to use when you wear a poncho.
Another thing to remember is that backless loafers are not meant to be worn with socks. Years ago, when they were popular last, I would see women wearing socks with these. Talk about making a bad trend look worse. This is something to consider when purchasing shoes like this. If it gets cold where you live you may not be able to wear these that long. And don’t try them with stockings. Nylons are too slippery and you won’t really be able to keep your grip on the shoes.
I styled these backless loafers from Steve Madden with a pair of grey skinny ankle pants from Elie Tahari, a relaxed blouse from Vince, and accessorized the look with a multistrand necklace from Bauble Bar and teal bag from Furla.
If backless loafers just look too weird for you, you can embrace the ease of mules and slides without choosing the classic loafer shape. For many, this may be more palatable. Also, remember nobody wants to hear your shoes slapping all around when you walk.
This last pair from Anthropologie is much less loafer-y looking and works well with these zip ankle leggings from J. Crew and relaxed plaid shirt from Madewell. For accessories, I added this fringed infinity scarf from Nordstrom, grey bag from Hobo and black stone earrings from The Sak.
At the end of the day, if you like the look of backless loafers, please, wear them and enjoy them. Sometimes our dislike of a trend has less to do with the look and more to do with personal history. And given how much nostalgia has been occurring in my life lately, I am happy to leave this one alone.
Shop for backless loafers
On the search for your perfect style? Check out these other backless loafers