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.
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Got the message loud and clear! Don’t buy backless loafers ( ;
These would be great outfits with classic loafers, which fortunately are abundant in stores this fall!
Well don’t let me stop you! Fashion is subjective. They’re not my favorite but I am sure others can rock them!
I think they can look cute, actually. But they don’t stay on my feet. I remember wearing them in the 90s and once, while I was walking outside, I sneezed and my shoe flew into the intersection! That was the end of that trend for me!
I just want to let you know that I laughed out loud when I read your comment!
I thought the same thing! These are totally wearable outfits with loafers, or even sneakers.
I always try to do that, show a trend but make it adaptable for someone who may not want to wear it. It’s definitely easy to swap out the backless loafers with a pair of loafers, slip-ons or booties.
I completely agree about the difficulty of walking in mules, I had a cute black pointy-toed pair for my first office job and they used to swing wildly around on the end of my feet and even clock me on the ankle… ouch! Worse pain than heels, in the moment anyway. I could never buy another pair after they lost my trust!
Yea, I have found that either you have the gift of being able to walk in them or you don’t. I happen to be excellent in walking in kitten heeled mules, as they were my shoe of choice about 15 years ago when they were popular. But my mom, man, she looks like a baby deer taking her first steps.
A few weeks ago, while at FIT, I saw this guy wearing the Gucci backless loafers and he was shuffling like an old lady. I thought to myself, “You paid that much money to look like an idiot??”
I thought the same thing! These are totally wearable outfits, with loafers, or even sneakers.
I found I couldn’t keep mules on (or backless clogs either), so I’m going to assume that the fact that they’re called “backless loafers” now won’t make them stay on my feet any better. I tried them back then, but not this time!
Yea, you learn once and never do it again. Some people just don’t have the feet for them. I think it is funny to get caught in the rain wearing them. They are nearly impossible to keep on.
I own a few pairs and I do enjoy them. I find them comfortable and like how they look with pants.
Awesome!! I am glad you like them! I can’t believe they are back! What goes around comes around!
For many years I’ve loved cute feminine looking shoes. I’ve seen several shoe trends appear, disappear then find there way back in style many years later. One trend I’ve never jumped on the bandwagon for is the backless loafers.
I agree with this statement you made about backless shoes. “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?” And I think you know how much I love ballet flats.
Haha! I know you do! They’re not bad, they’re just wildly nostalgic for me. BTW, speaking of ballerina flats, have you heard of Sabrinas? I just got a few pairs to try and I am reviewing them in a post next week. They are quite awesome!
Sabrinas? Is that a brand name or a style of ballerina flats? I guess I could Google it, haha. Can’t wait to see your post / review.
Sabrinas is the company. The flat is called the London. I have two pairs.
I checked out the London, Sabrinas at the Footwearetc(dot)com link. Very cute and I’m betting super comfy. Can’t wait for your review.
I wonder how’d they compare to my TB Minnie’s?
Well, it’s hard to say because I have never had the Minnie’s on my feet, but from a look standpoint, it seems like the Sabrinas have more structure and support. I will give you a sneak peek of what they look like.
Thanks for the sneak preview. I agree, the soles look more structured which likely translates to comfy. They’re also very cute. Thanks for quick peak.
No problem. What I like about them is, even though they have that structure, they don’t look like it once you have them on. There is also a 5mm of memory foam in the shoes.
I will stay tuned I’d like to try that brand of flats? do you know where can I purchase them online? Thanks and have a nice day 🙂
Ivan, they aren’t easy to come by in the US, although I’m not sure you are in the US, actually. They prefer you purchase in person but Footwearetc.com carries them online. Sabrinas is a company out of Spain. You can check out my review of their London flat next week.
Hi Bridgette, I checked at the site you told me, but as you said they aren’t easy to bring to Canada, the shipping fee and custom taxes are almost as expensive as these cute flats. I have a pair of Bernie Mev flats that looks quite similar like your cute Sabrinas London flats and they are easier to purchase here in Canada, and they are super comfty. I plan to do a review soon of that brand , until now I will wait to read your review about your Sabrinas flats.Have a nice weekend !
Hi Ivan, I think if you inquire with their site in Spain you an find some stores near you. https://www.sabrinas.es/us/en/tiendas Those are cute flats! I like the basketweave look!
I like backless loafers , I only have 3 pairs and I wear mostly after my dance lessons or honestly when I am too lazy to slip on my flats on summer or after dancing all the night and my feet shout the other day:” Slippers !!”, but definitely a pair of cute ballerinas flats keeps my feet as comfty as mules but more protected. I love my Frye Melanie mules very comfortable and look great with skinny or denim jeans. And here my cheapy mules for summer or sundays 😉 Thanks for the great review!!
I think they are about as useful, and attractive, as shooties, but that’s me. Having said that, I have about a dozen pair that I inherited from my mom and they are comfortable and, given my penchant for being barefoot, I keep a pair in each room and a pair by each door to the house.
I will use them while I have them, but I use them as slippers/’house shoes’ only.