It may seem difficult for a fashion brand to design something that’s widely reviled by both men and women. But the company Jeffrey Campbell has done just that with its clunky monster of an ankle boot, called the ‘Lita’. Simply put, the shoe looks like an elephant on your foot.
They may be the most popular ugly shoe on the planet: The boot, with its two-inch platform and 5.25 inch heel, is the Clydesdale hoof of modern footwear. In three years’ time, the Lita has been issued in a surplus of heinous fixings: multicolor glitter, curlycue sheepskin, and even a cat tapestry fabric.
Pushing the page even farther, last week it was announced that Jeffrey Campbell, a Los Angeles-based brand best known for producing cheaper imitations of runway shoes had teamed up with e-tailing site Ashbury Skies to release a wedding range of Litas, called—somewhat fittingly—‘Cold Feet’.
First introduced in 2010, the shoe style was initially offered in a single, enticing color: mustard yellow. Named after Lita Ford of the '70s band The Runaways, as Campbell’s blog describes, the shoe took a little while to find is footing. “When we first introduced the shoe it was not very well received,” a Jeffrey Campbell spokesperson told The Daily Beast. But it was picked up by e-commerce giant Nasty Gal—the fashion portal that hawks LA street-style items like cut-off shorts and lace bustiers—which gave the boots exposure online.
In the last three years, the shoe has expanded its stronghold, becoming the calling-card accessory for droves of wannabe style bloggers. According to the brand’s spokesperson, Litas have been produced in 164 different colors and 65 different versions so far, amounting to 160,000 pairs sold—all of which retail in the ballpark of $160. The shoes’ popularity has even spawned a Tumblr page called Who Stole My Litas!, which features the boots photoshopped onto the feet of cultural phenomenons from Muammar al-Gaddafi to Gossip Girl’s Chuck Bass.
As a former student at FIT, this writer laid witness to Lita boots’s unfortunate rise. The style emerged with opportune timing—caught in the crosshairs of both the Christian Louboutin platform craze and the introduction of Instagram. Its massive platform gives city dwellers the opportunity to traipse around with relatively painless added height. In that sense, their convenience is undeniable. (But Uggs’ comfort is also undeniable—and you don’t see a whole lot of fashion students wearing those.)
The shoes’ popularity started out innocently enough: the majority of Lita wearers settled on black, which they’d often pair with American Apparel chiffon maxi skirts and some sort of sweater. But then the shoe exploded—soon coming plastered in cosmic prints and American flags. They became ubiquitous and tired, but no less strange looking. Within a year, the elephant shoes had trickled down through fashion social hierarchy, proliferating from the feet of Teen Vogue interns to those of downtown dive bar dwellers. In the lead-up to that summer’s Independence Day festivities, New York’s peacocking neighborhoods were awash with the American flag print version.
And yet, three years later, they’re still around—and appear to be as popular as ever. Unfortunately, this may have something to do with Instagram. Click on the app’s Most Popular tab at any time of day and you’re likely to find a selfie of an unknown-but-influential Internet girl in her #OOTD (Outfit of the Day) filled with exaggerated fashions—which often include Litas. They’re probably Instagram’s favorite shoe (tagged over 47,000 times on the app), but that doesn’t mean they’re attractive in real life.
In fact, many sites before this one have called Litas out for their ugliness. One blog even labeled them as “shoe vom.” “We get that with all of our shoes,” said the Jeffrey Campbell rep. “We’re used to it.”
But there comes a point when a trend’s massive success is undeniably legitimate, no matter how hideous it may be. That rings true in the case of the Lita. Search YouTube for a review of the style and you’ll be inundated with a variety of girls preaching their admiration for the gargantuan ankle boot. One video blogger even said that she likes her Litas because “It’s kind of cool when you, like, wear really tall shoes and, like, everything seems a little bit distorted. Like, you have to bend further to get something, or you don’t have to reach as high to get something, or when you wash your hands, the level of where the sink is a little different.” (Regardless of one’s personal opinions on both the blogger and the shoes, that video has clocked in nearly 8,700 views since last June, demonstrating an immense interest in the Lita lifestyle.)
As that blogger explained: “I think Jeffrey Campbell has a patent on them because, like, they’re really really popular.”