10/11/2012 01:21 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Why the Brothel Creeper Is As Scary As It Sounds

Friends, fashionistas, countrymen and all who misquote Shakespeare, welcome!

In this column I plan to explore the fashion world through an objective -- read: amusing/brilliant/hilarious -- lens. As a writer, or alienated individual, I believe my ability to see through trends will surpass the skill of someone who is actually style conscious. Consider me your guide to the fashion unconscious. Not in the Freudian sense, but in a fashion-coma way (yes, my wardrobe still resembles that of Brenda Walsh).

I'm your cool grandma who can blog and artfully mock what's "in," a detective for curious souls in both feet and being. I will ask the hard questions, like why did the man skirt make an appearance on the runways last spring, and through this process uncover the history of each object or trend. Without further ado, I bring you exhibit one: the brothel creeper.

brothel creeper


In a classic "we're-indie-so-we-can't-be-bothered-to-think-about-our-appearance" move, hipsters from Brooklyn to London have ushered in the return of the whimsically -- yet wrongly -- titled brothel creeper. This literally "creepy" footwear originated in World War II, where soldiers certainly "creeped" through brothels in search of, um, distraction. Following its march through war, the grotesque sneaker/boot was snatched up by Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood. Despite its popularization by the fashion-forward collaboration of Westwood/McLaren, the brothel creeper will never be aesthetically pleasing. Viewing anything in this world as objective is philosophically problematic, but for the brothel creeper we can be certain that in the most objective sense it cannot be beautiful. If one could witness the sound of two dissonant piano keys clashing simultaneously, it would manifest itself in the form of the brothel creeper. The platform looks -- to be colloquial -- "icky." It's too much of everything, from its awkwardly elevated platform to its battle of round-versus-pointy toe.

My contempt for the prostitution ambler (if I may) can be summarized in this anecdote. While working at i-D magazine, I was asked if I'd like to attend an event to advertise a shoe, which would end with a free pair. As a 22-year-old fashion-conscious female on a budget, the prospect of receiving a complimentary pair of shoes seemed thrilling. It was unimaginable to consider that there could be a pair of free shoes out there that didn't seem at least somewhat appealing. I believed that, as Tim Gunn said, I could "make it work," no matter what the circumstance. This assumption was grossly incorrect. As the disagreeable word parted the lips of the web editor, "brothel creeper," I knew I was in for an edgy shoe. I was unaware, however, that the edge the brothel creeper teetered from was between a cliff of insanity and a ravine of imponderable hideousness. Needless to say, upon some Google image research I was not sold. I was appalled, instead. Yes, there is a free shoe out there that I had to turn down.

Perhaps the beauty of the fugliest shoe ever made lies in the fact that its look can only act as a statement and nothing else, a grandiose F-U to all who will be forced to look upon its unpleasantness in passing or through the shiny display window at Urban Outfitters. My advice to those pondering a purchase of brothel creepers: Walk on.