And dare we say it’s sheer genius?
Fashion loves nothing more than a shoe that raises eyebrows. Crocs are inexplicably in the midst of an ongoing renaissance. Margiela’s Tabis‘ unconventional split-toe design has become a cult favourite. A few months into 2023, Mschf’s Big Red Boots broke the internet thanks to their confusing cartoonish design and absurd dimensions. And now, a surprising new style has begun to reign supreme in the realm of impractical shoes: mesh flats.
RELATED: Flats Are Cute, Actually
The closest you can get to going barefoot without entirely forgoing protection, mesh flats reveal smushed-together toes and feet that look as though they are protruding from shoes. While strategically concealing and exposing the foot, they are the immediate star of any outfit thanks to their, well, weirdness. The see-through style — which is basically just the tights-as-pants fad, but for your feet — has already been dubbed “summer’s most sensual trend” because of its unapologetic commitment to putting toes on display. Simply put, it takes all the polarizing aspects of the coveted ballet flat and doubles down on them. Unsupportive soles? Probably not great in the rain? A sweat-trapping hazard? Yes to all of the above.
Logistically, mesh flats make no sense. But visually, these sleek second skins are the perfect choice for today’s It shoe sentiments. These are not the Carrie Bradshaw Manolo Blahniks of yore. In an era of recession core, the ultra-thin naked flats have become a must-have footwear trend because they are decidedly under the radar about it all.
Unsurprisingly, The Row was the first to champion the unassuming coolness of the see-through style, thanks to its fan-favourite Mesh Sock Flats. Since then, brands like Sandy Liang, Khaite, Bottega Veneta, Alaïa and more have given their take on the trend, often quickly selling out and garnering even more curiosity over the shoe that’s not quite a shoe.
In recent months, mesh flats have taken off among fashion crowds and trendsetters du jour, paired with styles of all kinds, from denim ensembles to maxi skirts. Earlier this month, a casually dressed Jennifer Lawrence was spotted in fishnet Mary Janes by Alaïa, perfectly in line with her burgeoning minimalist fashion prowess. Following that, Chrissy Teigen snapped a luxe mirror selfie in a pair of slip-ons from The Row. Most recently, Sofia Richie wore Alaïa’s bedazzled iteration to “run errands.” (Presumably the expensive kind, like getting a $23 smoothie at Erewhon.) As the ultimate antithesis of traditional towering high heels, it’s not hard to see the appeal of mesh flats. Sure, they may not be orthopedic-friendly or stain-resistant, but there’s something decidedly enticing about them.
In all its impractical glory, the flat mesh shoe is the culmination of quiet luxury. It’s understated yet refined; effortless yet put-together. It’s the shoe that couldn’t be bothered to commit to being a shoe. It’s a way of taking the straightforward, objectively simple design of the ballet flat and infusing it with intention. Whether it’s embellished with crystals and floral appliqués or made in straightforward netting or crocheted styles, the see-through flat functions first and foremost to adorn the foot in new, nonsensical ways. And nothing says It shoe more than that.
Ready to take the first step in showing your toes? (Sorry.) Styles are selling out fast, so below, FASHION rounded up the best mesh flats on the market right now for summer 2023.
This article contains affiliate links, so we may earn a small commission when you make a purchase through links on our site at no additional cost to you.