Fila Disruptors are ugly. Their gawky, rough body and old-man essence is enough to scream their offensiveness to a far distance. Without a doubt, the massively iconic sneaker is the most hated shoe of the year.
But not too long ago, Fila was irrelevant. The sportswear company’s shoes stood among the ranks of department store brands like Skechers and K-Swiss. Disruptors themselves, which were released in 1996, had remained on shelves for over two decades before making a rise to celebrity in late last year.
By that time, athleisure and ’90s fashion had already been on the rise. As an athletic apparel brand, Fila was prepared for their moment, establishing a spot alongside Champion and other repurposed brands at Urban Outfitters. When the release of the beloved Balenciaga sneaker caused an ugly shoe hype, Fila offered up their revamped Fila Disruptor II (also known as “chunky Filas”).
a Doc Marten
– Rupi Kaur
— Jannerz (@jannerz_xo) September 16, 2019
Clearly Balenciagas out-matched Disruptors in nearly every aspect. But where the high-end fashion brand failed was affordability. That’s where Fila succeeded. At only $65 a pair, trend-conscious consumers could buy into the chunky sneakers of the season. The large push of the shoe in all-white also gave Fila an advantage as well: White sneakers are a wardrobe essential.
Everyone either had a pair, or wanted one. The shoes are comfy, they’re distinct and they add often-desired height. Fila also can attribute the Disruptor’s success to the evolution of sneakers from a sports essential to a fashion staple.
Disruptor II’s reached peak sales a few months short of a year ago. At the time, Fila Disruptor II’s were given rave reviews, even claiming the title of Footwear News’ “shoe of the year.” Celebrities across the music, film and other industries were seen sporting the sneaker.
Despite positive reviews, the general consensus was always that the sneakers are ugly. And ugly was the point. Recent years in fashion have adopted an anti-fashion approach.
A major appeal of anti-fashion is that the movement marks an individual’s resistance to conformity. When Fila Disruptors exploded into the mainstream, the purpose of flaunting the distinct shoe was defeated. The irony was not missed when influencers began to consider the blatantly unattractive shoe as a cute must-have.
Then the memes emerged.
therapist: chunky fila fuzzy boot isn’t real. it can’t hurt you
chunky fila fuzzy boot: https://t.co/lHKoJKHzQJ
— Beans After Dark (@goodbeanalt) September 6, 2019
Skeptics had expressed their distaste for the now infamous shoe from the very beginning — not everyone could get behind ugly. Despite the pushback, initial contempt was ignored and sales went on to skyrocket.
Strong opinions against Disruptors eventually surfaced and have become wildly popular throughout this year. The chunky shoes have been dissed in every meme format from wcw references to therapist jokes. “Girls cop a pair of those ugly white Fila shoes and think they have a strong shoe game,” tweeted one user.
The Fila Disruptor meme madness reached its peak when images depicting signs banning the shoe began to circulate Twitter. The internet has spoken. Filas are a definitive “no.”
If the memes aren’t convincing enough, aversion also flows from the fashion community. Vogue pronounced the end of dad shoes in July and Garage left Disruptors with an anything-but-stellar review. On an individual level, celebrities and early adopters have long since moved onto the next up-and-coming trend.
The rise and fall of the chunky Fila came at rapid speed. Most trends fizzle out, but due to the social backlash, Disruptors went out with a bang, revealing the sneakers were a poor investment. Those who still wear the shoes are forced to also wear the stigma that surrounds them. Considering the Disruptor’s fashion-forward lifespan lasted less than a year, Balenciagas might have been worth the investment after all.
The moral of the story? Mass production of novel, “basic” products never goes over well. In an age of social media, where tweets spread cancel culture like wildfires, choosing cheap, trendy and unconsciously tacky apparel is going to cost more both from a long-term economic and social standpoint.
With that said, the Disruptor created an important legacy. As this decade’s first widely-worn “chunky,” “ugly” shoe, the form of the Fila Disruptor has ushered a movement in sneaker fashion. Gone are the days where the standard shoe is a simple, thin-soled design by Converse or Vans. Distinct, innovative designs in every sector of apparel are on the rise. Disruptors may be retired, but the nonconformist fashion movement has just begun.