In two weeks, I’m traveling to Africa for the first time. When I step off that plane I’ll be stepping onto my third continent in roughly a year. When I step off that plane, I’ll be stepping out wearing my trusty Tevas. Africa will be their third continent in a year, too. I paired my Tevas with a silk jumpsuit while wedding dress shopping in L.A. I wore my Tevas on assignment in the Florida Everglades, crouched down in the hull of a swamp boat, hoping an alligator wouldn’t chomp on my exposed toes. I protected said toes’ modesty by wearing socks with my Tevas in Oman’s Grand Mosque. I was wearing my Tevas a few nights ago when, slightly drunk on mezcal in Mexico, I fell into an open sewer.
The fact that my Tevas seemed like the appropriate footwear for all of these scenarios is what makes them the perfect travel companion, and it’s this low-key adaptability that makes me so obsessed with the brand. Now listen, I was (as perhaps you are now) skeptical at first. The last time I owned Tevas I was still wearing polar-fleece half-zip pullovers and eating raisins in the backseat of a neighbor’s Volkswagen as they carpooled me to mandatory recreational sports practice.
Developed in the 80s by a geophysicist/whitewater rafting guide, the brand (whose name translates to “nature” in Hebrew) has always represented a certain crunchy outdoorsiness that angsty kids who grew into East Coast city-goths like me shun out of habit. Tevas were for kids whose parents took them hiking and taught them the proper pronunciation of the word “nature” in Hebrew (it’s Teh-vuh, not Tee-vuh.) But times, and I, have changed.
Last year my travel schedule created the need for something I could only describe as a “performance sandal.” After scoping the orthopedic curves and elastic straps of brands like Keen and Merrell, I was desperate for something that was simultaneously utilitarian and cute.
In walked Teva.
As a brand, they know their reputation, but rather than ignore it by earnestly marketing to outdoor enthusiasts, they seem to be cheekily owning their identity. Like Timberlands, or other labels that have successfully made the jump from utility to streetwear, Teva isn’t forsaking their core product; they are just having a little fun with it. Not only does their website have a section about how to pair their products with socks, you can even choose the height of the platform. Platforms might not be the best choice for long-endurance activities, but the brand’s recent bright collab with Outdoor Voices signals that they aren’t straying too far from their roots -- only updating it for a new type of colorway-conscious, Instagram-styled consumer.
My Instagram DM’s have been a battleground of opinions from friends and followers. . This divisiveness isn’t all that surprising considering that Tevas are manufactured by the same parent company who own UGGs. Both brands flaunt a pragmatic anti-style that breeds intense loyalty. By designing shoes that apparently never even take into account sex-appeal, they’re allowing women to subvert the tired old “fashion over function” trope. By insisting that function is fashion, fans can winkingly claim their comfort while feeling like provocateurs.
At least, this is the narrative that runs through my head when I strap my amazingly adjustable Tevas on my much-abused feet and walk into a fancy restaurant. Their minimalist sensibility blended with unsentimental design, contribute to the effortless road-savvy, cool-girl travel aesthetic so many woman (including myself) try to project. Besides, as anyone who grew up in the 90s can attest, a strappy sandal pairs well with everything, even when drenched in Mexican sewer water.
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