ELLE Loves: These ’90s-Inspired Shoes Check All My Boxes

Fashion

A few years ago, the style section of a certain paper of record branded a fashion aesthetic of the moment: the Brooklyn clog mom. She’s got a flair for fashion that’s a bit bohemian, a touch utilitarian, with a dash of indulgence that’s grounded by the wooden-soled shoes. Much as with grunge back in the ’90s (when that particular famous collection graced the cover of a major newsmagazine, my mom said, “There’s a name for what you wear!”), I’d been embracing this style MO for a decade before I even became a mom.

Yes, my fashion uniform is decidedly Brooklyn—roomy silhouettes, ankle-grazing straight-leg pants, hands-free bags, paired with, you guessed it, clogs. I have an all-weather assortment: Winter is all about shearling-lined ankle and knee-high boots. For summer I’ve got an arsenal of strappy sandals-on-wood and slip-ons. During fall and spring I rotate among the classic black with a low platform, some high-heeled ones by a French design house, a couple of German-brand flat and supportive styles, and some special-order clogs in leopard print made of pony hair. (Yes, they are that good.) While they all serve me well, I, like so many other Americans this fall, have been recently asked to return to work in an office. And as fabulous as it is, my current shoe wardrobe…just isn’t going to cut it in an environment where most of my work neighbors have a C in front of their titles. Clearly, I had to go shopping.

My devotion to wide-soled shoes has left my feet (and, if I’m being honest, my lower back too) firmly decided that they no longer want to teeter in stilettos, ugly-stepsister-style. So my new shoe checklist is short, but each item is non-negotiable. I need comfort, as well as the ability to combine them with every go-to look in my work wardrobe. And most importantly, they need to look chic. Lo and behold, I was able to manage the entire hat trick with the Clarks Torhill Bee.

Clarks Torhill Bee Light Tan Nubuck

Torhill Bee Light Tan Nubuck

Clarks Torhill Bee Light Tan Nubuck

Inspired by the best decade in fashion, the ’90s, this style is a spin on the iconic Wallabee. The collection features sustainably sourced uppers (always a plus) and some wicked-cool creeper-style soles with a distinctly post-aughts flair. There’s the high-quality stitching for which the brand is renowned. And in an homage to the heritage of both the style and the Clarks name, each pair comes with two debossed fobs.

If identifying the style was surprisingly simple, choosing among the offerings within it was a little less straightforward. The Brown Croc was a top contender, for its quiet luxury appeal and interesting texture. The classic Black Suede lingered in my cart for hours, because, hello, they are black. But ultimately I took home the Light Tan Nubuck, for its unexpected appeal: It just looks cute.

Here’s how it lined up with my checklist:

Comfortable…Check

Clarks uses some fancy language to discuss its shoes’ cushy appeal—the removable molded-contour cushioned footbed; the laces that impart a secure fit. Well, I’m here to tell you stepping into these shoes is likely how it feels to be walking on a cloud. They’re so super-pillowy, my feet must have thought they’d been whisked off to a European spa.

And this next point may seem trite, but hear me out: those laces? Total and complete game-changers. I initially styled my Torhill Bees with the laces untied and tucked in—you know, vintage vibes on the modern shoe. And while that was comfortable, something felt a little off. The next day, as I dashed out the door in my all-too-familiar A.M. frenzy, a thought popped into my head: I should tie these. And what a revelation. I was no longer wearing shoes; my feet had become one with the grippy soles. There was no slipping or rubbing, and, with this model, also no awkward tongue to manage. On every count, getting in my steps by sashaying from meeting to meeting—while (perhaps purposefully) passing by my VIP coworkers several times—was a total joy.

Torhill Bee Chestnut Suede

Clarks Torhill Bee Chestnut Suede

Torhill Bee Brown Croc

Clarks Torhill Bee Brown Croc

Torhill Bee Black Sde

Clarks Torhill Bee Black Sde

Versatile…Check

I may be a uniform dresser, but I also have a distinct personal style. Some, in fact, have equated it to that of a certain housewife with a similar name (and yes, we both also wear statement glasses). So my shoes need to be a seamless compliment to my work wardrobe—and the Torhill Bees pass the test. The chunk of the sole combined with the suede finish is enough of a statement without turning every single outfit into one that’s only about the shoes.

On the debut day of my Clarks Torhill Bees, I opted for ankle-length black pants and a structured yet oversize black blouse with a V-neck and gold accents. I got lots of compliments on the overall aesthetic in every one of my boardroom interactions. The next day it was navy high-waisted pants, a blouse with a bow, and a deconstructed shacket, which received equal praise. I’ve since paired them with perfect-amount-of-stretch jeans and a hoodie, a utilitarian jumpsuit, and an oversize dress with a bell-like silhouette. All were comfortably enhanced by my Bees.

Stylish…Check

As I’ve mentioned, I live for a sturdy shoe, and finding one as stylish as it is comfortable was the ultimate goal here. When I unboxed my Clarks, I got oohs and aahs from my very fashionable twins. My husband nodded in agreement, saying they reminded him of a pair I wore into the ground when we first met.

The true test, however, came at my monthly dinner with friends. So-not-humblebrag, my friends are notably stylish: One is an art conservator at a major metropolitan museum, another is a vintage dealer, and the third is the head of design for a celeb-favorite fashion label. We chatted about the usual—work, family, getting that overdue spa getaway on the books—and then turned to my shoes. Unanimously and in unison they all concurred: The sole is super, the look is streamlined, and yes, they do go with everything.

Long story short: My Clarks Torhill Bees are keepers! Oh, and I saved the best for last—they are an affordable $120 per pair. You can thank me later.

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