Who knew that, x number of years later, we’d still be obsessing over jelly sandals. The plastic, candy-colored shoes that protected (whilst simultaneously blistering the heck out of) our feet throughout grade school are back. (They’re nearly as divisive as duck boots and Birkenstocks, but they’re back.) This happens every few years.
As Vogue points out, this has a lot to do with the versatility of jelly shoes. “The material’s mutability has been central to the shoe’s success since the Preston Haag family first premiered them in the U.S. at the Brazil exhibit of the 1982 World’s Fair,” writes Rachel Hahn. “After this successful debut, Haag changed the shoes’ style every six months regardless of how well the previous season’s models were selling.”
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Three-odd decades later, jelly sandals have staked their claim in the upper echelons of fashion. Luxury labels as varied as Valentino, Givenchy, Sophia Webster, Simone Rocha and Fenty x Puma have helped in their proliferation. And it’s not just the malleability of jellies or Rihanna’s cosign that’s made them so darn popular. The umpteenth coming of the jelly has a lot to do with fashion’s current affinity for all things PVC. It also helps that we’re living in the age of good taste meets bad taste. These days, aesthetics matter less than satisfying some inner urge: For instance, our love of dressing as we did in the 90s.
That’s not to say jellies don’t serve any practical purpose. Summer’s in high gear and on days when we’re pool- and ocean-adjacent, they make fun, water-resistant substitutes for our fuzzy/velvet/satin/leather slides.
Ready to indulge your inner elementary schooler? Need further convincing that jellies are more than wearable date repellent? (Not that we dress for others, but you get our meaning.) Either way, click through the slideshow below for 21 cute jelly shoes that’ll do the trick.