’90s-Era ‘Tourist Sandals’ Are Back In Style

It’s official: Balenciaga broke our brains.

A year or so ago, the high-fashion brand brought the “ugly sneaker” trend to the mainstream — clunky athletic shoes in awkward styles and colors that only a 1990s dad could love. Plus, there was the time the label introduced the world to platform Crocs.

Now, here we are, with spring 2019 tiptoeing toward us, and the ugly sneakers’ summertime equivalents are here: utilitarian, bulky sandals often paired with — deep breath — socks.

socks sandals photo
Getty Images | Dia Dipasupil

These unwieldy pieces of footwear are known as “tourist sandals” in some quarters, nicknamed after the preferred footwear look of the practical, no-nonsense traveler. Think of a basic Teva sandal: wide straps, a durable sole and unisex styling.

As someone who wore white socks and Birkenstocks with my Catholic school uniform in the ’90s, I have mixed feelings about this. Nonetheless, it’s not often that the fashion winds blow us a trend that’s comfortable, easy to wear and available at accessible price points.

Here are a few ways to work the tourist sandal this year. It might be a tough sell for your hometown fashion critics, but at least your feet will be happy!


Almost unbelievably, the preferred sandal for this look is one of the cheapest: the classic Teva Universal in black. Designer Sandy Liang used them in some looks for her spring/summer 2019 collection, as in the Instagram post below. You can snag a pair for $50 at Teva.com.



Um, and then there’s Gucci’s take, reportedly “inspired by the hiking world.” These are slightly less realistic at $1,250 a pair at Barneys.

Barneys New York

Dries Van Noten

At about half the price of the Gucci sandal, the Dries Van Noten rendition is also half as flashy — but probably more wearable for most of us. You can get these for $615 at Barneys.

Barneys New York


Uniqlo’s unisex homage to the Teva Universal is “part of a collection of progressive essentials.” These are going for $29.90 at Uniqlo.com.


Dr. Martens

For maximum ’90s style, try these humongous, strappy Docs — just add socks. Get them for $105 at DrMartens.com.

Dr. Martens


With a pair of white socks underneath (I can’t believe I just typed that), these espadrilles will look nicely on-trend with a flowing skirt. Find them for $32.99 at Target.


Will you give this chunky sandal trend a try?