It's a question we've kicked around on the forums: could Vibram fivefingers, specifically, or barefooting, generally, catch on and "go mainstream?"
No one can really say. However, the predominant initial reaction by fashionistas and style-punditry to "shoes that look like feet" could be summed up as ranging from "Those things are hideous" to "Those things are hysterical and I would never wear them ever."
Just over the past couple of weeks, a few mainstream fashion and entertainment websites illustrated the above reactions flawlessly.
Dlisted.com ran the blog post And I thought CROCS Were Evil ... and had this to say:
These are called Vibram Five Fingers and they just may be the official footwear of HELL. They are like CROCS-made condoms for your feet. ...
I'd rather slip and crack my ass bone on a hard rock (sounds sexay) than wear those rubber lizard socks! You know UGGS is going to make a winter version of these things ...
Ouch! Of course, Vibram may have already beaten UGGs to the punch with the upcoming release of the Cortina.
Elsewhere, starpulse.com echoed dlisted's thoughts regarding Crocs plus the additional jab, "80 bucks for a shoe that looks like a foot."
Perhaps the most polite reaction emerged from I'm Not Obsessed dot com, "I'm not a surfer... but I can honestly say with conviction that even if I was I wouldn't wear this shoe. But that's just me!"
Some of the comments and reactions on the above sites are particularly humorous if you're looking to kill some time (or don't mind dumbbing yourself down reading them). Actually, a few commentators expressed they might still grab a pair despite their "fugliness." I can only assume that it's a positive thing when fashion followers throw aesthetics aside in favor of the merit behind being effectively barefoot.
Perhaps there's even reason to be optimistic — maybe VFFs could overcome the widespread anti-barefoot/VFFs-are-ugly bias. There are various examples of the minimalist footwear/barefooting/fivefingers—dare I say—movement gaining ground. You've got barefoot running gaining traction, becoming more popular via the efforts of various barefoot blogs, and barefoot running forums. You've also got community websites dedicated to barefooting as well as minimalist footwear discussion groups. Plus, fivefingers do have their own fan site!
Out in "meatspace," Chris McDougall's Born to Run is a mainstream assault on the running shoe industry while simultaneously giving serious consideration to barefoot or VFF-clad running (Notably BtR has spent over 50 days in Amazon's top 100 sellers, presently standing at No. 65).
A few Google search trends also seem to indicate a rise in interest for five fingers (See here, here, and here for a few examples).
It's all somewhat inconclusive. Then again, it's reasonable to assume that barefooting was "in style" for a few hundred thousand years. Could shoes be the fad? Hmm ...
Who knows? Maybe one day we'll be standing in line at the grocery store, and see a Paparazzi photo of "Brangelina" sporting matching fivefingers in public.
I'm not sure if I'd cringe or clap. Maybe both.