Golf Ball Sandals

A few theories as to why these quirky “golf ball slides” are so popular right now

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October 11, 2022

I can’t quite explain it, but somewhere, deep down in my bones, I understand it. There’s something delightful about “ugly” things (hairless dogs, naked mole rats, babies…kidding!). In fashion—and the world of golf apparel being no exception—we’re obsessed with the visually obscene. Neon pink windbreakers? Check. Oversized coats and trousers? Check. Clunky chic shoes? Check-check. Funky patterned polos? Heck yes. So when I first saw these “golf ball shoes” pit-pattering on the trains during my morning commute, I hardly thought anything of it. But my observant editor noticed an uptick in search results on the internet heralding forth this ballsy trend and tasked me with looking into it.
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The golf ball shoe is an iteration of the rubber slide, a.k.a. the flip flop, a.k.a. the shower shoe. It appears to be constructed by 45 baubles—according to my count (which involved a lot of fingerprints-to-the-laptop-screen and my phone’s no-frills calculator)—or squishy golf ball-esque spheres coagulated and smushed together in the shape of a slipper. The slide is close-toed, if that is something you care to note, though thanks to tiny triangles of negative space around the orbs, the shoes appear to be (and are indeed advertised as) quite breathable.

Sounds lovely, no? The design, which can be found in all sorts of colors ranging from marbled periwinkle to simple white, bears a certain something we can't seem to resist. But the trend seems to go deeper here, some inkling of humanity or shadow of psychology so pure, so instinctual, that must be illuminated by these internationally-loved and yet absurd foot coverings? A few theories, based on my very expansive-but-by-no-means-extensive research, which spans the quantitative to the anecdotal. Here goes:

It’s scientifically true: we like ugly things
Going back to this article’s opening comparison, studies indicate that, as National Geographic put it: ugly things “trigger adult humans’ instinct to nurture and protect.” This comes out, most often, in the likes of spindly meerkats and roach-like isopods, but who’s to say inanimate objects don’t catalyze our same instinct to care? And personally, I’d like to live in a world where that is true.

We love soft, bouncy textures, according to psychology
In an article titled “Sad Times Call for Soft Textures,” writer Ingrid Fetell, who covers design and the mind for Psychology Today, summarized a 2011 study that found humans become more “attentive to tactile stimuli” when experiencing low moods, unhappiness, or difficult times. So highly textured items, or brightly colored goods, can lift our spirits—or at least, symbolize the promise of uplift—in times of heightened stress. The uncomplicated and symmetrical design allows it to come in a variety of bright and cheery colors. They’re washable, waterproof, packable and anti-slip for simple care that doesn't require too much energy.
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More bang for your buck: doubles as a stress ball and DIY canvas!
Not only can you accessorize these slippers with little personalized clips (a la Crocs’ infamous Jibbitz), but also, if you take one shoe off during a meeting (not weird) you can squeeze it in your hand like a stress ball. Wearable art and a mindfulness tool? Wow.

Golf-inspired fashion is in vogue
Look no further than these “Globe” sandals from Brother Vellies, a notable, socially-conscious designer. These sandals feature an elegant lace-up strap with a toe piece that bears a fabulously close resemblance to a golf ball on a tee. At a slightly higher price point than the equally thoughtful golf ball slide (which costs closer to $20), these shoes go for $725.

See also: G/Fore’s unisex G/Slide “Street Shoe” which is kind of like an inverted golf ball slide: it looks like 45 golf balls just hit the rubber sole and left their little artful dinks. If this is the perfect “apres-golf” shoe, which the website says it is, the Brother Vellies heel is the perfect apres-apres golf shoe.

$65 | G/FORE
NateBur Bubble Slides Massage Slipper
NateBur Bubble Slides Massage Slipper
$27 | Amazon