In this personal essay, Teen Vogue’s Wellness Editor Brittney McNamara explains how she changed her style, namely her Dansko clogs, to fit in with her fashion magazine job.
I’d been admiring Dansko clogs for a long time before I got my first pair. My mother wore them when I was young, my friend got a gorgeous pair for her restaurant job after college, and I admired them on the feet of many waitresses and nurses over the years. But by the time my professional brown burnished nubuck Danskos came in the mail, clogs were much more to me than a sensible work shoe or signature of an artsy middle-aged woman. They became, in my mind, the marker of a future lifestyle I hoped to achieve, one that I wanted quite badly but couldn’t yet have.
I got my first Danskos in 2018 while living in New York City. I had owned and loved other styles of clogs before, and even described my style to friends as “Brooklyn clog mom” — you know the type. But Danskos had still been a shoe that seemed more sensible than fashion-minded, unlike my beloved teetering wood-soled clogs that rival any high heel in precariousness. Danskos were a gardening shoe, one you might wear to the farmer’s market and then keep on when you mowed the lawn at home. You’d wear these clogs to do errands, to the airport, to walk your dog. The problem was that I didn’t have a garden or a lawn to mow or a dog to walk. So, when I got my Danskos, I wasn’t really sure how they fit into my life in New York, where I worked at a fashion magazine — the last place I thought a pair of clunky clogs belonged.
Working at Teen Vogue was a far cry from my previous work at newspapers, where whatever wrinkled button-down shirt you pulled from the closet and a pair of Old Navy Pixie pants was fine work attire. It’s not that my colleagues would have judged me if I kept the same wardrobe, it’s that I applied pressure to myself to fit into this new world I inhabited — one where I worked alongside people at the magazines I had grown up worshiping and routinely walked past celebrities in the halls. My workplace had Vogue right in the name (and right down the hall), and I wanted to live up to that dream.
In the first year, I dressed like a lot of different people who aren’t quite me. To be honest, I looked great (mostly), and my sense of adventure in fashion expanded because of it. But style is personal, and playing dress-up every day is hard. Somewhere around the middle of my second year at Teen Vogue, (coincidentally, right around the time these Danskos showed up in my mailbox) is when I started to integrate my own sense of style into this strange other-person look I’d created. I started leaning into the aspirational clog mom look, embracing the parts of me who truly are that girl — the one who wants to go to the farmer’s market and have a garden but couldn’t because she lived in an apartment with no yard and the market was *just* far enough away.
You might be thinking this is a lot of pressure to put on an innocent clog, and you might be right. But thanks to Lauren Mechling, author and contributing editor at Vogue, clogs have become much more than a shoe for the more than 6,000 people that follow her Instagram account The Clog Life. The account showcases clogs in all their glory — the high fashion to the highly ugly — and positions them as part of an overall lifestyle, much like I had conjured an image of the woman I would become if I wore a pair of Danskos. Clogs aren’t just a shoe for Mechling, nor for the people dedicated to the Instagram account (or, perhaps, for the celebs who are also into clogs, dubbed by Mechling the Clogerati). They’re a bonding tool and a mood. There’s clog art and clog lit, all of which evoke a certain kind of aesthetic.
Thanks in part to Mechling’s The Clog Life, and to the ugly shoe trend making clompy shoes a fashion statement, clogs started to become more fashionable than they had been — and I’m not talking about the teetering kind I mentioned before because those will always be in fashion as far as I’m concerned. Right now, solid white Danskos are a status clog, and they’re one I covet dearly. Still, even in my third year at Teen Vogue, I wasn’t comfortable stomping into the office in my brown pair. Instead, I wore them on my commute, soaking up the feeling of being that woman for a solid hour as I made my way to the office, and slipping into the person I actually was as soon as my feet hit the marble floors.
I don’t know if I’ll ever confidently walk into my One World Trade Center office proudly donning my brown Danskos (I would, however, in the white pair), but I don’t know that it matters, either. I’ve since moved away from New York, and I work remotely in a mid-level city in Massachusetts. Here, I have a yard, I can drive to the farmer’s market, and I can clearly see the life I’d ascribed to Danskos on the horizon.
It’s not that I’ve stopped trying to dress well here, it’s that I feel more comfortable dressing in what makes me feel good, rather than in what I think I should wear. I’m developing a style that’s truly my own, pulling shades from the one I started two years ago and cultivated slowly along the way. That way, when I put on my clogs with an outfit, they don’t look so out of place — and that was the problem all along. It’s not that a pair of practical clogs will make me a different person, or that they are only for a certain type of person. It was that the clogs didn’t match with the clothes I was wearing, but they did match the life I wished I had.
Now, when I wear my Danskos to the yoga studio or to the grocery store, I see bits and pieces of the life I had envisioned. In other words, I feel more comfortable being me — a feeling I wish I never lost sight of in the first place. It took moving away from New York City, where I felt I was trying on a life that just didn’t fit quite right, to realize that I should have just worn the shoes all along. I knew who I was, and what kind of life I wanted, and had every power to create it for myself. But I had convinced myself that I had to look like someone else to inhabit this new world I’d entered in a city that always made me feel uncomfortable. The truth was the days that I wore outfits that felt the most “me” were the days I’d get the most compliments. And no matter where I’ve lived, I always get compliments on my clogs.