By Pema Bakshi

Tiktok’s ‘Wrong Shoe Theory’ is an Ingenious Styling Hack—Here’s How to Do It Right

Creating interesting outfits has never been so easy.
How To Do TikTok’s ‘Wrong Shoe Theory’ Image via

Of all the gifts TikTok has provided us with, the ‘Wrong Shoe Theory’ is arguably the most fruitful. Coined by Katie Holmes‘ stylist Allison Bornstein, the wrong shoe theory is—as its name would suggest—all about putting a twist on an outfit with unexpected footwear. It might sound stupidly simple, but this styling hack has the power to instantly take your look to a whole new level.

Just take Imani Rudolph (pictured above) in a smocked Cottagecore-style midi dress and purple and red Nike sneakers. As Bornstein’s popular law points out, the ingenuity of this look rests in the antithetical nature of the pieces, which are cute when separate but impart a chic element of intrigue when brought together.

As Bornstein, author of Wear It Well and founder of the ‘Three Word Method’ explains, the idea was inspired by her work helping people try to find their own unique sense of style. “I’m often problem-solving and trying to help clients figure out how to make a simple look feel interesting or dynamic,” she told an outlet. “I came up with this idea as an easy way to empower clients to try something new and that usually, thinking outside the box will create a look that feels more interesting and less straightforward.”

In a now-viral post, she dives into the theory, showcasing a slew of examples to prove her point that surprising shoe choices make an otherwise fuss-free look seem interesting. “It signals that there is some intention and choice, and therefore gives your look some personality,” she says.

Though Bornstein admits that the idea has been a fashion styling secret for a long time, as seen on runways like Chanel, Simone Rocha, GANNI and more, it helps people who struggle to style themselves on a day-to-day basis or don’t always feel tapped into their own taste.

“When I come up with these ‘theories’, it is really just a way to put language to a visual idea,” she wrote on her Instagram. “I have found with my clients that they can often identify a look or a vibe that they like, but they aren’t sure why it works and how they can recreate it in their own way. I found that many of the looks that we like had an element that felt slightly off or mismatched.”

While she affirms that there isn’t a universal “wrong” type of shoe for a look, the point is to encourage people to “think outside of the box and break up your look by trying a shoe that might not be the one you would instinctually pick,” she says. “You will be surprised at how much this will change the look and, therefore, allow you to wear your pieces in a totally new way.”

By mixing up our looks, we’re reminding ourselves that fashion is best when it’s not bogged down by rules. It doesn’t even have to be restricted to shoes. Give the ‘wrong’ jacket or ‘wrong’ handbag a whirl if you’re feeling experimental.

Though it might feel like sacrilege to some, the ‘Wrong Shoe Theory’ is a great way to figure out what you enjoy about fashion. Try it out for yourself by exploring some of the fun off-beat combinations below.

Delicate Skirts & Sneakers

Feminine Sets & Sporty Slip-Ons

Athleisure & Loafers

Cargo Pants & Ballet Flats

Shorts & Heels

Suits & Clogs

Jeans & Wedges

Clashing Prints

This story first appeared on GRAZIA International.