Jellies Have Returned (Again)

Summer’s biggest shoe trend is a blast from the past.

blue jelly sandals
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Jelly sandals have always caused a bit of controversy. In a 1977 New York Times article profiling Catherine Roberts (a fashion designer and apprentice of the late Chester Weinberg), her “thick bobby socks and plastic jelly sandals” are described as to have provoked her Cold Spring Harbor neighbors to “raise their eyebrows and think she has no taste.” For decades, the validity of jelly sandals as a worthy footwear trend has been called in question. They’re polarizing, divisive, often labeled as ‘ugly’ — but for those who love them, they’re a fun remnant from childhood that can be worn well into adulthood.

So much so, in fact, that some of the most tasteful names in the industry have given this plastic shoe their stamp of approval — most recently being The Row, which sent models down their Spring/Summer 2024 runway in slip-on PVC flats featuring a custom-molded cage design and in an irresistible palette ranging from electric blue to cherry red. And unlike signature ‘ugly’ silhouettes such as the Birkenstock or Croc that stay the same more or less, jellies continue to be reinvented with fresh details and shapes, making it easier to find a style that works with your wardrobe.

The Row

“Jellies are a nostalgic, whimsical shoe that add a playful element to summer tailoring and favorite dresses,” Nordstrom Associate Fashion Director Linda Cui Zhang says, calling out the The Row, Larroudé, and Melissa as current offerings that are high on her list. “I appreciate the style for its slip-on ease and breezy open format. They’re comfy and waterproof; a versatile style that transitions easily from city to sea.”

Jellies strike an especially nostalgic chord for Nikolas Minoglou, the co-founder and CEO of Ancient Greek Sandals, which just launched a high summer jelly capsule collection as an homage to his family archives. (Nikolas’s grandfather founded the first jelly shoe factory in Athens in 1957 and two styles from the 2024 collection — the Iro and Elli — are replicas of his original molds.)

Courtesy of Ancient Greek Sandals
Original Elli as seen in Buffalo catalogue.Courtesy of Ancient Greek Sandals

“The molds were carefully preserved over the decades, a testament to the enduring quality and timeless appeal of these designs,” Minoglou tells TZR. The Iro and Elli styles were named after his grandmothers. “I vividly remember both of them wearing these jelly shoes. As a child in the ‘80s, I would visit my grandfather’s factory and watch the production process with fascination, and the sight of these shoes being made, coupled with the joy of seeing my grandmothers wear them, left a lasting impression on me and filled me with pride.”

With sun-soaked summer days ahead where practical shoes are paramount, a pair of jellies is sounding like a very good idea. “I like to wear them to bring a kid-like energy to an outfit,” Zhang says. “They offset sharp summer tailoring like a crisp poplin shirt, linen vest, or tropical wool trouser and when worn as a flat, they add a grounding foundation to favorite summer dresses.” Despite lacking the elegance of a simple leather sandal or timeless espadrille, jellies are — surprisingly — the kind of footwear trend that does it all. “They embody a perfect blend of practicality, style, and emotional resonance,” Minoglou says, noting that jellies’ “ability to adapt to contemporary trends while retaining their nostalgic charm ensures they’ll remain a beloved choice for many.” Ahead, discover six ways to style the footwear trend for warm weather.

Color Contrast

While a pair of electric blue jellies might, at first glance, seem like an option better suited for those with eccentric style, this look proves they assimilate well into a sleek, simple wardrobe. Pair yours with a black column dress and accessorize with a pendant cord necklace and woven handbag.

Sleek Lines

Though the jellies from your childhood might have been chunky fishermen styles, if that silhouette no longer appeals to you, turn to jelly sandals designed in a sleek shape for a textural twist. Style them with an architectural top and barrel denim for a breezy summer look that can be worn from sunrise to sunset.

Nod to Nostalgia

Jelly sandals can infuse your outfit with youthful nostalgia, which is ideal for lighthearted summer style. Try your jellies with a jean jacket layered over a vibrant mini dress for a casual weekend outing, and top off the look with some statement jewelry and sunglasses to keep it feeling fun.

Elegant Ease

Whenever in doubt about how to style an unexpected shoe choice such as jellies, go with easy neutrals crafted in breathable fabrics. This white-on-white look would bode well on even the warmest of summer days, and if you’re heading into a work meeting and need a polished layer, a light blazer would pair perfectly.

Gardener Inspired

Live out your fantasy of buying a cottage in the countryside with a look that nods to afternoons spent toiling away in the garden. A white prairie top styled with an airy white skirt cements the aesthetic, and these recycled hemp jelly mules are everywhere right now.

Earthy and Effortless

Jellies that are designed in a fishermen sandal silhouette offer an earthy, countryside appeal — lean into this aesthetic by pairing yours with a breezy dress in a micro-floral print. Finish off the look with a woven tote and delicate jewelry (if any).