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Gucci Launches $890 KEEN Knockoff

Gucci Sandals
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Gucci’s latest closed-toe sandal has KEEN wondering: What are those?!

What’s the difference between Italian fashion titan Gucci and Portland, Oregon-based KEEN? Answer: One is a blatant rip-off of style, trend, and technology. And the other is KEEN.

That’s right! At this month’s Fashion Week in New York City, Gucci designer Alessandro Michele unveiled his latest vogue masterpiece: all-terrain sandals with bungee-cord laces, a heel strap, and an iconic, no-bullshit rubber toe bumper.

The “hybridization” of shoe and sandal no doubt wowed fashion elites. Of course, that’s probably because they’ve never seen hikers and watersports enthusiasts wearing virtually the same thing for years!

But not only are Gucci’s Leather & Mesh Sandals virtually identical to the original KEEN Newport — which hit the market more than 15 years ago — they also cost nearly 20 times more. While a pair of KEEN Newports will set you back $100-110 Gucci intends to rake in just under $900 for one pair of its “new sneaker-sandal hybrid.”

Gucci KEEN Sandal

Whatever else you think of KEEN Newports — and they can have a polarizing effect on style — they built the market for beefy, closed-toe sandals. And it worked. While popular in America among hikers, KEEN also owns a cult following for its unique design around the world.

For example, in Japan, the KEEN UNEEK sandal, a serious fashion statement if ever there was one, is a hot commodity. So much so, in fact, KEEN built a semi-autonomous, two-armed robot that builds pair after pair as the adoring public looks on.

And despite the aesthetic, KEEN Newport sandals provide proven outdoor function at a price many can afford. So when Gucci pulled back the curtain on its latest “innovation,” everyone who knows anyone who’s rocked this trail-worthy fashion statement flocked to Instagram to rebuke Michele.

magen.allred: “Pretty sure my dad wore these @keen on a fishing trip last year.”

callmeredheadd: “So….they are @keen ???? Because they are @keen.”

missp_money: “I didn’t realize @gucci was taking design advice from @keen! @keen you keep doing you! #theoriginalsandalinnovator #illkeepmykeens.”

malfie.eiflama: “Sandals? More like scandals.”

For its part, KEEN leaned into the maelstrom.

“We felt honored to be referenced amongst such an iconic brand and wanted to acknowledge the fan comments in such a way that was celebratory versus combative,” said Ash Williams, KEEN’s senior director of global marketing. “Our big takeaway from this is how the outdoor industry is influencing fashion, taking a look that is often developed for a specific function or end use and applying that to popular fashion/culture.”

KEEN also parodied Gucci’s fashion shoot, replacing the near-identical $890 sandals for its own less-than-a-month’s-rent sandals.

KEEN Gucci parody sandals

$890 Gucci KEEN Sandals

So what on Earth makes these $890?! Well, it could be the Velcro strap (KEEN doesn’t have it), the fact that they’re made in Italy (KEEN does lots of its production in the U.S.), or maybe it’s because it says “GUCCI” in giant letters across the front.

Also, while KEEN marketing materials prominently show travelers stepping across rivers and hiking up dusty trails, Gucci envisions a slightly more tempered customer. Because the Leather and Mesh Sandals are “manufactured by experienced Italian artisans with carefully selected materials,” you’ll want to take the following care precautions (yes, this is really what Gucci suggests):

  • Fill shoe with tissue paper to help maintain the shape and absorb humidity, then store in the provided flannel bag and box
  • Clean when the shoe is dry, using only neutral or same-color products to avoid staining
  • Should the material become wet, dry it with a soft, dry cloth

So, you can either grab a pair of these hot-off-the-runway, sneaker-sandal hybrids for $890. Or, I’m happy to sell you some nearly identical closed-toe sandals that, as Gucci so eloquently puts it, “explore the idea of hybridization, a mix in which things aren’t what they seem and unrelated worlds collide in an unexpected way.” And they can be yours for just $400 — less than half the going rate!

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