Just came back from a 5km run in the backwoods in my Vibrams FiveFingers.
A little girl going to school watched the shoes and followed my moving feet with a sleepy curiosity. A taxi-driver followed my feet for a few seconds. A watchman (whom I encountered for the first time) at a neighborhood building followed my feet for a few seconds too. Sometimes even dogs look at my feet with curiosity.
When at Hiranandani Garden in Mumbai, quite a few fellow runners/walkers on the track look on with inquisitive eyes.
Over more than 2 years now, I've rarely encountered another person in my vicinity wearing Vibrams.
None of the people who've talked to me about Vibrams have ever admitted that they love the style. Strangely, it doesn't bother me. My feet feel so right, so very natural, so free.
That's the point. I am sure Vibrams must have been written to or informed by a mighty number of shoe-lovers about the 'ugliness' of the visual design. On the other hand, a mighty number of Vibrams wearers must have shared how amazing they feel on wearing the shoes.
Surely, exclusivity - even that of the weird or the incomprehensible which borders ugliness - is a style statement. But unless there's something substantial, such style statements are difficult to sustain.
In the case of Vibrams, the movement the shoes facilitate and the feeling arising out of that movement in the wearer, far surpass the awkwardness of visual style. In fact, if you video-record the movements/the action of someone wearing Vibrams, you might not find anything extraordinary either. And this someone won't stop wearing Vibrams.