Mesh Flats Are the Next Best Thing to Being Barefoot

Where ballet flats and the sheer trend intersect.

Graphic of the best mesh flats, including pairs from Sandy Liang, Khaite, and Dear Frances
(Image credit: Future)

There's a certain magic to an unconventional shoe. Maison Margiela's hooved-toe Tabis are considered a holy-grail find by fashion folks. Bottega Veneta's cartoonish Puddle rain boots celebrate the glamour of a galosh. Even the beloved Birkenstock taps into the ugly-chic spectacle: the granola slip-on shouldn't work as high-fashion footwear, but against all odds, it does. And now there's a new polarizing shoe to ponder: behold—mesh flats, as in sheer shoes that play peek-a-boo with your pedicure. And the technicalities aside (does it really count as a shoe if it's more of a see-through sock?), the best mesh flats demonstrate precisely what's so fascinating about head-scratching footwear.

It began with The Row, as most recent all-consuming trends do (e.g., 2023's take on quiet luxury). In 2019, the high-end label revealed its Mesh Sock Flats, a pair of diaphanous slippers that mimic the sensation of walking on air. But it's not just Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen embracing barely-there footwear. Sandy Liang now offers baby pink mesh Mary Janes, and Khaite carries sheer slip-ons bedazzled with Swarovski crystals. Dear Frances' see-through Balla shoes have all but clinched the title of summer 2023's top trending shoe, and Jennifer Lawrence wore the perennially-sold-out Alaïa fishnet flats on a recent New York City stroll (grime? murky and mysterious puddles? J.Law doesn't concern herself with such plebian woes!).

But what spawned the advent of the translucent flat? Jane Frances, founder and creative director of the eponymous footwear label, says mesh shoes live at the intersection of two trends: sultry sheers and ballet flats. "Ballerinas have been a key style in recent seasons, and mesh options offer a unique and sophisticated update," she shares with Marie Claire. "[Mesh flats] are delicate and feminine, but also feel sharp and modern—a strong combination." Frances touches on what is so intriguing about an unusual and whacky shoe: it's the paradox it presents. Surrealist yet simple. Earthy-crunchy and somehow elevated. Barefoot but not.

Ahead, find our picks for the best mesh flats to add to your summer shoe rotation.  A gentle note, though: if you find a pair you like, act fast because the trendy shoe sells quickly across all retailers.

The Best Mesh Flats

Meet the Fashion Expert

Jane Frances
Jane Frances

London-based designer Jane Frances studied in London and Milan, where she learned from some of the most accomplished shoe designers in the world. After graduating, she spent her formative years in Milan, learning the intricate art of Italian craftsmanship under the guidance of her teacher and mentor, before moving back to London to establish Dear Frances. With a strong design aesthetic and great respect for artisan detailing, Jane brings a fresh approach to shoe design, with a clear and consistent focus on pared-back modern classics.

Emma Childs
Fashion Features Editor

Emma Childs is the Fashion Features Editor at Marie Claire, who writes trend reports, long-form reported features, and style guides. She previously wrote for TZR, Editorialist, Elite Daily, and Mission Magazine and studied Fashion Studies and New Media at Fordham University. When she's not writing fashion deep-dives, you'll find her stalking eBay for designer vintage and perusing HBO Max (in her heart, it'll always be *HBO* MX).