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She may only be 20 years old, but Hailee Steinfeld already has an Oscar nomination (for her breakout role in 2010’s True Grit), a Golden Globe nod (for last year’s Edge of Seventeen), and a pair of platinum pop singles (“Love Myself” and “Starving”) under her belt. Add to that her key role in the lucrative Pitch Perfect franchise — the third flick hits theaters this December — and it’s a wonder the born-and-bred California girl has any time to just, well, chill.
Luckily, her new role as an ambassador for the sandal brand Reef is giving her a chance to kick off her heels and slip into something a little more comfortable. Below, Steinfeld defends fashion’s most divisive footwear style, discusses how her music influences her style, and waxes poetic about the good old-fashioned American shopping mall.
So Hailee, we talk about flip-flops a lot at Racked. And I hate to say it, but a lot of folks don’t care for them. Why are you such a fan?
Honestly, they’re just without a doubt the most comfortable shoe. I’m currently in Atlanta making Pitch Perfect 3, and I think I’ve got about four pairs in my trailer at the moment, plus another pair in the pocket of my set chair. When I’m going to and from hair and makeup, they’re all I wear.
I feel like my connection to them stems from growing up in California — and Reef has always been my go-to, I’ve known the brand for as long as I can remember. In my house, we keep this big pile of shoes at the bottom of the staircase, right by our front door. There are always a bunch of flip-flops in there, and they’re always the ones I reach for when I’m running out of the house.
I’ve noticed that your style shifts depending on whether you’re promoting your movies or your music; you’ll wear fishnets and crop tops for performances, but go super-feminine and almost demure for certain red carpets.
Yes! That’s a very conscious decision, and there’s a lot of freedom in being able to discover what I’m most comfortable in when it comes to both spaces. I’m having a lot of fun with it. But yeah, being onstage is very different from walking the red carpet at a movie premiere in some beautiful, amazing creation.
I feel like my stage attire is an amplified version of my personal style. It’s fun to go that extra mile. With [my costumes], the music itself 100 percent dictates what the vibe and the look is — and that’s changing! And with that, the wardrobe will change.
Sounds like we can expect some new music from you soon... ?
Very, very soon! I’m so incredibly excited to release what I’ve been working on for so long. And yes, the crazy thing about it is that it’s constantly evolving; just when I think it’s ready and I have it, I find something I want to change.
If you could trade closets with any of the characters you’ve played, who would you choose?
I don’t know that I’ve played any modern characters with really cool wardrobes; most of my characters tend to be more, well, quirky [laughs]. I guess I would choose Nadine’s wardrobe [from The Edge of Seventeen] if I wasn’t planning on going out much — I do dress a lot like Nadine when I’m at home alone! Maybe Juliet from Romeo and Juliet, though. The beauty and the detail of her clothes, there’s so much to appreciate there.
How often do you typically shop?
As often as I can, whenever I can! I used to be sort of opposed to online shopping until recently — I’ve been shopping online more than ever this past year because I’ve been traveling so much, and it’s kind of the only way of doing it. Revolve is one of my favorites, ASOS is great... and Net-a-Porter, when I’m feeling fancy.
There’s just something so exciting about getting a package and getting to try everything on and see if you like it. Of course, the annoying part is having to send back whatever doesn’t fit!
What’s the last thing you bought online?
You know what, it was actually a cookie bouquet for my parents! My brother and I sent it to them for Valentine’s Day. I mean, we could’ve sent flowers instead — but flowers are, you know, whatever.
Do you ever find time to shop at actual stores?
Yes — in fact, Atlanta has one of the greatest malls I’ve ever been to, Lenox Square. I love it so much. It’s huge, and there are so many options — it’s almost overwhelming. I just go and wander and end up finding something every time. There was a massive sale happening there recently, actually, and I wound up going two, maybe three weekends in a row. Just to browse, you know?
I love that you love malls! What’s your usual first stop when you go?
I do very well at Zara. I love me some Zara.
What’s the hardest thing to shop for, in your opinion?
If you can find a great pair of jeans that happens to be on sale, that’s always a win. Jeans are hard! And I’m not patient when it comes to trying them on. So finding good ones always feels like an accomplishment.
Do you remember your first big fashion splurge?
When I was 13, right after I booked True Grit, I bought myself a Betsey Johnson handbag. It was this pink velvety leopard thing. I still have it. But it was a very, very big deal at the time, and I remember it like it was yesterday. I spent a lot of time questioning it, and finally my mom was like, “Go on, you can do it.”
Hard to believe that was only seven years ago! How has your style changed since?
Oh my god, a lot. It’s still evolving, and I don’t know that I could even label it right now, because I’m 20 and just getting into the music world and figuring out what I want to do there. Cool, fun, and flirty are my big three things, though. Oh, and being comfortable!