Reviews & opinions

Am I Cool Enough for Sneakers?

12th January 2020

TEXT BY NATALIE YIASSOUMI | PHOTOGRAPHY BY MIKKO PUTTONEN

Is this a trend that comes with age and status restrictions?

Growing up you had to pick your tribe early on: Feminine with ballerina flats, Barbie dolls and tutus or sporty with Converse sneakers, comfortable tracksuits and football with the boys. You could either be one or the other. And as you stepped into your late teens, if you belonged to the first category, you graduated to high heels and were fed slogans like “beauty is pain” to convince you that enduring the discomfort was a good idea. 

It took a while but we’re slowly starting to realize, in the Western world at least, that box-holing women doesn’t work – society has been doing it with far more serious matters, but shoes and the ways we used to consume them were a mirror of this very limiting attitude. 

So, what changed? 

First of, street wear rose to prominence during the last decade and started infiltrating the mainstream. All of a sudden it wasn’t just Supreme that was releasing limited-edition sneaker drops in secret warehouses across the globe, but every major luxury fashion house was putting sneakers on the runway. 

Think of Nicolas Ghesquiere’s ‘Archlight’ sneakers for Louis Vuitton, paired with intricate, embellished dresses on the catwalk; Versace’s ‘Chain Reaction’ sneakers with their chunky chain-motif rubber soles; or the craze over the Balenciaga ‘Triple S’ which became the ultimate millennial status symbol in the 2010s – alongside avocado toast and scenic holiday pictures of course. 

Meanwhile, the concept of ‘pain over beauty’ was starting to become irrelevant on the red carpet too, as Kristen Steward defied protocol and took her high heels off on the Cannes Film Festival red carpet in 2018 in a moment that will go down in the books. Serena Williams too, paired her Versace Couture gown with a pair of neon Nike sneakers at the Met Gala last May. 

It was a matter of time then that any woman with even the slightest fashion conscience, including those who grew up in ballet flats or Mary Janes and never owned a pair of sneakers in their lives, were curious to try finding themselves a pair. 

But inevitably, self-doubting questions were also bound to come up: Am I cool enough for sneakers? Or are they only for the It-girls of Instagram, the ones that can also pull off bucket hats, nail art and hang out with Virgil Abloh and his crew? 

It’s a natural dilemma to have. As professional women who want to be taken seriously and respect social etiquettes, it’s easy to wonder whether turning up in sneakers will make us look childish, however cool they might be.

But the answer is simple: Sneakers are for everyone and yes, you’re cool enough – especially because there is more variety than ever before in the market and you can really make sneakers your own, no matter your personal style.  

As more and more women embrace the sneaker and taste the comfort and ease of movement it comes with, there’s no going back: Sneakers are moving beyond a trend to a wardrobe staple for everyone to embrace. 

Case in point: Selfridges in London dedicated an entire gallery to sneakers in its shoe department, while Net-a-Porter saw its sales increase 10 times in the last five years, sees no sign of slow down and has been buying even more styles for all types of women. 

If you’re not the kind who would wear a chunky ‘Triple S’ and prefer a more feminine style, you can opt for a sleek option like a monochrome pair by Axel Arigato or playful star-embellished low-tops by Saint Laurent that go with anything from jeans to floaty, feminine dresses. Alternatively, if you have a flair for statement pieces and all things shiny, just look to Jimmy Choo’s metallic sneakers, which creative director Sandra Choi designed with the silhouette of a lace-up heel in mind. 

You can even pair a romantic gown with a pair of sleek white sneakers, as Dior, one of the most feminine French couture houses has been proposing lately, under the leadership of its first female creative director, Maria Grazia Chiuri. 

The sky is the limit, as we’re finally giving ourselves carte blanche to hop in and out of different aesthetics and aspects of our personalities. And as for heels – kitten heels, platforms, stilettos or whatever your heart may desire – there’s still room for those too and plenty of designers out there who are reinventing high heels for the modern day, with comfort as a priority. Simply put, you can be and do both.

FIND YOUR SNEAKER STYLE

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