Sneaker chic has been a thing for so long now, it’s kind of hard to remember when it started. I’ll bet there are adults (okay, young adults) who have never known a time when it wasn’t cool to wear sneakers with ordinary clothes. They don’t remember when we wore running shoes only for running, or walking, or going to the gym. I, for one, am so very glad that sneaker chic is a thing, and continues to be a thing. Because I love my sneakers, and I wear them with pretty much everything I own.
I’ve always loved the look of a fresh white sneaker. As kids, we wore thin-soled white sneakers all summer. When they got dirty we washed them, and sometimes even used white shoe polish to clean them up. In junior high, when I played a lot of team sports, I bought my first pair of Adidas, white with the classic three black stripes. I thought they were so cool. Not like “girls’ sneakers” at all. Then for years and years I didn’t even own a pair of sneakers, until I started running in the eighties. Funnily enough, trying to choose a good pair of runners for my narrow feet and badly pronating knees is how Hubby and I first started chatting in the staff room at Glebe Collegiate. You might say that sneakers brought us together. Ha.
After that I was all about wearing running shoes again, for running, cycling, and playing golf (badly). That is until the early 2000s when sneaker chic became a thing.
I’ve had my beloved white and red Stan Smith Adidas since 2015. Before that I’d struggled for years to find a pair of non-athletic runners that I liked. I began looking initially because I saw them paired with jeans and casual pants on What Not to Wear in 2003. And over the years I shopped and shopped for cute runners for street wear. I tried two pairs of Sketchers that I didn’t love; both were desperation purchases since I needed something suitable for travelling. I also remember buying a pair of some other brand because I wanted a cute pair of sneakers to wear to work with cords and my leather jacket on casual Fridays. Ha. Cute they were not. Then Nordstrom opened here in Ottawa and I discovered Stan Smith Adidas. Sigh. Me and Stan… it was love at first sight.
I’ve worn my Stan Smith Adidas all over the world. I wore them in France in 2015, including in Paris where lots and lots of other women were wearing their sneakers too. I shopped in them in New York in 2016, walked all over London in them in 2017, and even pretended to be riding a Vespa in them in Rome in 2018. And of course, my trusty Stan Smiths are a spring and summer staple in my wardrobe here at home. That photo of me on the Vespa reminds me how thrilled I was to see that the women in Rome had embraced sneaker chic in such a big way, wearing them with everything from jeans to silk dresses. I wrote a post about Italian chic when we came home. All about Italian sneaker chic, and how at home I felt in my own sneakers when we were there.
In the past couple of years I’ve started wearing my Stan Smiths with more than just my jeans. I’ve worn them to make dressy pant suits, like my old Max Mara or my Veronica Beard suit, more casual, more suitable for my casual retired life. I’ve even branched out into wearing them with skirts and dresses.
Last fall I took my Asics running shoes, my athletic running shoes, to Italy for walking and hiking. But then I found myself wearing them, and loving them, with a dressy jacket and jeans. They made a change from my white Stan Smiths. And lately I tried them with my navy Rag and Bone dress. I like the way they make the dress look less lady-like, more suitable for running around doing errands or meeting friends for coffee. But these sneakers, unfortunately, are the ones I wear walking the trail, cycling, canoeing, whatever. And frankly they look it.
So I’ve been thinking that I might invest in another pair of non-athletic runners. But I don’t want to spend my money if the trend has run its course. And that’s what I’ve been hearing. And reading. That sneaker chic is over.
In one article I read in The New York Times, Vanessa Friedman predicted that the sneaker frenzy had peaked. The frenzy she is writing about was the appearance of ever more crazy sneakers on the runways of Paris and Milan last year, as designers fell all over themselves to make their own version of the sneaker. Some were so bejewelled, “aggressively clumpy,” and over the top Friedman calls them “triumphantly ugly,” even referring to the worst offenders as the Cyclops of shoes. That made me laugh out loud. This lady does not pull her punches. She says that the sneaker situation has reached the “point of absurdity.” And her sources say that a sneaker “backlash is about to begin,” as fashion moves back to more formal footwear like pumps and high heels.
Please, please, say it isn’t so.
Okay. Let’s be calm. I think we should pause here to remember that fashion prognosticators have been predicting the death of skinny jeans for years, and we still see them everywhere. That premature death knell lead, instead, to a broader choice of styles. And, happily for many women, the skinny jean was no longer the only game in town. The sources Ms. Friedman quotes in her article can’t agree whether sneaker chic is over or not. Whether there will be a “sneaker backlash” or not. I think that chic sneakers will be with us for a while yet. And if the more outlandish, clumpy, bejewelled, Cyclops shoes die out, well, that would be a mercy. Ha. Besides, Ms. Friedman herself admits that we live in an ever more casual world, and that “once you trade in your stilettos, it is very hard to go back.”
Me, I haven’t worn stilettos since the eighties. I haven’t had even kitten heels on more than a couple of times a year since I retired. And only if I am going somewhere that will allow me to surreptitiously slip them off for a bit over the course of an evening. Seriously, my feet have almost forgotten how to wear real dress shoes.
I’m chuckling as I write this because the occasion upon which I wrote my post on The Death of Skinny Jeans back in 2017 was my purchase of two more pairs of skinny jeans. So, it seems I’ll be hanging onto my Stan Smiths for a while yet. At least until I don’t love them anymore. And I’ll probably start looking for a new pair of sneakers. Something in a colour. I’m thinking forest green. Just for a change.
After all, we like what we like, and we’ll wear what we want. Right? We’re grown up women. Not teenagers. We don’t have to do what anyone tells us to do. Anyone. Least of all fashion prognosticators.
What about you, my friends? Where do you stand on the sneaker issue? Are you a lover of sneakers with everything, like me? Ever had a desire to own a pair of those bejewelled, couture, cyclops shoes?