I work in office where trainers are king. One of our top clients is a leading sports brand so it is certainly not unusual to see people bouncing around in the latest drop. Or for me to feel a twinge of guilt when I roll up in a rival brand… nevertheless if you work in an office with a remotely casual dress code, chances are these are a go-to part of your everyday uniform.
If you’re reading this as a member of the more corporate gang, I’m also hedging my bets that your after work/weekend looks involve trainers, or that they are maybe even subbed in for the walk home in place of those squeaky patent ‘work floor’ shoes.
Trainers have seen many renaissances and reincarnations over the years; from functional to being the distinguishing factor of someone’s personal ‘aesthetic’ (though Lily Allen has since given up the ghost with her specific brand of trainer/summer dress combo). They are ubiquitous, interchangeable and most of all, extremely democratic.
It was just as de rigeur for the sloany-est lot at university to be lacing up all black Nike Airs as it was the kids hanging out at the park. Vans are worn by everyone, from the it girls at Copenhagen Fashion Week to those who actually skate, and of course many own a converse or an adidas staple. All at once, the trainer is both a fashion opportunity- see adidas’ collab with Vera Wang and the infamous Yeezys, or Comme des Garçon’s iconic take on Converse- and an everyday shoe. Miranda Priestley’s stinging monologue in The Devil Wears Prada became the perfect sound bite on the inevitable osmosis of high fashion in our everyday style choices but trend setting is equally come from the streets upwards.
What is it about trainers that we all go mad for?
Are we all about the brand, the fact that there are so many styles, colourways and personalities? How they can make us feel like we’re part of a gang? Or maybe it’s that they’re just so comfortable. Going to uni in Leeds, it was a faux pas to go on a night out in heels; trainers were the go-to to avoid looking or feel over-dressed and you would never dream of being turned away for wearing your battered old favourites. This may vary between regions of course, but the appetite for more functional fashion is changing and women possess far more agency to be able to flout expectations.
Dress codes in general are more relaxed, even in the workplace. People no longer have uniforms, blurring the distinction between their professional and personal style. Sexist, archaic city dress codes are being called out for what they are. Between the rise of Athleisure and the more niche penchant for French style workwear, casual dressing is more popular than ever. Footwear is of course a natural extension of that, the demand for more casual shoes rising in popularity.
I had never coveted a shoe before the Rhianna’s ‘Fenty’ collab came along- whereby I found myself lusting after the green/maroon colourway with the perfect pie crust creeper sole. It subsequently sold out in a matter of seconds online. This, unbeknownst to me- a layman stumbling her way onto an Olympian level track- was an adrenaline-charged sport, involving furious page refreshing and an almost glazed over realisation when you are unsuccessful a mere 20 seconds in. It’s over already??
I all-too-casually asked my boyfriend to check them out on his travels past Office and even as he balked slightly at the price (‘£100??’) it didn’t perturb me. My trainers were ultimately a great investment; they now have a well-rounded heel to show for it, the gold foil PUMA logo long gone.
The Sneaker fandom has traditionally been a rather exclusionary, masculine space, closely linked to the traditional sports market and sometimes victim to the ‘shrink and pink it’ treatment when it comes to diversifying for a female audience. But industries are shifting, and the origins and functions of trainers diversifying. Female led blogs and Instagram movements celebrating a love of sneakers and trainers are on the rise, with leaders like @Girlsonkicks, a sneaker-led style blog featuring frequent collaborations with photographers, illustrators, visual artists and designers or the lush collaboration between top girl gang the International Girl Crew and Nike for a rainbow take on Nike Cortez Classics. Like many social and fashion movements in the past decade, women are gaining more autonomy all the time. Platforms like Instagram can often be a toxic environment for things like body confidence and general life envy, but it has also been a brilliant channel for women-led fandoms and movements to really flourish and multiply and for personal style to be shared and celebrated.