Are Sneakers Dead to You, Too?

Alison Syrett | March 8, 2016

When high end brands introduced the idea of wearing gym shoes like regular ones in 2014 — Jane Fonda lace-ups anchoring tweed suits at Chanel, Dior’s bedazzled take on athletic slides, minimalist all-white trainers matched to Ralph Lauren’s minimalist all-white clothes — it felt like winning the Powerball. For the first time since beginning my career in fashion, I had landed on a trend that required no extra effort or adjustment period. How awesome was that?

My answer has grown more complicated with time.

You see, before designers entered the equation, Converse were just Converse, Vans were just Vans and Supergas were just Supergas. I had a couple pairs of each in my closet and would alternate my options on the weekend. Although I sometimes played up their tomboyish nature with more feminine clothes — think Alexa Chung circa her It’s On years — my styling process never came with a deeper sub-context. Classic, no-fuss trainers were like the oatmeal of my wardrobe: nothing fancy or special, yet guaranteed to satisfy every time.

But before you push that metaphorical bowl of oatmeal out of your mind, imagine it with a heaping drizzle of maple syrup and creamy almond milk instead. There are bananas and walnuts and chocolate chips mixed in. Sounds like a delicious breakfast, no? But every single morning? All those bells and whistles would get old after a while — much like the over-saturation of sneakers in fashion have turned the style stale. I can’t wear mine in a neutral way anymore. The mere presence of cotton, nylon and mesh on my feet suggests that I’ve attempted a look.

It was a slow build, my newfound aversion, something I tried to ignore for the sake of comfort. Of course I wanted to keep wearing Stan Smiths to the office; why wouldn’t I want the cushion-y delight of Flyknits at brunch? As every girl in my Instagram feed seemed to feel the same way, though, I had to face the facts: The look had started to feel homogenized, no longer expressing what made my wardrobe feel unique. So, after my 15 month long honeymoon with sporty footwear, I declared a break. I’m still not sure for how long.

Definitely going to wait until “Damn, Daniel” calms down.

In the meantime, I’m leaning toward easygoing options in the same reliable neither-in-nor-out middle ground that sneakers used to occupy. Ballet slippers, for instance, are appealing to me for the first time since, like, 2008. Especially lacy, colorful designs that teeter on the edge of prim. It’s an interesting way to balance out the big, baggy pants that are permeating my wardrobe as of late.

As for shoes that never get old…

Chelsea and/or combat boots! I can’t imagine a scenario in which these will ever feel uncool. Of course, that’s what I thought about sneakers, so here’s one more alternative…

Oxfords, brogues, loafers. I know, I know — that’s actually three. But whatever the flavor, menswear designs always deliver something good.

Now tell me: did fashion kill sneakers for you, too, was it the memes that did you in, or are you still on the rubber sole train?

Photographed by Krista Anna Lewis.

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  • Hannah Bernstein

    love love love the girl in all these pictures. so beautiful

  • Margaux Cohen

    I think you make great arguments. I totally agree on you Stan Smith point. (Even though that is still all I wear when I go out) However, I’m very much a sneaker girl. I think we’re so lucky to be living in the sneaker era. It is great not having painful feet every day or night (especially for those with flat feet or high arched feet like me). Living in a big city such as London or New York where you constantly have to walk, it is amazing to wear sneakers and be fashionable all at once..

  • http://www.thequietkind.com Ashlyn

    I think it’s possible that “high fashion” could have been oversaturated with sneakers, but there are so many other subcultures and styles where sneakers will pretty much always be the norm. If sneakers are an authentic part of someone’s life, by extension they’re a part of their style, even if they aren’t the most fashion forward, of-the-moment thing anymore. However, being somewhat (ok really) contrarian, I always find it hard when things I actually really love have their moments in the limelight.

    But maybe I’m just defending them so I can keep stalking dream sneakers on eBay and justify my weird desire to have a pair of Yeezys.

    • Chelsea Adilia Rojas

      nailed it.

    • Krista Anna Lewis

      YAS. Also, I have back problems, so sneakers keep me going. (I’ve officially turned into my mother.)

  • http://alittleleopard.com Abigail @ A Little Leopard

    All of the above shoe options are basically my entire shoe cloest — I’m not ready to let my sneakers go yet, but they’re in rotation with ballet flats, chelsea boots and oxfords/loafers for sure.

    • Elizabeth Tamkin

      I agree! ballet flats are the new go-to

      • Park Slope Punxy

        2004 repeats itself.

  • http://girlvsmountain.blogspot.ch/ Sarav

    i gave sneakers up a while ago so their going out of style is no sacrifice for me. i just feel too old and unkept when i wear them. but then again i always had trouble with sneakers: what makes a tall, skinny girl look efortless has always made me, in the words of my bff of 20 years ago, look “like a homeless person”. i am convinced i will start rocking them again when i’m close to being 60. then it will be all sneakers, all the time and it will look cool and subversive again…so yeah, that’s the plan!

  • keeks

    fuckkkkkkkk, sneakers=lyfe

  • http://lyndsayalmeida.com/ Lyndsay

    No! Please no! Don’t make me start overthinking this. 🙂

  • Eva Skewes

    I haven’t worn sneakers since my last pair of discontinued Simple Shoes died, but this piece made me look them up out of nostalgia. Turns out Kickstarter helped bring them back to life!

    Although I’ve never bought a shoe so quickly, I think not having them as an option for a number of years (I find Converse to be painful and my feet are too narrow for Vans) has made me a little more adventurous in my flat shoe wearing. As I type this I’m excitedly breaking in a pair of Everlane Modern Point lovers that I love more and more each and every day.

  • Yvonne Dunlevie

    It was not until I turned 22 that I accepted the chelsea boot…it was about 22 years too late

  • Hannah Cole

    I hadn’t even realised this thought in my fashion process until just now. Maybe subconsciously I have been avoiding my supergas of late because that’s just it – everyone is doing it, everyone is mixing their feminine skirts and monochrome pallets with a stand out pair of sneakers. And I don’t want to be grouped in all that.
    Instead my constant fave boots have had a resurgence – but I sure hope that the world stops loving sneakers soon, they look so lonely on my bedroom floor now.

  • http://www.preppypanache.com/ Beck {at} PreppyPanache

    I think there’s a time and place for sneakers and they’re definitely still a staple in my shoe rotation.

    • Elizabeth Tamkin

      I agree! Sneakers will be relevant for perhaps ever, but I’m relieved that the exact same sneaker (Stan Smith, anyone?) in the exact same color, is not on every foot strolling around SoHo.

  • Chelsea Patricia Henriquez

    Still riding that rubber sole train strong! I simply can’t get enough of them and really hate that I can’t wear them around the office?

    xx,
    Chelsea Henriquez
    http://www.chelseaasoflate.com

  • dina louise

    i’m probably older than most folks who reply here… i actually can’t remember a time when sneakers were totally out or uncool…. 70’s i was in junior high … i wore them but not all the time… along with platforms, jellyies, moccasin boots… etc. 80s… i wore them. who didn’t want to mimic hip hop fashion…. 90s.. i wore them again.. not everyday. prada and helmet lang refined them. 2000’s again… i wore them for comfort and cool. nike and new balance crazy colors! so fun! now.. i still wear them. i’m a bit sick of the slim look at this point. it’s played out. i tend to like the chunky ones again. my argument… they don’t go out of style they just change in shape.

  • Angela Rose Keating

    I still love the sporty chic look but I really understand where some may be turned off by their over-use in the fashion arena.

    • Commentycomment

      It’s almost the hipster thing of not liking something anymore because it’s too mainstream, i.e. popular. I’m an older girl and when I had to commute to London once a week for meetings, I used to wear my Adidas with my suit and briefcase and it never raised an eyebrow – but then it was very early 90s and there were some unfortunate fashion choices being made, I think I was trying to keep out of the fashion bubble my friends were in (I was the weird one) I buck against being ‘told’ what to wear

  • smillipede

    uhmmm nope i dont think so sneaks 4ever

  • lxxg

    Maybe the solution is just to go in the totally opposite direction ie back to squishy sketchers

  • http://www.stylishdisaster.com Liz

    I really hope sneakers aren’t over. I’m with the commenters who say that high fashion took them over and did them to death, but high fashion isn’t living my life on the weekends (or on Friday at work; who the hell am I kidding). I’m still loving the awesome color combos that New Balance is putting out on their kicks: those and my navy mid-top Vans are carrying me through to the summer.

    http://www.stylishdisaster.com

  • http://www.looking-glass.ca/ Maria

    I still love sneakers, because they’re still the most comfortable. I have to run around a lot at work so sneakers are my go-to. I wore the comfiest high tops yesterday and my feet still ended up a bit sore at the end of the day.

  • Fashionably Sparkly

    I love sneakers and I’m all about comfort when it comes to shoes but I agree, they are everywhere and I’m already getting a bit bored of them. That’s why I’m always trying to wear them with unusual combinations 🙂

    Fashionably Sparkly

  • Erin Dear

    This may not be a super popular opinion, but I wholeheartedly think its time for the 1940’s inspired pumps to become the standard. Like Chie Mihara shoes: Substantial heel, quirky patterns/designs and comfy AF. I’m so tired of minimalism.

  • http://www.fracturedaesthetic.com/ Natalie Geisel

    I wear my Stan Smiths almost every day of the week but 4 out of 7 of the days I dread wearing them for this exact same reason. I was in love with them the first 5 months I had them and now I’m still attached to them but I really just want to give them up (are we an old married couple??), maybe if I just got new sneakers that are completely different? Because they’re so damn comfortable

  • ahnah

    I am a sneaker girl but i have ALWAYS hated adidas AND white sneakers so all these adidas blablabla and adidas blebleble didn’t catch me at all, mostly i stay with my converses and nikes (and even keds) and don’t give a fuck about all the pieces about the 300.000 reasons i should wear white sneakers and make it looks super fabulous formal as gigi hadid wearing leggings, crop top, stan smith and 10.000 dolars purse and coat and being casually dress up.

  • starryhye

    Sneakers will always have their time and place. I’ve been wearing Converse since I was an angsty pre-teen in the 90s!

  • theysayshycity

    I’m late to the party, but this article has been on my mind for the past week or so. One thing that really caught me was the name dropping–all these sneakers were adopted by consumers in general to fit a general cultural image. And if that’s what you’re chasing, you’re right, sneakers are over.

    At the same time, as a queer woman, sneakers in some way feel like I’m dressing for my identity. I can femme it up, sure. Nothing is dictating what I can or can’t wear based on my sexual orientation or gender. But, for me, there’s something about wearing sneakers that makes me feel like I’m actually being ME.

  • xtyb

    well I love sneakers, I have always made them part of my style, but I agree that it’s good to switch it up. So will someone please help me find these-even though I basically consider them sneakers-

    • xtyb

      oooF! I feel like such an amateur. Celine. Since I do not live in a ‘fashion capital’ that still makes them hard for me to get. LMK if you see them in your Barneys and I will call!

  • soniadelvalle

    I love the sneakers trend. Almost my whole wardrobe is engineered to work with sneakers. You will have to pry my adidas off my cold dead feet!

  • olive

    this is beautiful. But sneakers are comfortable for walking if you live in a city, and I don’t want sneakers to ever be over! I like feeling fresh if i have my cropped slacks with some nikes and cool earrings. : )

  • http://talesonsilk.com/ Tales On Silk

    Late to the party here – but I agree with some of the commentators here – sneakers will always have their place and can be kept in rotation with ballets/ brogues/loafers. They are perfect for city living and among the more comfortable shoes women can find. If you are interested in a unique, limited edition pair – try this:
    http://www.aliveshoes.com/talesonsilkxleoniez
    http://www.etsy.com/talesonsilk
    http://www.talesonsilk.com

  • pennyjenny

    I think I’m literally the only person on this thread who has an aversion to sneakers. I will rock a plain black pair every once in awhile, and I own a pair of Chucks or two, but you’ll never find me wearing white Nike/Adidas/etc. shoes. Don’t know why; it’s just not my thing. I am much more likely to wear pumps, blocky heels, flats, boots…

  • Devon Cansada Wade

    I have yet to demystify wearing tennis shoes to work or in a non-weekend or gym setting. I started wearing loafers in the 7th grade and never stopped.

  • Ali Peat

    I am still on the New Balance lifestyle trainer ‘sole train’!

  • Suzanne Brinkman

    I’ve never liked sneakers. I’ve worn all stars when I was 12, but discovers that sneaker, for me, are gym-only!

  • jen

    You cant walk across town in ballet slippers. You just cant. Be strong and keep your sneakers on, America!

    • Park Slope Punxy

      You can conquer the world in a pair of Frye Campus boots, though.

  • Jayne

    For me, the trainer aversion worked the other way round. I have long avoided trainers, even the likes of converse as I disliked the whole athleisure for casual wear look, and while I still don’t see myself sporting (ha) an entire look in the likes I, however have since warmed enough to Stan Smiths to purchase a pair and I really like the relaxed vibe they lend to an outfit. It is odd for me to avert from my usual patent boot or loafer footwear but all of the over saturation of trainers not only on the high street but with designer labels too, I have finally been somewhat persuaded to indulge in the trend. Who knows to what lengths this will develop to but the wonder is always there of whether I am being true to myself or just being brain-washed by current trends. x

    electraviolet.co.uk

  • waspy trust fund bby

    Who cares what other people are wearing? If you wear those stan smiths in your own way and arent rocking that shit in such a literal way, then you arent homogenized. you know that, and anyone who knows you knows that. if you feel homogenized, maybe its because you are. if you stop wearing something because it got popular makes u just as whack as the people who wear something BECAUSE it got popular. isnt that like text bjust wear what u like and have good taste ?

  • Shakeel

    I think sneaker are well alive for me…My first choice for everyday look..
    http://www.semantika.in

  • revise + proof

    Seriously, like, get out of my head … I reach for them and think, ‘I’m so over you.” And then, “You’re looking a little beat up, btw….” Now I’m thinking, did I just publicly admit to having a conversation with my sneakers? yes, yes. I. did.

  • http://www.mascaranotwar.com Emma

    I love nondescript slip-on sneakers anytime, and keep them by the door for when I’m running out of the house wearing some casual outfit that I forgot to coordinate with other shoes. However…I’m also done with sneakers. I was never that into them as a “thing” but I am feeling the renewed freshness of ballet flats, loafers, brogues, etc. and will definitely be incorporating them into my wardrobe this spring/summer/entirety of 2016

  • Aila

    Sneakers r fine

  • MidnighTower

    Wow, really late to the party…
    I hated the sneaker trend but I never really liked sneakers, so it was kind of a moot point. I wear a lot of dresses and I wasn’t crazy about the whole, dress/skirt with sneakers thing but I never complain about overexposure; it’s kind of an opportunity. It helped me discover my love love of slip-on Vans. Still, I think I only like that because from a distance they don’t really read as sneakers.

  • http://www.curvasian.com curvasian

    There are no other shoes that you can walk in as fast as sneakers, I get to do double the amount of stuff in one day because of them. Whenever I try to put on a pair or other things, I think to myself – but I have places to go and things to do! Then I just slip back in my converse sneakerboots

  • Nicole touche

    I actually got tired of seen everyone with the same sneakers and that the color just changed, it wasn’t fashion anymore. We think alike.

  • Gregory Apparel

    I love the sneaker look. Especially when it’s a vans or a “skater” sneaker and even the platform ones. Something seek, you know? But, I’m seeing fashion gals in the Street Style pics with big clunky cross trainers and running shoes…. likes hoses you’d see some wear to workout. Ew. Hate that look.
    Also, I’d love to see an update of the ballet flat. So boring! What am I, 75 and living on the Upper East Side?

  • http://www.stylenfuse.com Natalie Alvarado

    Yesterday I got a pair of Nike Airmax.. For the longest time I refused to wear trainers other than the gym. My chucks were for an occasional weekend, running errands and the plane. Because I wouldn’t dare to prance around Milano or NY in other than flalform brogues, Chelsea’s or loafers. Also just moved out of New York last year, it might be the West Coast vibe getting to me. . But these are comfy

  • http://www.pigglypooblog.com PigglyPoo

    I love sneakers…even though I have trotters….Converse Chucks are like the universal go-to sneaker, in my own opinion 🙂 (LOVE THE MAN REPELLER TEAM/Great Article)

  • Laina

    love the fashion, lets add some comfort! Trying to help! I spent years developing an insole that fits into fashionable shoes…take a look at our kickstarter, just launched!

  • Wendy Martínez Guzmán

    I really hope they´re not completely gone… Not because I´m not tired too of the same old look (Stans, jeans, long coat), but because there are so many more outfits out there with them to explore! I really really want to see MORE. C’on girls! You can do much more with runners! not just jeans and statement tees…

  • SaintNastya

    Dude. I was looking for a new pair of sneakers for about 2 months. I had new balance for almost 5 years. I loved them till they died in a washing machine. But dear lord you are actually right. I bought a decent pair of soft leather ankle boots recently and I’m not planning to buy sneakers in the near future. BUT maybe full black converse. They look badass.

  • streats

    I am constantly in a rut with shoes. I’ve been wearing the same one pair of Chelsea boots every day for two years because I have no idea what else to wear. My problem is I live in a cold rainy country so lots of the prettier shoes are not viable options, and I walk A LOT so a lot of the heeled styles are also not suitable. Runners (as we call them here in Ireland) are appealing for this reason because you can now get them in chicer styles than the dirty-white Asics people wear on their commute or the garishly-neon kicks people wear to the gym. I am a classic girl though so the adidas samba or classic Nike swoosh or even just an all-black Skecher will always look good to me. But I’d still like more options to wear with dressier or more put together looks.

    Loafers are great, as are brogues, but other than those (and aforementioned Chelsea boots) there aren’t that many flat, closed shoe styles available. Ballet flats get wrecked too quickly and they let the rain in, and anything backless or with cut outs defeats the point of wearing something on your feet if you live anywhere where it’s colder than 60 degrees for most of the year. Even with funky tights or socks.

    Help me Team MR! I love the idea of being a shoe gal who wears a minimalist uniform on top but a different pair of statement shoes every day – but I just don’t see HOW

  • Ashli Molina

    I feel #blessed to live in a world that values the comfort of sneakers. If there’s anything I’ve learned living in a city built on cobblestone, it’s that I never want to let go of sneakers.

  • Nonnah

    I like the option of kicks, but I was never able to completely let go of my flats, oxfords, heals and so forth. I have way too many shoes to limit my style!

  • Park Slope Punxy

    Chelsea and/or combat boots! I can’t imagine a scenario in which these will ever feel uncool.

    psst, I hate to tell you this, but…

    I mean seriously? Combat boots are at the end of their extraordinarily-long lifespan, and Chelsea boots had their moment as fad, too.

    They are kinda beyond uncool – but they haven’t gone away enough to every come back as cool. They’re just uber common, which is the worst place to be.

  • http://www.jet-lag-trips.com/ Christel

    Not at all ! I love them… even if some of them need to be relooked but otherwise I love them. They are cool !!

  • Matriarch

    Sneakers aren’t dead to me because I live in Berlin. But if you are still looking for an easygoing option somewhere in between menswear and rubber sole train may I/we humbly/shamelessly suggest our shoes: http://www.wethematriarch.com. Designed for women by two women of varying degrees of tomboy/girl. (Young) veterans of the footwear industry who have seen enough to know that we need to take matters into our own hands if we want to see what we want to see.

  • Imelda_the_Hon

    I started wearing sneakers almost full time 19 years ago and have never looked back. Hoka One One, Nike, even Skechers. When I have to appear to be more nicely dressed I wear loafers, lace-ups or sandals from FitFlop and they feel just like sneakers anyway.

    Color me spoiled.

  • Valia Faria Sulbaran

    Runners won’t die, ever! There are days that I feel like runners (most of them), some other like booties, flats, heels. When it come to shoes, in my humble opinion, it will be your daily mood that’ll determine what you’ll be wearing that day.

  • Shakeel

    Sneakers best for me