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.