Fashion / Shopping

Inside Fashion’s Great Sneak Attack

Who Needs Heels When Women’s Sneakers Are This Fabulous?

BY // 09.04.18

I didn’t see it coming. The coup de grace, if you will, of girls’ closets shifting from rows of Blahnik and Choo heels to… sneakers? I grew up in an era when a continued joke was the well-known advertisements for Easy Spirit with the claim that their shoes “looked like a pump but feel like a sneaker.”

Fashion was supposed to be slightly uncomfortable and it was understood that to look good came with a price — and often a little pain. My general response when posed with “What size do you wear” before trying on a pair of 50-percent-off Gucci loafers is, “Anything from a nine to an 11 at this price.” (I’m truly a size 10.)

I was surprised to see the rapid growth of this trend. Women’s sneakers sales in the U.S. surged by 37 percent in 2017. During that same year, heels declined by 11 percent according to the NPD Group’s Retail Tracking Service.

Men’s fashion generally follows women’s trends. However, in the case of sneakers, this was not the case. First spied at Neiman Marcus was the new auxiliary section (with a substantial amount of square footage) of the men’s shoe department devoted to sneakers.

Were women jealous? Or had heels, particularly platforms, filtered down to the masses and no longer seemed like a luxury status symbol?

I spotted the trend in the past few years when visiting New York and then people-watching at Art Basel Miami Beach. Of course, the Left Coast, notably Los Angeles, has always erred to this aesthetic since the concept of calculated casual — with girls living in white Frame jeans, James Perse T-shirts, Hermès belts and MILF boots — dictates most wardrobe choices.

OK, so back to the concept of shoes as luxury status symbols. The designer sneakers of today aren’t the same price point as those I grew up wearing (see: Nike and K-Swiss). Most offerings from labels such as Louis Vuitton, Saint Laurent, Hermès and Balenciaga fetch at least $500.

In fact, I found some jeweled versions from Gucci for $1,590. Even the classic brands (see again Nike) have begun collaborations with influencers and celebrities, most notably Rihanna for Puma.

Sneakers have definitely been borne from “youthquakers” and unfortunately, I can’t even begin to understand some of the terminologies that they use. I’m familiar with “kicks” and “beaters,” but words such as “deadstock” and “hypebeast” were as foreign as ancient Sanskrit when I first encountered them. I spent an afternoon falling through the sneakerheads version of Alice’s rabbit hole recently when researching the trend.

Sartorial sneaker dressing is very much alive in Texas, a state known for a “pretty” aesthetic fueled by oil and gas funds. Texas “It Girls” like fashion blogger Bradley Agather Means and DJ Lucy Wrubel are frequently spotted scooting around town in their high-end gym shoes.

Is a collaboration between Lucchese and New Balance around the corner?

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