What is Happening to Sneakers?
While I am often able to field changing fashion tides without many blunders, recent sneaker trends have hit me with a tidal wave of absolute confusion. Ugly sneakers are trending and I could not be more dumbfounded. Chunky, heavy, and oddly reminiscent of the shoes my dad wears to mow the lawn, clunky sneakers are quickly rising to fame. Balenciaga’s Triple S sneakers with layers of brightly colored and partially distressed nylon and leather atop a nearly three inch thick rubber sole is most likely responsible for bringing these 80s-esque shoes back from the dead (not to mention at a price of over $800). After debuting in August of last year, celebrities and models alike have been seen sporting the heavy footwear since the Fall and Steve Madden and Zara have already put the design into mass production. Despite the fact that the style is culminating across platforms, I still cannot see the beauty, practicality, or comfort in wearing such unflattering shoes.
Perhaps the answer lies not in the shoes themselves, but the trends that are going on beyond them. For nearly a decade, fashion trends have focused on returning to the basics. Although there are still designers like Saint Laurent, Chanel, Gucci, and Balmain who are producing traditional Haut fashion, such as pearled collared dresses, studded blazers, and floral accessories, more and more high end designers have turned their attention in a simpler direction. Labels including Calvin Klein and Valentino, for instance, have steered away from the traditional looks seen on the runway, in favor of focusing on the basics. Additionally, there has been a rise of minimalist lines such as that of Kanye West’s pared down designs that some have called “drab, broken-down basics” (The Cut) and even harsher, reminiscent of “leftover turkey” (NYT), whatever that is supposed to mean. Even in everyday brands the simplifying trend can be seen in the popularization of the white sneaker or the plain t-shirt. It seems that designs have become so striped down that the next logical step is to take our fixation on the basics and amplify them to almost offensive extremes. After all, what is more contradictory to a pair of sleek Stan Smiths than a chunky pair of shoes with a nearly 3 inch rubber sole?
This then leads us to the appeal of ugly sneaker, or “dad sneakers” as some have cleverly dubbed them. While there are many people like me who truly fail to see the draw the sneakers seem to hold, they are nonetheless taking up major traction for reasons beyond aesthetics. Most clearly, the shoes offer relief from the uniform-like trends that have crowded fashion lines and infiltrated nearly every label. In fact, in some ways, the shoes themselves mock the rut minimalist designs have put us in. Pieces are finally being designed to stand out once again, rather than blend in. These shoes themselves go to show that fashion doesn't always have to be so serious. The clunky, nostalgic feel of the shoes have personality on their own and even if they do nothing for the eye, they are nonetheless becoming a major talking point in the world of fashion. While I cannot say how long the trend of heavy-soled sneakers will last, nor if I will ever trott around in a pair, I do know that they are making a statement far beyond an individual outfit. Dad sneakers turning their nose at simple styles may very well be just the beginning of a backlash of fashion basics and a revolution of outrageous statement pieces.