Fashion notes: The deceptive comfort of sneaker culture
The hallmark of a super trend lies less in its accessibility than in its catchy name. Trend-setters are a fickle bunch like that, finding it impossibly difficult to pass up on such a gimmick.
Urban street, granny chic, gothic Lolita, I could go on. Liars really, the lot of them, pretending such a trend will fit all. But there we go, time after time, rifling through our closets, like a moth to a flame or Sarkozy to a stacked heel, heading straight for the next big thing.
So when “casual chic”, the dress-down revolution, hit the masses it didn’t exactly win the hearts and souls of those in the inner circle.
For we are a cynical old bunch, who can spot a phoney quicker than a mother – history and repetition teaching us that anything that pretends to be a comfortable, no-nonsense, agreeable type, really involves a tremendous amount of deliberation.
I can hear the collective communal sigh from here. Why not, you cry. If the bendy types, who hover around gluten-free areas of Los Angeles, can do it, why can’t we?
Closely followed by those who work from home big-smiling at the thought, having been experimenting with the, ahem, “dress-down revolution” for an, ahem, “day at the office”, for decades.
Certainly, all in all it’s a rather appealing concept. A fashion trend wherein the “soccer mom” is a style icon and trainers are an “it” item. All that comfort-over-form promise – what could possibly go wrong? Well, lots. So let’s not get too comfortable with the thought.
Try to remember when Karl Lagerfeld sent his supermodels down the runway in trainers, they just so happened to be the world’s most beautiful women – all 36-inch legs and thigh gap as big as your waist – in couture. To deny this doesn’t make a difference would be gross negligence on my part. So, for the rest of us, let’s tread tentatively.
Before you jump into your wardrobe and rejoice, listen up, for it has to be the right kind of trainer – not the pair you wear to do the school run or settle down to the rest of last night’s burrito and new Homeland episode. What we are looking at here are cult trainers, footwear art, with a price tag to match – made for absolutely anywhere but the gym.
Whether it’s the New Balance 410, Céline’s skate shoe or the new Nike Air Max revised in metallics, your trainers should be fabulous enough to speak for themselves.
What we really have to look at is everything else. Common sense should tell us when swimming in unchartered trainer waters; too jazzy an outfit and you’re obviously in some sort of crisis. Any kind of jewellery and you are running into 90s girl-band territory. And unless you liken your fashion conscience to those of an off-duty goth (or Justin Timberlake), white trainers with black are a no – as is any kind of visible sock.
Part of the impact of “sneaker culture” is the sheer unexpectedness of it all, a defining shift towards functional womenswear. Look down at the feet of front-row goers and you’ll see a sea of white gym shoes, albeit dotted intermittently by a leopard tote as pricey as your house. These are, despite the obvious, interesting and important baby steps.
Am I sold? Not exactly. For I am telling this story as a warning: living a life in a state of comfortable bliss is highly addictive. Trainers are dangerous, dangerous things. Give in and you are on a helter-skelter of a slippery slope to much, much worse – tracksuits, anyone?