Designer Sneakers: Why Men Are Ditching Dress Shoes for Them



Once seen as a novelty worn only by fashion victims, designer trainers are replacing formal brogues and oxfords in many guys’ wardrobes. 



While Masters of the Universe still dutifully pair their Super 100s suits with proper leather lace-ups, other men in offices nearly as formal routinely pad around in upscale rubber-soled shoes. Luxury sneakers now dominate men’s footwear sales for e-commerce site Mr Porter and department store Barneys New York. In a telling move, the latter recently combined the formal and casual shoe departments at its New York and Beverly Hills locations.

Designer. Sneakers. As recently as five or six years ago, those words together still conjured an off-putting image for many men—of over-designed, gallingly expensive footwear, littered with logos in a way that evoked a duty free shop. The sort of thing a respectable guy wouldn’t be caught dead in. 
How did we get here from there? A confluence of factors are at play. First, dress codes have become increasingly relaxed over the past decade—remember when sneakers weren’t allowed in night clubs?—allowing for more creativity and freedom. Second, as designer-sneaker sales have ticked up and the shoes’ 24/7 relevance has somewhat justified the price, more designers have begun paying attention to the market. 


Though luxury brands have been making sneakers since the advent of Gucci’s tennis shoes in 1984, Mr Porter buying-and-sales director Toby Bateman credits both Common Projects, which launched in New York in 2004, and French label Lanvin with legitimizing the category. Lanvin’s slim-soled tennis-style sneaker with a patent leather toecap, introduced in 2006, moved the needle in the luxury world, he explained: “Everyone embraced it because it was wearable. It didn’t look like you were wearing running sneakers with your suit or smart trousers. That led to a lot of other people entering the arena.”
Now there’s a sneaker for every man—no matter his aesthetic. “You don’t need to be wearing a pair of drop-crotch sweatpants to be wearing [designer] sneakers,” said Barneys’ Mr. Kalenderian. “You can wear them with a gorgeous suit and look like a million bucks.”




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