Sneaker chic has been a thing for so long now, it’s kind of hard to remember when it started. I’ll bet there are adults (okay, young adults) who have never known a time when it wasn’t cool to wear sneakers with ordinary clothes. They don’t remember when we wore running shoes only for running, or walking, or going to the gym. I, for one, am so very glad that sneaker chic is a thing, and continues to be a thing. Because I love my sneakers, and I wear them with pretty much everything I own.
I’ve always loved the look of a fresh white sneaker. As kids, we wore thin-soled white sneakers all summer. When they got dirty we washed them, and sometimes even used white shoe polish to clean them up. In junior high, when I played a lot of team sports, I bought my first pair of Adidas, white with the classic three black stripes. I thought they were so cool. Not like “girls’ sneakers” at all. Then for years and years I didn’t even own a pair of sneakers, until I started running in the eighties. Funnily enough, trying to choose a good pair of runners for my narrow feet and badly pronating knees is how Hubby and I first started chatting in the staff room at Glebe Collegiate. You might say that sneakers brought us together. Ha.
After that I was all about wearing running shoes again, for running, cycling, and playing golf (badly). That is until the early 2000s when sneaker chic became a thing.
I’ve had my beloved white and red Stan Smith Adidas since 2015. Before that I’d struggled for years to find a pair of non-athletic runners that I liked. I began looking initially because I saw them paired with jeans and casual pants on What Not to Wear in 2003. And over the years I shopped and shopped for cute runners for street wear. I tried two pairs of Sketchers that I didn’t love; both were desperation purchases since I needed something suitable for travelling. I also remember buying a pair of some other brand because I wanted a cute pair of sneakers to wear to work with cords and my leather jacket on casual Fridays. Ha. Cute they were not. Then Nordstrom opened here in Ottawa and I discovered Stan Smith Adidas. Sigh. Me and Stan… it was love at first sight.
I’ve worn my Stan Smith Adidas all over the world. I wore them in France in 2015, including in Paris where lots and lots of other women were wearing their sneakers too. I shopped in them in New York in 2016, walked all over London in them in 2017, and even pretended to be riding a Vespa in them in Rome in 2018. And of course, my trusty Stan Smiths are a spring and summer staple in my wardrobe here at home. That photo of me on the Vespa reminds me how thrilled I was to see that the women in Rome had embraced sneaker chic in such a big way, wearing them with everything from jeans to silk dresses. I wrote a post about Italian chic when we came home. All about Italian sneaker chic, and how at home I felt in my own sneakers when we were there.
In the past couple of years I’ve started wearing my Stan Smiths with more than just my jeans. I’ve worn them to make dressy pant suits, like my old Max Mara or my Veronica Beard suit, more casual, more suitable for my casual retired life. I’ve even branched out into wearing them with skirts and dresses.
Last fall I took my Asics running shoes, my athletic running shoes, to Italy for walking and hiking. But then I found myself wearing them, and loving them, with a dressy jacket and jeans. They made a change from my white Stan Smiths. And lately I tried them with my navy Rag and Bone dress. I like the way they make the dress look less lady-like, more suitable for running around doing errands or meeting friends for coffee. But these sneakers, unfortunately, are the ones I wear walking the trail, cycling, canoeing, whatever. And frankly they look it.
So I’ve been thinking that I might invest in another pair of non-athletic runners. But I don’t want to spend my money if the trend has run its course. And that’s what I’ve been hearing. And reading. That sneaker chic is over.
In one article I read in The New York Times, Vanessa Friedman predicted that the sneaker frenzy had peaked. The frenzy she is writing about was the appearance of ever more crazy sneakers on the runways of Paris and Milan last year, as designers fell all over themselves to make their own version of the sneaker. Some were so bejewelled, “aggressively clumpy,” and over the top Friedman calls them “triumphantly ugly,” even referring to the worst offenders as the Cyclops of shoes. That made me laugh out loud. This lady does not pull her punches. She says that the sneaker situation has reached the “point of absurdity.” And her sources say that a sneaker “backlash is about to begin,” as fashion moves back to more formal footwear like pumps and high heels.
Please, please, say it isn’t so.
Okay. Let’s be calm. I think we should pause here to remember that fashion prognosticators have been predicting the death of skinny jeans for years, and we still see them everywhere. That premature death knell lead, instead, to a broader choice of styles. And, happily for many women, the skinny jean was no longer the only game in town. The sources Ms. Friedman quotes in her article can’t agree whether sneaker chic is over or not. Whether there will be a “sneaker backlash” or not. I think that chic sneakers will be with us for a while yet. And if the more outlandish, clumpy, bejewelled, Cyclops shoes die out, well, that would be a mercy. Ha. Besides, Ms. Friedman herself admits that we live in an ever more casual world, and that “once you trade in your stilettos, it is very hard to go back.”
Me, I haven’t worn stilettos since the eighties. I haven’t had even kitten heels on more than a couple of times a year since I retired. And only if I am going somewhere that will allow me to surreptitiously slip them off for a bit over the course of an evening. Seriously, my feet have almost forgotten how to wear real dress shoes.
I’m chuckling as I write this because the occasion upon which I wrote my post on The Death of Skinny Jeans back in 2017 was my purchase of two more pairs of skinny jeans. So, it seems I’ll be hanging onto my Stan Smiths for a while yet. At least until I don’t love them anymore. And I’ll probably start looking for a new pair of sneakers. Something in a colour. I’m thinking forest green. Just for a change.
After all, we like what we like, and we’ll wear what we want. Right? We’re grown up women. Not teenagers. We don’t have to do what anyone tells us to do. Anyone. Least of all fashion prognosticators.
What about you, my friends? Where do you stand on the sneaker issue? Are you a lover of sneakers with everything, like me? Ever had a desire to own a pair of those bejewelled, couture, cyclops shoes?
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52 thoughts on “Sneaker Chic Forever.”
Four square and comfortable is how I stand on this. I bought my first pair of non-runners this summer and it was, as you say, love at first sight. Kept them on, strode out of the shop and realised I had solved the comfy summer shoe problem at a bargain price. They are white and are going to have some leather shoe-whitener as a treat this weekend. I also bought the identical style in black and, while they are super-duper comfortable too, I look rather…different. Mr Green actually did a double-take when I wore them, confirming that, yes, I looked like a nun, albeit a modern one. So I think they will remain to be worn for more practical occasions (proper walking etc) and will be fine with black trousers (slim) for autumn and winter. Fashionistas can say what they want: my feet are giving loud huzzahs!
I just love feeling so comfortable in something I really like the look of as well. Can’t imagine how I wore four inch heels back in the eighties. The line about the nun made me laugh. Pretty much what I thought when I tried on a black pair.
Team sneaker here! My silver sneakers are my USP, well not really but they are my daily work commute shoe. Oh, yes I love channelling a modified ‘Working Girl’ style. Also, wear them on the weekend with my skinny jeans. Is this the latest old lady comfort style?
Anyway, comfy feet are sexy feet.
And no, I have never wanted a pair of bejewelled couture cyclops shoes.
I remember thinking how cute Melanie Griffiths looked in her sneakers and skirt in that movie. Not old lady comfort style… chic and with-it old lady comfort style. Ha.
A polite no thanks to bejewelled, couture sneakers. But I love wearing sneakers most of the year, except in summer when I turn to cooler sandals or Birkenstocks. Currently, I have three pairs of leather sneakers, all going strong. One pair of red Legero, a similar Legero sneaker in a denim blue colour and a dark greeny grey pair of Ecco sneakers. The oldest are the red pair, which I’ve had for 8 years and still going strong. The Ecco are the newest and not quite as comfortable as the other but I’m hoping that’ll improve with wear. I love putting on sneakers knowing that, whatever the day brings, I can walk comfortably without getting sore feet. The fashion prognosticators can say what they like. Comfort is incredibly important so I’ll keep wearing sneakers whether they’re in fashion or not.
Some of those sneakers reminded me of the post I wrote where I wondered if sometimes fashion houses were having us on. Emperor’s New Clothes kind of thing.
We mature aged women vote with our feet, so whatever we feel is comfortable and stylish/ current is what we will wear! I have a couple of pairs of “restaurant shoes”, heels worn in the car en route, then kicked off under the table, but otherwise there are plenty of options, usually not cheap but worth the outlay. The joy of being grown up, finally.
My problem is that my feet swell when I have a glass of wine and sit too long… then I can’t get the danged shoes back on easily.
The crazy sneakers are definitely something to behold – and likewise, their prices! I have to admit though, I have seen some leopard sneakers that I cover it, though I’m not so sure they would be comfortable in the least and I’m certainly not willing to pay the price I’ve seen on them. That aside, I wear sneakers often (best black sneaks) – partly because I walk a lot and also because of my back – however…
When you are of Lilliputian stature, wearing sneakers looks ridiculous with most outfits! That is and has been the story of my life. And then there is the fact that I can’t be seen in many scenarios without at least a 2 inch heel!
(I used to have wedge sneakers that basically gave me 3 inches in height. They were pretty comfortable all things considered, though I doubt I would go for anything like that these days.)
Proportion is everything isn’t it? Like how whether we have long legs or short affects our choice of pant leg length… shoes are the same.
I wear only sneakers, sandals and then boots in the winter. Over the years I have acquired quite the collection(always shop the sales for my favorite brands). Life is too short for foot problems. I love the look of the Stan Smiths, but they don’t work with my feet. I do have several other Adidas runners though, and like the Ecco for dressier sneakers. As for the over-the-top “designer” ones, that’s a big no. Fashion has changed a lot in my lifetime, now women are not willing to give up styles they love when it is deemed out of style(as with your reference to skinny jeans). By the way, I am so appreciative of your blog. It is always a good read, and your commenters offer interesting perspectives, and really good advice about books!
Thanks so much, Judy. I’ve never tried the Ecco. I must have a look at their sneakers.
Ha, ha, old enough to remember the 60s and the sneakers of that time. But…I sort of still follow that way of thinking. When I put on a pair of sneakers, there’s going to be more than a little walking taking place. This is not solely due to tradition as much as I just like to kick off my shoes at every opportunity. Most days of the 365 you’ll find me in flats or loafers. Flats with bare feet in summer, loafers with socks until the boots come out. Now, you look great in your sneakers and I’m owing it to your height and style savvy way of pulling off looks! Come to think of it, those two qualities help you look as great as you do all the time!
Thanks, Marguerite. I love my loafers too. And my boots. Almost as much as my sneakers.
Haven’t worn anything that resembles a stiletto or even a kitten heel in eons and have never been one to care an iota about fashion prognosticator’s predictions. Comfort is what I crave most from a pair of shoes. Having had ankle surgery in one foot and a broken bone in the other in recent years, have been forced to wear a Cam boot walker for many more months than I can to remember. My almost constant companion shoe in this process has been a black clog that had just enough lift to match the height the Cam boot heel (without a matching shoe height, your back will complain loudly). Sneakers simply didn’t have enough height and the platform models weren’t appealing. So I am only just now investing in sneakers. Bought some Ecco sneakers, but not sure about the flatness. Also got an Adidas slip on which isn’t bad, but not sure it has enough support. Sigh. So the search goes on.
I can imagine wearing that boot adds a whole new dimension to getting dressed. My Stan Smiths are quite flat but I wear my orthotics in them. Another advantage of a sneaker over a regular flat.
Love my Asics for everything…….not just because it’s in fashion but out of necessity for a poor back!! Love the look with my good clothes .
Me too, Arlene. I’m wearing my sneakers with everything but my bathing suit. Not that I’m wearing it very often. Ha.
Being unsporty I was late to the sneaker trend & still don’t have any serious ones . I have some Sketchers for round the house & garden plus some scruffy untrendy sneakers for local dog walks . For ‘tidy’ wear it’s my white Picollino loafers or white sneakers by Ecco , both are really comfortable & look good with skirts too . Not as sporty looking as proper sneakers but they are my favourites .Occasionally we have hot weather & I manage to get into sandals . You look great in your blue ones . It’s nice to see your garden full of sunshine rather than snow – such a difference .
I’ve never tried Eccos. Must have a look next time I’m shopping. Our garden is blooming. Due of course to my encouragement of Stu in his gardening habit, and pouring the beer when he’s done. Ha.
I was surprised in Italy last year by all the women wearing sneaker, it’s every kind of clothing. Made me wish I had brought the athletic sneakers I normally use just for walking distances. I have added several varieties of fun sneakers, and miss the red canvas ones that washed out when I “cleaned” them with a special product I found at Nordstrom. I eventually replaced them with a dark red Frey loafer that will actually have a longer wearing season.
I have donated almost all of my heels to organizations helping women get back to the workplace, but I bet even they don’t wear them beyond interviews! I do not think sneakers are going anywhere, women love them and won’t go back to wearing torture chambers on their feet. Love the striped skirt, great look on you!
When we were in Italy, I was sooo happy that I’d packed my sneakers and left my dressy shoes at home. I’d been warned that Italians were dressier than the French, but I decided to pack what I liked and be damned. That turned out to be the best packing idea I’ve had.
I had completely forgotten about polishing my Keds sneakers as a kid. You brought back all those memories! I always wear New Balance since I have narrow feet, and then ECCO sneakers for dress up. No heels for me, just wearing orthotics in shoes which negates any kind of heel! I do have a pair of Sketchers which sort of look like loafers that I wear for “dress up”. At age 70, comfort is what I am always looking for in a shoe.
Oh yes, polishing our sneakers. And too much polish resulted in cracking. Not a good look. Ha.
We have Phoebe Philo of Céline to thank for the resurgence of Stan Smiths with dressy clothes.
Re Stans: there’s an insane podcast called “Everything Is Alive,” in which the host interviews inanimate objects, voiced by people. Such creativity! Anyway, one of the sponsors was … Stan Smiths!!! So they had a conversation between Stan Smith the sneaker and Stan Smith the human for whom the sneaker was named. Like I said, insane. Insanely creative.
I am seeing some women in platform/wedge-style shoes, especially espadrilles and sandals. Almost no heels, unless they are low and chunky. When women aren’t wearing sneakers, they are wearing oxfords, brogues, wingtips, etc. Flat and comfortable and more stylish than sneakers.
The over-the-top bulky sneakers are limited to teenage girls with toothpick legs, for maximum contrast between leg and shoe.
I remember being inspired by Phoebe Philo and her entrance at the end of a show in her sneakers. I think that was back in 2014. I must look for that podcast. Thanks.
I don’t own sneakers but I keep looking. When my orthotics arrive shortly that will be the shoe I’m looking for. So here is my question….does one wear socks with them when the weather cools. If so, the same colour? And can I wear white sneakers in October. Duh?!?😉
I don’t wear socks with my white sneakers. Except when we’re travelling and will be walking a lot. Then I wear those little white golf socks for comfort, rolled down so not much of them can be seen. My orthotics which I always have in my sneakers are not good with bare feet in the heat. But I have seen women in socks that work with the colour of their sneaker. And I usually switch to my loafers in the later fall, and pack my white sneakers away for spring, or travel.
I want to get a pair of the Allbirds. I have friends who swear by them and have multiple pair. I bought a pair of blue suede sneakers at TARGET, of all places, and they get a ton of compliments!
I’ve been reading about Allbirds. They are totally environmentally friendly, apparently. But I haven’t tried on a pair.
Like so many others have said I am a sneaker fan. They work great on my skinny feet for one so I shall continue to wear them. I have had success with Ecco as a like the slightly more refined look on my skinny feet but have had some difficulty in tracking down certain colours/styles here in Canada. I will certainly not be going for the OTT style from the catwalks – they would look like boats on me!!! I don’t always comment but love your blog as your posts are always interesting and well written.
My feet are really narrow too. I have to pick and choose which sneakers to buy. If the shoe is too chunky and wide, the toes go all foldy when I lace them up tight enough. I also don’t want a style that is too narrow or feminine looking. You’re the third person who has mentioned Ecco. I should try them.
I’m not a fan of Ecco as they’re too flat and don’t really have the arch support I need. My foot doc didn’t like them either – even though they were very stylish, brushed metallic gold – as he felt they lacked the necessary support. Always fall back on the brand FitFlops (from Britain) which I order on-line, on sale. Just bought my first pair of (Soffit) white sneakers this year and feel weird wearing white sneakers. Need more practice I guess. Keep wearing my FitFlop Superskate loafers.
Loafers are always good, in my opinion. I love the comfort of them and they’re just chunky enough for me not to look too dressy.
You have a marvelous ability to take a subject such as tennis shoes (what we choose to call them in Texas) and write the most interesting and entertaining blog! Love your pictures.. Enjoyable reading.
Thanks so much, Pat.
I love my sneakers, especially the rose gold Airwalk Speed Vitesse pair that I walked all over Europe in this spring and my similarly coloured Circus by Sam Edelman pair that are super comfy but not as good for walking long distances. I’ve worn that pair with a dress and loved the look. Fashion prognosticators can say what they like, this girl isn’t giving up sneaker chic (or skinny jeans) anytime soon!
You go, Elaine. I’m right behind you. 🙂
I remember the excitement of getting my new pair of PF Flyers every summer, and looking forward to breaking them in, as in rubbing dirt on them because I hated the look of new white sneakers! And then the agony of going shopping for school shoes in late August, after a summer of sneakers, sandals and thongs (what we called flip-flops). Those closed toe, leather school shoes made my feet feel like they were in prison.
Love the look of Stan Smiths, but they don’t work for my feet. I found Frye Ivy Low Lace sneakers in white leather to be a great option. Leather inside and out, and the insole can be lifted to slip in my slim orthotic. Get lots of compliments on them, including from my daughters.
I’ve never seen the Frye sneaker. I must have a look at them.
I think that sneakers are here to stay.
I’ve wear different kind of sneakers for sport and free time-walking in nature,holidays….Maybe some twenty years ago, I’ve started to buy “dressier” kind of sneakers,first for travel (and remember a perfect olive green Sketchers who have travelled with me half the Europe-and after that ,the same model and size in chocolate brown who were pain in…well,walking). I have now Nike Airmax metalic silver Thea and Burberry’s leather and fabric sneakers for years and for everything (and even older Nike Airmax for woods,meadows ,construction sites etc
Now olive green is a colour I could embrace. I’d love a pair of olive green sneakers. I’ve been admiring them on Pinterest. But now comes the challenge of finding them in real life.
I’m late to the conversation, but I see Dottoressa has just arrived so perhaps she’ll share a kava sa šlagom with me and stay to chat 😉
Besides my gym shoes and running shoes, my current pair of sneakers that I’ll wear with almost anything, dresses and skirts included, are a gold metallic very sleek pair of Tiger Onitsukas. They’re beginning to show enough signs of wear that I will soon begin looking for their replacement. . . . Thinking I might want something a bit less attention-grabbing, frankly. . . and they’re very flat, very little cushioning between sole and pavement, so I think the next pair might need to more padded. . . .The search begins. . . and once I find the perfect pair, the fashion prognosticators will have no influence at all!
I’ve seen your gold sneakers and they look marvelous. I too have a few pairs which I don’t normally wear “for good.” Like my Asics. And an even older pair of strictly running shoes which I only wear camping and fishing. I have a reverse hierarchy. Ha. Good hunting. I’m on the hunt as well.
Yep,I’m here :-). It is evening,no coffee with slag,sorry
It is amazing how some sneakers are just right for someone and the other pair is not
I like to see All stars and they are oh-so-chic :-),but they are too heavy and too flat to me-and my Burberries look alike but they are much lighter and easy to wear (not the posh thing,I’ll never buy something because of “brand” if they are not comfortable)
Ah well, perhaps a glass of wine then 😉
I can’t imagine giving up sneakers as street wear. And as often (too many times) as I’ve tried a color other than white, I always come back to it. I love you in sneakers, very chic.
Thanks, Kathy. I just love sneakers, how they look, and the fact that they make me want to kick up my heels.
I was thinking just the other day, reading one of your posts, those sneakers are your signature!
Thanks, Lisa. I sure wear them often enough. 🙂
I love sneakers (or trainers as we call them here in the UK). I have problems with my feet so I have to wear comfortable, supportive footwear. I used to love wearing heels, but I can only wear them for short periods of time now. Even if the fashion police declare sneakers out of fashion I’ll still wear them. I do have to be careful what I wear my Stan Smiths with though as I have big feet and they can look like boats with dresses!
I’m with you on the comfortable shoes, Emma. Sneakers are here to stay for me.
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