There used to be a time when the idea of wearing trainers to an awards function was considered beyond taboo – it was simply tacky. Yet year after year now, trend after trend, one definitive shift has happened in men’s fashion. Sports and fashion have found a way to collide, and now successfully coexist on runways and ball courts. From sneaker giants like Nike and Adidas to fashion powerhouses like Gucci and Prada, trainers have become a mainstay. Perhaps as a sign for how far design houses have gone, Lanvin recently launched the ‘Diving Trainer’, a seamless sneaker molded together by heat, with custom rubber soles and silkscreen prints on the uppers. If trainers ever were to jump the shark, this would be its moment. The reality is, creativity is flourishing. Trainers are no longer a mall sneaker store purchase, nor are they limited to a specific, tight budget.
In the 1960’s, SeaVees became one of the pioneers of the fashion trainer scene. With an athletic sneaker base, but with a classic slip-on top, trainers were introduced as a trendy and comfortable alternative. It’s no surprise the company hailed from sunny California, where men spent a lot of time outdoors, moving around and in need of a way to look casual, but appear sharply dressed. The style remained localized, catching on a bit with Hollywood, but not resonating on a large scale. As athleticism became a more celebrity turning career path, brands took notice.
Converse had always been known as the go-to basketball shoes of the time, with the Chuck Taylor All Stars being worn in the 1960’s by more than 90 percent of players. Yet what defined a sport within the span of two decades soon became extinct, because of improved athletic footwear and competition. As athletes themselves became launch pads for new and improved technology to further improve their game, the coolness factor behind their gear became a way for others to define a whole different style. Artists and musicians alike literally kept Converse alive and relevant, with the All-Star moving from the courts to the concert stage. Taking note of this, every athletic company started to offer not just trainers for performance, but trainers for style. All of a sudden, aesthetics mattered as much as quality and the ability of the shoe.
From khaki and pink lace-up trainers by Jil Sander, to Vans-like leather Gucci monogrammed approved slip ons, my foray into the luxury trainer world happened about 12 years ago. For me, living in New York City, traveling and walking around, I needed comfort, but I also always wanted to make a statement. I had limited choices, and fashion houses were just starting to create trainers in-house, rather than the occasional collaborations they previously had. As musicians went Hollywood, sports became entertainment and fashion became their breeding ground, it was no surprise that trainers began to become an important part of men’s fashion culture. In the age of paparazzi, TMZ and social media, every kind of look carries weight, a sales opportunity and the chance to see a fashion trend. It’s no small wonder that we’re now inundated with every style of trainers.
As a sign of how far we’ve come, SeaVees was actually revived recently, and they’ve updated their style to fit the needs of the modern man. So as you’re contemplating dressing up or down your trainers, remember there’s no longer any wrong place to wear them, be it a wedding, at the office or for playing around.