To us, a sneaker signifies play. It is not a serious shoe. Reserved for only casual Thursdays, we see them as a reward for having to dress so seriously for the other four days of the week.
Now, however, there is a newcomer on the scene. Welcome to the concept of dress sneakers: a more chic, less juvenile, fine-leather pair of suave pumps. Embraced by all the big designers in the menswear industry in the last two seasons, we’ve seen fashion houses like Valentino shake up simple, classic suits by ingeniously pairing them with sneakers.
Everyone from Banana Republic ($98) at high-street level to Lanvin ($850) at the top tier of the industry has a pair on their shop floor this season. Dress sneakers can go in one of two directions. They can be bold and colourful, like Kanye West’s Air Yeezy, with thick, height-boosting soles and a puffed-up high top. They retail for $300 at Nike and are virtually impossible to find. But if you do, they are a sure way of saying, “Because I can…”
Or you can choose a more classic approach, with Converse-like flat-soled slightly gritty sneakers. Lanvin just released their latest range made of quality materials such as satin, velvet and patent leather. Urban and witty, they perfectly accessorise a tailormade shirt and bespoke suit.
Accordign to NPD Group, a New York-based market research firm,higher-end dress sneakers are now among the fastest-growing segments in the $13.8bn athletic footwear industry. Recently, the statement trainers have even beat out running and tennis shoes. Yet in Dubai, we barely see people going anywhere with a pair of dress sneakers.
Last year at New York Fashion week, the epitome of fashion heaven and an ultimate street trend radar, there were plenty of sharp grey suits paired with high-top bright yellow sneakers. But you don’t have to go quite that far.
Just refer to a brand like Paul Smith or Pierre Hardy and start there. These designers have a smart sense of humour that does not intimidate. Their dress sneakers are not as expensive as a pair of Lanvin and certainly not overtly nonchalant and striking like the Air Yeezy or Maison Martin Margiela’s mirrored high tops. These sneakers strike a smooth balance between sportiness and eloquence.
Wear them with jeans, and you’ll be the coolest guy at a post-office gathering, but double them up with a suit and you’re the next style icon.