The retro trainers that will complete every outfit this spring
How many pairs of trainers do you own? One? Five? Ten? For some, it’s more. Comfortable and cool in equal measure, they now dominate the modern footwear wardrobe. There are the running or gym trainers, of course; perhaps some New Balance 327s to wear with jeans at weekends; maybe a just-smart-enough-for-the-office pair of Vejas.
That’s just the beginning: the trainer has become all-occasion attire. They’re in the boardroom; they’re at evening events. We’ve even seen them at the Oscars, courtesy of actor/writer Emerald Fennell and director Chloé Zhao.
In general, Britons are ahead of the curve. When Melinda Gates visited the UK in 2019, she remarked, ‘I had several meetings today where the women came in trainers and I was like, “Why am I not strong enough to do that? I should do that more.”’ And although the $86 billion trainer market is dominated by US activewear giants, the rubber-soled shoe is a British invention.
Until the 1950s, they were strictly for sport; we have James Dean and Elvis to thank for making the trainer – in their case Converse – a fashion statement. Today, every fashion house has a trainer in its offering, and according to streetwear website Hypebeast, 72 per cent of luxury streetwear brands say sneakers are their bestselling product. Limited-edition ‘drops’ of coveted ‘hype sneakers’ sell out faster than you can say ‘box-fresh’, only to be listed on resale sites such as StockX or Grailed, often for many multiples of the original price.
For most of us, though, it’s vintage-look trainers inspired by the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s that have the real cred. Think Nike Dunks with pinstripe trousers. Adidas Sambas with faded jeans. There’s a security in their staying power and nostalgic quality, and the accessible price point of these classics makes them appealingly democratic.
My one word of warning? Avoid anything artificially scuffed and aged, which can look a bit try-hard – it’s much more fun to wear them in yourself anyway.
Clockwise from top left: Leather, £110, Camper; Cotton plimsolls, £160, Eytys; Corn waste and bamboo, £160, Flamingos Life; Water repellant organic cotton, £99, Saye; Leather, £136, Alohas
Clockwise from top left: Suede Munchen, £80, Adidas; Recycled polyester, £205, Axel Arigato; Leather basket, £165, Diadora; Suede S-Strike, £100, Stepney Workers Club; Suede Marathon Trail Sole, £119, Novesta
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