The morning commute is a pretty reliable barometer when it comes to looking out for emerging trends. Over the past year or so, there has been a noticeable increase in sightings of men in suits or smart trousers wearing trainers. Are they simply travelling to work in them and then switching to a pair of Oxfords on arrival? Or have work dress codes really relaxed enough to embrace this new hybrid sharp-meets-sports look? Whatever the answer, there is something pleasingly modern about the combination of bright running shoes, tailoring and a smart designer briefcase.
Trends like this don’t just fall off the side of a catwalk, but emerge from influences and usually hit the ground running because they have some kind of democratic appeal. Punchy trainers are all over the street-style blogs, Instagram and in music videos – places that men are increasingly looking for fashion inspiration – but they also owe a lot to the 2012 Olympics, with its blanket global coverage. It’s no coincidence that the games corresponded with a period of relaxation in men’s fashion and chimed with an ongoing interest from designers in sportier shapes and tech fabrics.
Witness how Valentino’s camo styles have achieved cult status, while Raf Simons has collaborated – highly successfully – with Adidas. Meanwhile, Lanvin’s striking AW13 catwalk trainers have become one of the must-buys of the new season. The brand, of course, has trainer form; their classic sneakers – contrast patent toe with a white sole – were launched at their Paris show in January 2006, and are still a bestseller. This season, labels from AMI to Versace, Saint Laurent to Kenzo, have all upped their trainer game with winning designs that cover all bases – think gold, minimalism, edgy colour-blocking and chunky high-tops.
No longer is a suit the ultimate badge of sartorial honour, a new generation of menswear designers, from Riccardo Tisci at Givenchy to Carol Lim and Humberto Leon at Kenzo, have proved how high-end, sporty catwalk looks have quickly become fashionable. Patrik Ervell, the New York-based fashion designer, told me recently that he takes just as much care designing a windcheater jacket as he does a suit, while Jonathan Anderson, of J.W. Anderson, simply dubbed suits ‘restrictive’ and ruled out the likelihood of ever adding a tailoring line to his menswear offer.
Lou Stoppard, fashion editor of photographer Nick Knight’s influential SHOWstudio says: ‘I think trainers are symbolic of a wider “anything-goes” mentality in menswear at the moment.’ This is one trend, says Stoppard, that has filtered up from the street. ‘But it’s not about street style. It’s about ordinary guys taking athletic footwear but not wearing it for its intended purposes and instead pairing running shoes with jeans or suits.’
This move is also part of a wider ripping up of the fashion rulebook, which comes with a new-found confidence seen across men’s fashion: ‘No one cares about codes and regulations – it’s all about mixing things up now,’ says Stoppard. ‘Sporty informal shorts with a tailored shirt, for example, or a suit with a T-shirt and trainers.’
There are other theories, too. Eugene Kan, managing editor of Hypebeast, says the influence of celebrities and personalities, predominantly in the music business, have had a major impact on the trainers trend: ‘As for who has been pushing [these] shoes, I would say of-the-moment dudes like Kendrick Lamar, A$AP Rocky and, of course, Kanye West have done their part.’
Luke Day, fashion director of British GQ Style, pinpoints the Raf Simons/Adidas story as something of a trainer game changer. ‘They’ve dropped at exactly the right time to capitalise on a wider, reverse-trend reaction to hipsterism,’ he says. ‘Hipsters have taken brogues, Dr Martens, penny loafers, desert boots, and deck shoes, and owned them all. It was inevitable that there would be a reaction against this and something sportier would come through.’
Day says there are no styling rules when it comes to trainers. ‘There are age considerations, possibly, but rules should never stretch further than whether something looks great on you or not,’ he says. Is he behind the sometimes controversial trainer-suit combo that seems to be growing in popularity? ‘The right trainer with the right unstructured suit is for ever a smoking-hot look,’ Day says, without a second’s doubt.
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