TONY KING CAN recall an irksome time, some yrs ago, when he would constantly swap his Sexy Shoes Women for the more comfortable pair of Converse All-Stars during the entire workday, based on whether he was leading a vital meeting or overseeing a somewhat laid-back photo shoot. “I was always changing,” he said.
That stopped around 2008, when Mr. King, 43, bought his first set of Common Projects leather sneakers. Suddenly, the CEO and creative director of brand new York-based digital agency King & Partners, whose clients include 3.1 Phillip Lim, could go out in just one set of footwear appropriate for pitching new clients or going out for Peronis. Bonus: They encased his feet so painlessly he could walk anywhere.
“It was actually a socially and professionally acceptable sneaker seems similar to a shoe but is comfortable like a sneaker,” he explained. Put simply: A size-10 Holy Grail. Though he still pulls out his Church’s for “very smart meetings,” he mostly lives in sneakers and owns around 20 pairs of Common Projects, in several styles, materials, colors and states of wear.
Mr. King is hardly alone in discovering that high-end, designer sneakers can constitute an important area of the modern menswear wardrobe. While Masters of your Universe still dutifully pair their Super 100s suits with proper leather lace-ups, other men in offices nearly as formal routinely pad around in upscale rubber-soled shoes. My own once-beloved wingtips are getting dusty, forsaken for a set of Adidas Stan Smiths made together with Belgian designer Raf Simons.
Luxury sneakers now dominate men’s footwear sales for e-commerce site Mr Porter and shopping area Barneys New York City. Within a telling move, the latter recently combined the formal and casual shoe departments at its New York City and Beverly Hills locations. (“Did we really need to separate the John Lobb guy as well as the Louboutin guy?” asked Tom Kalenderian, the store’s executive v . p . of men’s, talking about consumers of traditional dress shoes and others seeking designer Christian Louboutin’s studded sneaks.)
How did we obtain here following that? A confluence of things are in play. First, dress codes have grown to be increasingly relaxed during the last decade-remember when sneakers weren’t allowed in night clubs?-allowing for more creativity and freedom. Second, as designer-sneaker sales have ticked up and the shoes’ 24/7 relevance has somewhat justified the cost, more designers have begun focusing on the market.
Though luxury brands have been making sneakers because the introduction of Gucci’s tennis shoes in 1984, Mr Porter buying-and-sales director Toby Bateman credits both Common Projects, which launched in New York in 2004, and French label Lanvin with legitimizing the course. Lanvin’s slim-soled tennis-style sneaker having a patent leather toecap, introduced in 2006, moved the needle from the luxury world, he explained: “Everyone embraced it mainly because it was wearable. It didn’t seem like that you were wearing running sneakers together with your suit or smart trousers. That led to numerous other folks entering the arena.”
That also includes folks you’d assume would sniff at the very idea of Brand Shoes. Tom Ford-who launched his menswear label with stores staffed by butlers and uniformed maids-now makes several types of sneakers, which range from $790 to $1,090. This spring, venerable footwear brand Berluti also launched sneakers, all priced over $1,000, some in suede among others in the signature burnished patina leather.
Italian maker of the ne plus ultra in cashmere, Loro Piana, has low-key velvety suede running shoes for $925. “If I went back five-years with time and said to the guys at Loro Piana, ‘I predict in five-years, you’ll have a suede athletic shoes,’ they might have laughed me out of the showroom,” said Mr Porter’s Mr. Bateman.
Now there’s a sneaker for each man-regardless of his aesthetic. “You don’t must be wearing a couple of drop-crotch sweatpants to become wearing [designer] sneakers,” said Barneys’ Mr. Kalenderian. “You can put them on having a gorgeous suit and look just like a million bucks.”
Some, more controversially, even pair them a tuxedo. Bally design director Pablo Coppola, who said he will no longer wears dress shoes whatsoever, donned sneakers for this particular year’s Costume Institute Gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, arguably Manhattan’s most prominent social event. While in formal clothes, he was quoted saying, “wearing sneakers is actually a means of dressing 08dexspky down somewhat.” Michael Schulson, Philadelphia-based chef and owner of restaurants Sampan and Graffiti Bar, also advocates sneakers having a tux. “I have a black-tie event next week and I’ll probably wear a pair of Lanvin’s or Cipher’s Parallax [style],” he stated. However, he added, “certain people can pull it away, others can’t. It’s not for all.”
To return to those galling prices, some men will invariably argue that it’s ridiculous to spend, say, $545, for Saint Laurent’s SL/01 Court Classic sneakers, which look a reasonable amount like Adidas’s classic Stan Smiths that cost around $75. But a majority of designer sneakers are produced with Italian leather comparable to that used for dress shoes, hide that will look more refined and go longer compared to the leather of mass-market versions. And although they might take cues from less expensive styles by Nike or Adidas, their upgraded air provides them entree where cheaper sneakers wouldn’t dare tread.
Athletic brand “sneakers look so ragged after a few weeks,” said King & Partners’ Mr. King. Designer versions feel nicer for much longer, he added. “And they can make me look a little bit more decked out, like I put more effort in than [just lacing on] a set of Converse.”
Will the designer sneaker trend soon use up all your steam? Perhaps. But when there’s one particular factor cementing its devote menswear, it’s comfort. “No matter what will happen with fashion,” said David Sills, men’s creative director at Hirshleifer’s department shop in Manhasset, N.Y., “when a man wears sneakers and gets that degree of comfort and style, it’s very difficult to get him back to shoes.”
Mr. Sills has put his money where his mouth is, recently unveiling a place in the store manufactured from Carrera marble, steel and glass that’s dedicated to sneakers – “a temple for the category,” he stated. As well as the retailer himself has swapped his stiff-soled Aldens for a set of Yeezy Boosts, the Sexy Shoes Women from your high-end collaboration between Adidas and Kanye West. “You can put them on everywhere,” he explained. “Every restaurant, every event.”