TONY KING CAN recall an irksome time, some yrs ago, as he would constantly swap his Designer Shoes for a convenient set of Converse All-Stars through the entire workday, based on whether he was leading an important meeting or overseeing a comparatively laid-back photo shoot. “I was always changing,” he stated.
That stopped around 2008, when Mr. King, 43, bought his first pair of Common Projects leather sneakers. Suddenly, the CEO and creative director of the latest York-based digital agency King & Partners, whose clients include 3.1 Phillip Lim, could leave the house in just one set of footwear suitable for pitching new company or going out for Peronis. Bonus: They encased his feet so painlessly he could walk anywhere.
“It had been a socially and professionally acceptable sneaker seems a lot more like a shoe but is comfortable similar to a sneaker,” he explained. Quite 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 finding 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 very own once-beloved wingtips are getting dusty, forsaken for some Adidas Stan Smiths made in collaboration 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. In the telling move, the latter recently combined the formal and casual shoe departments at its New York City and Beverly Hills locations. (“Did we need to separate the John Lobb guy along with the Louboutin guy?” asked Tom Kalenderian, the store’s executive vice president of men’s, making reference to consumers of traditional dress shoes and people seeking designer Christian Louboutin’s studded sneaks.)
How did we have here after that? A confluence of factors are at play. First, dress codes have grown to be increasingly relaxed in the last decade-remember when sneakers weren’t allowed in night clubs?-making it possible for more creativity and freedom. Second, as designer-sneaker sales have ticked up and the shoes’ 24/7 relevance has somewhat justified the purchase price, more designers have started watching the current market.
Though luxury brands have already been making sneakers since the coming of Gucci’s tennis shoes in 1984, Mr Porter buying-and-sales director Toby Bateman credits both Common Projects, which launched in New York City in 2004, and French label Lanvin with legitimizing the category. Lanvin’s slim-soled tennis-style sneaker having a patent leather toecap, introduced in 2006, moved the needle within the luxury world, he explained: “Everyone embraced it since it was wearable. It didn’t appear like you were wearing running sneakers along with your suit or smart trousers. That led to numerous others entering the arena.”
That includes folks you’d assume would sniff in the very idea of Brand Shoes. Tom Ford-who launched his menswear label with stores staffed by butlers and uniformed maids-now makes several varieties of sneakers, which range from $790 to $1,090. This spring, venerable footwear brand Berluti also launched sneakers, all priced over $one thousand, some in suede as well as others within its signature burnished patina leather.
Italian maker of the ne plus ultra in cashmere, Loro Piana, has low-key velvety suede running footwear for $925. “If I went back five years over time and said to the guys at Loro Piana, ‘I predict in 5 years, you’ll have a suede athletic shoes,’ they will have laughed me out of your showroom,” said Mr Porter’s Mr. Bateman.
Now there’s a sneaker for every single man-no matter his aesthetic. “You don’t must be wearing a pair of drop-crotch sweatpants to get wearing [designer] sneakers,” said Barneys’ Mr. Kalenderian. “You can wear them having a gorgeous suit and check similar to a million bucks.”
Some, more controversially, even pair these with a tuxedo. Bally design director Pablo Coppola, who said he no more wears dress shoes in any way, donned sneakers just for this year’s Costume Institute Gala in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, arguably Manhattan’s most prominent social event. When in formal clothes, he said, “wearing sneakers can be a means of dressing 08dexspky down slightly.” Michael Schulson, Philadelphia-based chef and owner of restaurants Sampan and Graffiti Bar, also advocates sneakers with a tux. “I use a black-tie event next week and I’ll probably wear some Lanvin’s or Cipher’s Parallax [style],” he stated. However, he added, “certain people can pull it away, certain people can’t. It’s not for all.”
To return to those galling prices, some men will invariably debate that it’s ridiculous to spend, say, $545, for Saint Laurent’s SL/01 Court Classic sneakers, which look a fair amount like Adidas’s classic Stan Smiths that cost around $75. But most designer sneakers are made with Italian leather comparable to that utilized for dress shoes, hide that is likely to look more refined and last longer in comparison to the leather of mass-market versions. And even though they will often take cues from more cost-effective styles by Nike or Adidas, their upgraded air presents 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 extended, he added. “And they make me look much more dressed up, like I put more effort in than [just lacing on] some Converse.”
Will the designer sneaker trend soon use up all your steam? Perhaps. But if there’s a single factor cementing its area in menswear, it’s comfort. “No matter what happens with fashion,” said David Sills, men’s creative director at Hirshleifer’s mall in Manhasset, N.Y., “when a man wears sneakers and gets that degree of comfort and style, it’s tough to get him back in shoes.”
Mr. Sills has put his money where his mouth is, recently unveiling a region inside the store made of Carrera marble, steel and glass that’s dedicated to sneakers – “a temple for the category,” he was quoted saying. As well as the retailer himself has swapped his stiff-soled Aldens for a set of Yeezy Boosts, the Designer Shoes from the high-end collaboration between Adidas and Kanye West. “You can use them everywhere,” he stated. “Every restaurant, every event.”