TONY KING CAN recall an irksome time, some yrs ago, as he would constantly swap his Sexy Shoes Women for any convenient pair of Converse All-Stars through the workday, dependant upon whether he was leading an important meeting or overseeing a somewhat laid-back photo shoot. “I was always changing,” he explained.
That stopped around 2008, when Mr. King, 43, bought his first pair 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 within a pair of shoes ideal for pitching business 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 that looks much more like a shoe but is comfortable like 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 a variety of styles, materials, colors and states of wear.
Mr. King is hardly alone in finding that high-end, designer sneakers can constitute a crucial portion of the modern menswear wardrobe. While Masters from the Universe still dutifully pair their Super 100s suits with proper leather lace-ups, other men in offices as formal routinely pad around in upscale rubber-soled shoes. My once-beloved wingtips are gathering dust, forsaken for a couple of 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 department store Barneys The Big Apple. In a telling move, the second recently combined the formal and casual shoe departments at its The Big Apple and Beverly Hills locations. (“Did we really should separate the John Lobb guy as well as the Louboutin guy?” asked Tom Kalenderian, the store’s executive v . p . of men’s, discussing consumers of traditional dress shoes and others seeking designer Christian Louboutin’s studded sneaks.)
How did we have here from that point? A confluence of things have reached play. First, dress codes have become increasingly relaxed during the last decade-remember when sneakers weren’t allowed in night clubs?-permitting more creativity and freedom. Second, as designer-sneaker sales have ticked up as well as the shoes’ 24/7 relevance has somewhat justified the retail price, more designers have started watching the market.
Though luxury brands have already been making sneakers ever 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 Ny in 2004, and French label Lanvin with legitimizing the course. Lanvin’s slim-soled tennis-style sneaker by using a patent leather toecap, introduced in 2006, moved the needle from the luxury world, he explained: “Everyone embraced it because it was wearable. It didn’t look like you have been wearing running sneakers with the suit or smart trousers. That led to a lot of other folks entering the arena.”
That features folks you’d assume would sniff on the very concept of Brand Shoes. Tom Ford-who launched his menswear label with stores staffed by butlers and uniformed maids-now makes several kinds of sneakers, ranging from $790 to $1,090. This spring, venerable footwear brand Berluti also launched sneakers, all priced over $1,000, some in suede yet others in the signature burnished patina leather.
Italian maker of the ne plus ultra in cashmere, Loro Piana, has low-key velvety suede jogging shoes for $925. “If I went back five-years with time and believed to the guys at Loro Piana, ‘I predict in 5yrs, you’ll use a suede running shoe,’ they might have laughed me out of your showroom,” said Mr Porter’s Mr. Bateman.
Now there’s a sneaker for each and every man-no matter his aesthetic. “You don’t should be wearing a pair of drop-crotch sweatpants to get wearing [designer] sneakers,” said Barneys’ Mr. Kalenderian. “You can use them by using a gorgeous suit and check similar to a million bucks.”
Some, more controversially, even pair them a tuxedo. Bally design director Pablo Coppola, who said he not any longer wears dress shoes by any means, donned sneakers just for this year’s Costume Institute Gala on the Metropolitan Museum of Art, arguably Manhattan’s most prominent social event. While in formal clothes, he said, “wearing sneakers is really a method of dressing 08dexspky down a little bit.” Michael Schulson, Philadelphia-based chef and owner of restaurants Sampan and Graffiti Bar, also advocates sneakers with a tux. “I have got a black-tie event next week and I’ll probably wear a set of Lanvin’s or Cipher’s Parallax [style],” he explained. However, he added, “certain people can pull them back, certain people can’t. It’s not for all.”
To return to those galling prices, some men will argue that it’s ridiculous to cover, say, $545, for Saint Laurent’s SL/01 Court Classic sneakers, which look a decent 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 useful for dress shoes, hide that has a tendency to look more refined and keep going longer in comparison to the leather of mass-market versions. And even though they might take cues from more cost-effective styles by Nike or Adidas, their upgraded air gives them entree where cheaper sneakers wouldn’t dare tread.
Athletic brand “sneakers look so ragged after a couple of weeks,” said King & Partners’ Mr. King. Designer versions feel nicer for extended, he added. “And they are me look a little more decked out, like I put more effort in than [just lacing on] a set of Converse.”
Will the designer sneaker trend soon exhaust your steam? Perhaps. However if there’s just one 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 shopping area in Manhasset, N.Y., “when a guy wears sneakers and gets that degree of style and comfort, it’s very difficult to get him back to shoes.”
Mr. Sills has put his money where his mouth is, recently unveiling a region from the store made from Carrera marble, steel and glass that’s focused on sneakers – “a temple for the category,” he said. As well as the retailer himself has swapped his stiff-soled Aldens for a pair of Yeezy Boosts, the Sexy Shoes Women from your high-end collaboration between Adidas and Kanye West. “You can wear them everywhere,” he explained. “Every restaurant, every event.”