TONY KING CAN recall an irksome time, some yrs ago, when he would constantly swap his Designer Shoes for any more at ease pair of Converse All-Stars through the workday, depending on whether he was leading a significant meeting or overseeing a comparatively laid-back photo shoot. “I was always changing,” he explained.
That stopped around 2008, when Mr. King, 43, bought his first kind of Common Projects leather sneakers. Suddenly, the CEO and inventive director of New York-based digital agency King & Partners, whose clients include 3.1 Phillip Lim, could go out within a pair of shoes suitable for pitching new company or going out for Peronis. Bonus: They encased his feet so painlessly he could walk anywhere.
“It was really a socially and professionally acceptable sneaker seems similar to 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 a variety of styles, materials, colors and states of wear.
Mr. King is hardly alone in discovering that high-end, designer sneakers can constitute a significant section 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 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 department shop Barneys Ny. In a telling move, the second recently combined the formal and casual shoe departments at its New York 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 v . p . of men’s, talking about consumers of traditional dress shoes and those seeking designer Christian Louboutin’s studded sneaks.)
How did we have here from there? A confluence of factors are at play. First, dress codes are getting to be increasingly relaxed over the past decade-remember when sneakers weren’t allowed in night clubs?-enabling more creativity and freedom. Second, as designer-sneaker sales have ticked up along with the shoes’ 24/7 relevance has somewhat justified the purchase price, more designers have started taking note of the market.
Though luxury brands have been making sneakers because the advent of Gucci’s tennis shoes in 1984, Mr Porter buying-and-sales director Toby Bateman credits both Common Projects, which launched in The Big Apple 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 inside the luxury world, he explained: “Everyone embraced it mainly because it was wearable. It didn’t appear like you were wearing running sneakers along with your suit or smart trousers. That led to a lot of other individuals entering the arena.”
That features folks you’d assume would sniff at the very notion of Sexy Shoes Women. Tom Ford-who launched his menswear label with stores staffed by butlers and uniformed maids-now makes several kinds of sneakers, starting from $790 to $1,090. This spring, venerable footwear brand Berluti also launched sneakers, all priced over $one thousand, some in suede yet others within its signature burnished patina leather.
Italian maker in the ne plus ultra in cashmere, Loro Piana, has low-key velvety suede running footwear for $925. “If I went back five-years with time and believed to the guys at Loro Piana, ‘I predict in 5 years, you’ll possess a suede athletic shoes,’ they could have laughed me out from the showroom,” said Mr Porter’s Mr. Bateman.
Now there’s a sneaker for each and every man-despite his aesthetic. “You don’t should be wearing a set of drop-crotch sweatpants to become wearing [designer] sneakers,” said Barneys’ Mr. Kalenderian. “You can wear them with a gorgeous suit and appear like a million bucks.”
Some, more controversially, even pair them with a tuxedo. Bally design director Pablo Coppola, who said he no longer wears dress shoes whatsoever, donned sneakers for this particular year’s Costume Institute Gala with the Metropolitan Museum of Art, arguably Manhattan’s most prominent social event. If in formal clothes, he explained, “wearing sneakers can be a way 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 got a black-tie event next week and I’ll probably wear a couple of Lanvin’s or Cipher’s Parallax [style],” he said. However, he added, “certain people can pull them back, certain people can’t. It’s not for all.”
To go back to those galling prices, some men will argue that it’s ridiculous to pay for, say, $545, for Saint Laurent’s SL/01 Court Classic sneakers, which look a good amount like Adidas’s classic Stan Smiths that cost around $75. But a majority of designer sneakers are created with Italian leather on par with that used for dress shoes, hide that is likely to look more refined and stay longer compared to the leather of mass-market versions. And while they could take cues from less expensive 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 longer, he added. “And they are me look a little bit more dressed up, like I put more effort in than [just lacing on] some Converse.”
Will the designer sneaker trend soon exhaust steam? Perhaps. However, if there’s just one factor cementing its devote menswear, it’s comfort. “No matter what occurs 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 tough to get him back into shoes.”
Mr. Sills has put his money where his mouth is, recently unveiling a place from the store manufactured from Carrera marble, steel and glass that’s devoted to sneakers – “a temple to the category,” he said. And the retailer himself has swapped his stiff-soled Aldens for some Yeezy Boosts, the Designer Shoes through the high-end collaboration between Adidas and Kanye West. “You can use them everywhere,” he was quoted saying. “Every restaurant, every event.”