TONY KING CAN recall an irksome time, some in the past, when he would constantly swap his Brand Shoes for a much more comfortable set of Converse All-Stars during the entire workday, depending on whether he was leading a significant meeting or overseeing a fairly laid-back photo shoot. “I was always changing,” he was quoted saying.
That stopped around 2008, when Mr. King, 43, bought his first pair of Common Projects leather sneakers. Suddenly, the CEO and artistic director of New York-based digital agency King & Partners, whose clients include 3.1 Phillip Lim, could go out in one footwear suitable for pitching new business or heading out for Peronis. Bonus: They encased his feet so painlessly he could walk anywhere.
“It was actually a socially and professionally acceptable sneaker that appears similar to a shoe but is comfortable just 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 finding that high-end, designer sneakers can constitute a significant 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 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 in collaboration with Belgian designer Raf Simons.
Luxury sneakers now dominate men’s footwear sales for e-commerce site Mr Porter and department shop Barneys The Big Apple. In 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 should 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 people seeking designer Christian Louboutin’s studded sneaks.)
How did we obtain here following that? A confluence of factors tend to be at play. First, dress codes are getting to be 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 cost, more designers have started paying attention to the 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 The Big Apple in 2004, and French label Lanvin with legitimizing the category. Lanvin’s slim-soled tennis-style sneaker by using a patent leather toecap, introduced in 2006, moved the needle inside the luxury world, he explained: “Everyone embraced it since it was wearable. It didn’t look like you have been wearing running sneakers with your suit or smart trousers. That led to a lot of others entering the arena.”
That also includes folks you’d assume would sniff on the very thought of Sexy Shoes Women. Tom Ford-who launched his menswear label with stores staffed by butlers and uniformed maids-now makes several styles 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 as well as others within its signature burnished patina leather.
Italian maker of your ne plus ultra in cashmere, Loro Piana, has low-key velvety suede jogging shoes for $925. “If I went back 5yrs soon enough and thought to the guys at Loro Piana, ‘I predict in five years, you’ll have got 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 every man-irrespective of his aesthetic. “You don’t should be wearing some drop-crotch sweatpants to become wearing [designer] sneakers,” said Barneys’ Mr. Kalenderian. “You can put them on using a gorgeous suit and search similar to a million bucks.”
Some, more controversially, even pair all of them with 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 in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, arguably Manhattan’s most prominent social event. If in formal clothes, he stated, “wearing sneakers is really a means of dressing 08dexspky down a little bit.” Michael Schulson, Philadelphia-based chef and owner of restaurants Sampan and Graffiti Bar, also advocates sneakers by using a tux. “I use a black-tie event next week and I’ll probably wear some Lanvin’s or Cipher’s Parallax [style],” he said. However, he added, “certain people can pull it away, others can’t. It’s not for all.”
To go back to those galling prices, some men will invariably reason that it’s ridiculous to pay, 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 comparable to that utilized for dress shoes, hide that is likely 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 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 create me look much more decked out, 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 one particular factor cementing its place in menswear, it’s comfort. “No matter what occurs with fashion,” said David Sills, men’s creative director at Hirshleifer’s shopping area in Manhasset, N.Y., “when a man wears sneakers and gets that amount of style and comfort, it’s very difficult to get him back into shoes.”
Mr. Sills has put his money where his mouth is, recently unveiling a place inside the store manufactured from Carrera marble, steel and glass that’s dedicated to sneakers – “a temple on the category,” he explained. As well as the retailer himself has swapped his stiff-soled Aldens for a set of Yeezy Boosts, the Sexy Shoes Women through the high-end collaboration between Adidas and Kanye West. “You can use them everywhere,” he stated. “Every restaurant, every event.”