TONY KING CAN recall an irksome time, some in the past, as he would constantly swap his Sexy Shoes Women for the more at ease couple of Converse All-Stars through the entire workday, based on whether he was leading a vital meeting or overseeing a relatively laid-back photo shoot. “I was always changing,” he said.
That stopped around 2008, when Mr. King, 43, bought his first kind 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 a single pair of shoes right for pitching new clients or heading out for Peronis. Bonus: They encased his feet so painlessly he could walk anywhere.
“It had been a socially and professionally acceptable sneaker that looks similar to a shoe but is comfortable similar to a sneaker,” he explained. To put it differently: 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 significant part of the modern menswear wardrobe. While Masters in 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 own 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 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 should separate the John Lobb guy and also the Louboutin guy?” asked Tom Kalenderian, the store’s executive vice president of men’s, making reference to consumers of traditional dress shoes and those seeking designer Christian Louboutin’s studded sneaks.)
How did we obtain here following that? A confluence of factors are at play. First, dress codes have become increasingly relaxed within 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 also the shoes’ 24/7 relevance has somewhat justified the price, more designers have begun taking note of the current market.
Though luxury brands have already been making sneakers because the development 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 in the luxury world, he explained: “Everyone embraced it mainly because it was wearable. It didn’t appear like you were wearing running sneakers together with your suit or smart trousers. That led to many other individuals entering the arena.”
That features folks you’d assume would sniff with the very idea of Designer Shoes. 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 $1,000, some in suede and others in their signature burnished patina leather.
Italian maker in the ne plus ultra in cashmere, Loro Piana, has low-key velvety suede running shoes for $925. “If I went back 5yrs in time and thought to the guys at Loro Piana, ‘I predict in 5 years, you’ll possess a suede running shoe,’ they will have laughed me out of your showroom,” said Mr Porter’s Mr. Bateman.
Now there’s a sneaker for each man-no matter his aesthetic. “You don’t must be wearing a set of drop-crotch sweatpants to become wearing [designer] sneakers,” said Barneys’ Mr. Kalenderian. “You can use them using a gorgeous suit and appear like 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 in any way, donned sneakers for this particular year’s Costume Institute Gala on the Metropolitan Museum of Art, arguably Manhattan’s most prominent social event. While in formal clothes, he was quoted saying, “wearing sneakers is really a way of dressing 08dexspky down a little bit.” Michael Schulson, Philadelphia-based chef and owner of restaurants Sampan and Graffiti Bar, also advocates sneakers using a tux. “I have got a black-tie event next week and I’ll probably wear some Lanvin’s or Cipher’s Parallax [style],” he was quoted saying. However, he added, “certain people can pull it away, others can’t. It’s not for everyone.”
To go back to those galling prices, some men will invariably believe that it’s ridiculous to cover, 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 manufactured with Italian leather comparable to that employed for dress shoes, hide that tends to look more refined and last longer compared to the leather of mass-market versions. Even though they may take cues from more affordable 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 couple of weeks,” said King & Partners’ Mr. King. Designer versions feel nicer for prolonged, he added. “And they are me look a little bit more dressed up, like I put more effort in than [just lacing on] a set of Converse.”
Will the designer sneaker trend soon exhaust steam? Perhaps. But when there’s an individual factor cementing its devote menswear, it’s comfort. “No matter what goes on with fashion,” said David Sills, men’s creative director at Hirshleifer’s mall in Manhasset, N.Y., “when a guy wears sneakers and gets that degree of comfort and style, it’s hard to get him directly into shoes.”
Mr. Sills has put his money where his mouth is, recently unveiling an area within the store created from Carrera marble, steel and glass that’s committed to sneakers – “a temple to the category,” he was quoted saying. Along with 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 wear them everywhere,” he was quoted saying. “Every restaurant, every event.”