Understanding Ugly Sneakers

We lugged around chunky dad trainers last year and they will usher us well into 2018. Here’s why.

by Renee Ultado, art by Pia Samson

2017 was the year people moaned about ugly sneakers. It’s surprising because for one, Balenciaga’s chunky Triple S sneakers actually look cool, and frankly, we have seen so much worse. The Yeezy Boost “Semi-Frozen Yellow” looks as icky as it sounds, Balenciaga’s Speed Runners were debatable and lasted only for a hot, long minute, and Reebok’s InstaPump Fury collaboration with Vetements was quite challenging to wrap my head around on, much less tie it around my feet.

Yet the desire for ugly sneakers is not only understandable but also predictable. Years of fashion cycles have proven the pendulum effect; trends can continue going one way before it reaches its peak and come hurtling to the other direction. It was only a matter of time before we got tired of our sleek white tennis shoes and went swinging towards the extreme opposite: clunky, color-blocked dad trainers.

 

Years of fashion cycles have proven the pendulum effect; trends can continue going one way before it reaches its peak and come hurtling to the other direction.

 

Designer takes on ugly footwear also allows for an edgier way to flaunt one’s luxury goods. A sneaker with five different colors and three different mid-soles would be just as remarkable, if not more, as any monogrammed, logo-emblazoned handbag. On The Psychology of the Designer Handbag, Alexandra Shulman compared luxury totes to a “childhood security blanket”, something that signals a certain kind of good taste and a certain bracket of disposable income. It makes people feel better about themselves. A secretary who got a promotion and a raise would hurry down a department store the same day and get a Proenza Schouler Hex Tote Bag because she deserves it. Because she’s not the same person as she was yesterday. Flashy sneakers work the same way, except they’re way cooler than a handbag.

Sporting these sneakers also holds a different kind of social capital. It means you get it. You’re part of the fashion crowd. You’re in on the joke. People laughing at the Triple S simply do not get the genius of Demna Gvasalia like you do. For some people, this sort of comprehension makes them feel like they belong to the cool group, and they are ready to shell out any amount for it. After all, “cred” is everything on the streets.

For 2018, I think the more colorful iterations of Nike’s Air Max 97 would gain more traction and, if the splattering of cool fashion kids around the world is to be believed, Converse’s Chuck Taylors should also make a comeback: in high top, in yellow satin, in red suede, and in yummy sorbet colors. Worn with an embroidered Colette t-shirt tucked in raw-hemmed straight leg jeans. But these are forecasts and are never fully true. One thing’s for sure though, the New Year calls you to finally bury your white Stan Smiths deep within your shoe closet. Sorry.