Made from fine materials and constructed with the care typically accorded to formal footwear, high-end sneakers are stepping into the limelight.
Some time ago, sneaker fans who paired said casual shoes with noncasual outfits typically fell into one of three categories: senior citizens with appropriately wizened feet requiring abundant cushioning; those with a wilful disregard for, or woeful ignorance of, a basic tenet of style; and Steve Jobs. Today, however, the man who completes his dressy gear with a pair of sneaks has a different classification: stylish.
But it’s not just any old pair of running shoes that can rise up to the (formal) occasion. While recent years have seen a resurgence of classic models by Converse and Adidas, pulling off smart sneaker-accented style is generally easier with the premium versions that have been emerging in greater numbers of late. These high-end sneakers are typically made from luxe materials like leather, which makes them look less incongruous with tailored looks.
Consider, for instance, Berluti’s Playtime sneakers (left). Crafted from a single piece of leather, and featuring the brand’s signature patinated finish, we reckon they look smarter than many dress shoes out there.
Indeed, the luxe sneaker has come a long way since Gucci launched its first tennis whites in 1984. Today, there are a growing number of specialist sneaker brands, such as New York-based Common Projects, while just about every designer fashion brand out there has come up with its own rubber-soled shoes. What separates this category from massmarket brands: premium materials and construction (Common Projects shoes, for instance, are handmade in Italy).
According to Daniel Todd, buyer for popular men’s online retailer Mr Porter, the site’s sneaker sales have increased by more than 200 per cent from 2013 to 2015. With more than 15,000 pairs sold and counting, Common Projects is Mr Porter’s top-performing brand, although Todd adds that “other luxury brands’ sneakers are performing well these days”, singling out labels like Lanvin, Balenciaga, Valentino and Saint Laurent. The rise of the high-end sneaker is hardly surprising. After all, if there’s one thing that is as timeless as style, it’s comfort.
FOUR NAMES TO KNOW
Some of the hottest premium specialist brands that are putting their own spin on the sneaker.
01 HENDER SCHEME: FOR GROWN-UP SNEAKERHEADS
You don’t have to be a huge sneaker fan to appreciate Hender Scheme, but it would help. Started six years ago by Ryo Kashiwazaki, the Japanese company is best known for its Homage series, which uses premium un-dyed leather to recreate the silhouettes of classic sneakers such as the Nike Air Jordan 4, the Vans Era and the Nike Air Presto (pictured).
02 GOLDEN GOOSE: WORRY-FREE WHITES
Started by married designer duo Alessandro Gallo and Francesca Rinaldo in 2007, the Golden Goose Deluxe brand specialises in leather shoes that are handmade in Venice with a pre-scuffed effect. Expect to pay a starting price of around US$350 (S$471) for the footwear equivalent of ripped jeans – or you could just, you know, give those white sneakers you own a good wear.
03 COMMON PROJECTS: MAJOR MINIMALISM
Common Projects was one of the earliest on the premiumsneaker scene when it was launched by former magazine art director Peter Poopat and brand consultant Flavio Girolami in 2004. Its signature model, the Achilles, is distinguished by its absence of details – save for 10 small numerals stamped on the sides, representing a style number, size and colour code.
04 BUSCEMI: GOT IT LOCKED UP
Buscemi’s 100MM sneakers might bring to mind an Hermes Birkin bag – the main distinguishing factor of these handmade sneakers is a padlock with its own mini key. Started by former stockbroker Jon Buscemi in 2013, the Los Angeles-based brand has earned a celebrity following and has rapidly reached new milestones – launching a women’s sneaker collection, as well as other leather goods.
The latest trends and how to wear them.
SEEN AT: BOTTEGA VENETA
Many of today’s most popular sneaker fashion statements are based on sports shoes of yesteryear. But why should basketball (Nike Air Jordans), tennis (Adidas Stan Smiths) and running (New Balance 574s) get all the glory? Bowling, in the style of 1950s Americana, has recently inspired footwear by Bottega Veneta and Loewe.
Bottega Veneta’s two-tone sneakers, with laces or without, were paired with streamlined ensembles, such as grey tailored trousers with a dark coat. We advise similar restraint, especially if you opt for bowling shoe-inspired styles in brighter colours.
TREND: WHITE OUT
SEEN AT: BALLY
What makes the white sneaker such a hit with fashionable sorts is the balance between its casual form and the pristine exterior (which requires effort to maintain – dish soap and whitening toothpaste are among the weapons used in the war on dirty whites). This gives snowy shoes go-almost-anywhere versatility: They can add a casual edge to a suit, or elevate casual ensembles.
For its Fall/Winter 2016/17 collection, Swiss brand Bally included several white sneakers – including a woven-leather pair inspired by skate shoes – to balance out the rich autumnal tones of loose, tailored looks.
TREND: MIXED MATERIALS
SEEN AT: HERMES
Can’t decide which material you prefer your sneakers to be made from? Why not have it all? For premium brands, juxtaposing luxe materials with sportier ones is one way to create casual shoes that look (and are) more expensive than regular canvas-andrubber sneakers.
Hermes’ star sneakers for autumn comprise an upper crafted from suede goatskin, canvas and calf leather – as well as a thick sole uniting rubber, foam and leather. As shown on the runway, this hybrid style goes perfectly with a suit that’s broken up with casual pieces, such as colourful knits.
SEEN AT: VERSACE
The high-top began life as more than just a stylish silhouette. First sported by basketball players in the early 20th century, hightop sneakers were long thought to offer greater ankle support (a view that has been challenged in recent years). Its boot-like style lends itself well to edgy designs by brands like Saint Laurent and Maison Margiela.
They should be worn with trousers intended to show them off: Think slim-fitting jeans or trousers that can be cuffed, or scrunched where they meet the top of these shoes – like this look from Versace’s Fall/ Winter 2016/17 collection.
SEEN AT: ERMENEGILDO ZEGNA COUTURE
From the softness of silk to the unique textures of exotic skins, tactility is one of the distinguishing aspects of luxury fashion. While many designer sneakers are crafted from smooth leather, which connotes high quality in a relatively low-key fashion, textured finishes offer a way to stand out just a little more.
Ermenegildo Zegna Couture, for instance, updated its Triple Stitch sneakers in dark velvet for autumn. Accented with crossed elastic forming its signature XXX logo, the luxuriously soft slip-ons complement the textured finish of a grey jacquard suit.