Trainers are the new work uniform
At least if you work in a cool, young and creative industry. It’s all Zuckerberg’s fault
Top left, Nike x Liberty collaboration; bottom left, Adidas Stan Smith trainers; right, Dior’s Fusion trainers
Blame Mark Zuckerberg. Facebook has taken over our social lives, and, if conspiracy theorists are correct, can also record us over the phone. The enfant terrible of tech is also – indirectly – responsible for a less sinister trend: trainers at work.
Wearing trainers on a nine-to-five basis is a real Zuckerbergian kickback. Depending on the shoe, it can be cool, young and creative. As such, it will work best in cool, young and creative industries.
More and more people involved in fashion, media and tech are getting on the dressed-up kicks bandwagon. And with good reason: unlike most gimmicky trends, this one is maximum comfort with minimum effort.
Autumn is set to be the season of the flat shoe, as fashion turns from high-octane glamour to a more polished, self-assured set of style signals. Heels are lower, arches are fully supported, postures straightened and pains reduced. The new generation of multitasking employees are often on the go, racking up thousands of steps between meetings, and they need a shoe to match their lifestyles.
Like the chicken and the egg, it’s not totally clear whether designers fed off street style for inspiration first, or vice versa. It’s a circle that goes around and around, with unique and unexpected outcomes.
Dior’s Fusion trainers, which retail at about €800, have the same high- performance sole as a running shoe, but are festooned with scrupulously applied bows, ribbons, embroidery and sequins.
The result is an odd marriage of the unapologetically powerful and the markedly frail. From far away, the Fusions look like dainty slippers. Up close, they are beautiful hooves.
Fairy Liquid and toothbrushes
There are, however, more practical applications for the trainer as a work shoe. It is easy to pair a block-colour shoe with a crisply pressed pair of trousers. All-white trainers are unexpectedly modern and fresh. The recently reissued Adidas Stan Smith trainers, which were name-checked on Jay-Z’s album The Blueprint, are an exercise in design restraint with no bells or whistles – just a blank canvas begging to be scrubbed with Fairy Liquid and a toothbrush twice weekly. The pristine white trainer is the polar opposite to the Dior Fusion, and it simply must be pristine: the grubby white trainer is anathema to any work ensemble.
Nike runs away with it
Nike running shoes are also enjoying a moment. The relatively slim soles and sinuous lines of its Free running range look great with slightly fitted skirts or trousers cropped at the ankle. They are engineered to mimic the shape of the feet as much as possible, so they feel as comfortable as a pair of slippers.
Indeed, after a few weeks of wearing running shoes, lacing up a pair of brogues can seem like an unnecessarily dangerous and unwieldy exercise.
It’s not just limited to block colours. The best fashion trainers don’t sacrifice comfort for design. Each year, the Nike x Liberty collaboration, which melds classic Nike silhouettes with classic floral Liberty prints, is a sell-out. These are trainers that could be worn on the track, but are much more likely to be worn in the office. Increasingly, brightly clad feet will break up the monotony of a boring outfit in a very modern way.
This trend isn’t just restricted to millennials working vaguely hipsterish jobs; it can also work in any office environment that has a casual Friday policy. If comfort is now the ultimate luxury, then wearing trainers to work is justifiable.
What a shame the new dress code can’t be extended to those working in somewhat stricter environments. If solicitors and politicians could wear trainers to work more often, maybe the country would be run a tiny bit better. Small steps are better than no steps at all.