When did women like me, who couldn’t imagine living their lives without their trusty high heels, find themselves swept up in a whirlwind of white sneaker love?
Although it is difficult to determine the exact date, I would place it around 2017.
Certainly, Phoebe Philo, the fashion designer, had worn a pair of Stan Smith singles six years earlier, when she bowed out at the Celine show in 2011.
But it will take several more years for the trend to mature. And the moment Oscar-winning director Kathryn Bigelow dared to reverse the diktat of the red carpet by teaming a white pantsuit with matching sneakers at a premiere in August 2017, women everywhere began to sit up and to notice. And boy, how we succumbed.
Where once we glided through summer on a rope wedge or dainty kitten heels, or in my case 9cm Manolo courts interspersed with a few Prada mules – we’ve now become quite inseparable from white trainers. And there have never been so many different styles on offer.
When did women like me, who couldn’t imagine living their lives without their trusty high heels, find themselves swept up in a whirlwind of white sneaker love? Pictured: Kate Middleton at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in 2019
Emma Thompson smiles after receiving her Dame title at Buckingham Palace in 2018
They graced Downing Street – just yesterday Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries (left) showed up to work as a couple. The Duchess of Cambridge and Samantha Cameron (right) are also fans.
Let’s face it, except for Her Majesty the Queen, it’s hard to imagine a woman who hasn’t owned a pair.
They graced Downing Street – just yesterday Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries showed up to work as a couple – and Buckingham Palace. . . who could forget that Emma Thompson stood up to receive her gong in 2018 wearing a pair of Stella McCartney? The Duchess of Cambridge and Samantha Cameron are also fans.
Indeed, the possibility of reaching the peak trainer could be looming. What a terrifying thought. What could replace it?
Certainly, over the past five years, sneakers have only grown in popularity around the world, becoming the lucrative cash cow of high fashion houses such as Balenciaga, Valentino and Louis Vuitton and giving the handbag a run. for his money as a reliable source of income.
But what is extraordinary with the trainers is that they have a double identity and that they are able to operate on two opposite polar levels.
Flat White: Louboutin, £665
Simple Elegance: Whistles, £99
Low profile: Superga, £54.99
Street Style: All Saints, £75
Smart: Johnlewis.com, £59
Sober: LKBennett, £159
Love it or hate it: Ugg, £120
They can be high fashion statements and completely ordinary at the same time. Utilitarian and sporty while being rarefied objects of desire.
And although worn by so many people of all ages and professions, they have managed to hold their allure.
Quite a feat for a pair of white shoes derived from the cotton shoes Henry VIII wore to play real tennis at Hampton Court.
Indeed, there is an irony in the fact that the original appeal of the sneakers, the most recent prototype of today’s sneakers, was street style and embraced by musicians.
Suede trim: Isabel Marant, £325
Sports: Dunelondon.com, £85
Single Pals: Chloe, £595
High end: Jimmy Choo, £375
Featured Buy: Matalan, £14.5
The transformation from street to chic came when sportswear brands such as Nike, Adidas and Puma realized they could charge a significant premium on their everyday styles for micro-brand ranges; Stan Smith for Adidas, Michael Jordan’s Nike Air Max. Small change – huge price difference.
This high-low mix is the trainer’s secret. When Michelle Obama wears sneakers for a short shoe mix with Ellen DeGeneres, or more recently Olena Zelenska meets Jill Biden, you’re looking at women who want to be part of the femininity community, as opposed to, say, the aloof Gianvito Rossi spikes of a distant Melania Trump.
Contrast that with the curious photo of Meghan Markle this week, cruising the turf of a Santa Barbara polo field to watch her prince, in pointy black high heels.
I can’t be the only woman thinking, what’s going on? Why isn’t she wearing those vegan Veja trainers that she loves so much – and which first came to the attention of the UK mainstream?
Surely that would have been more appropriate than those shin spikes digging into the turf. But then, it’s unclear what’s going on, when it comes to Meghan.
Metallic: Airandgracelondon.com, £169
Tech Detail: Adidas, £75
Quilted: Dunelondon.com, £70
Pink and beige: Reiss.com, £138
Green flashes: Riverisland.com, £45
My own descent into sneaker addiction came in 2018 in the form of a pair of £400 Balenciaga trainers I bought during a thunderstorm in Athens (as you do).
I had never owned a pair before. And certainly never considered spending so much money. But they were such beautiful objects, with a pointed end and a black grosgrain stripe that they attracted me. I have never regretted it. Everyone complimented me on them, even the local dry cleaner, and I still mourn their passing. Which is a constant situation when it comes to white sneakers as they need to be replaced so often.
Nothing looks quite as gorgeous as shiny sneakers and nothing as daunting as a grimy pair after its first hunt.
To combat this almost immediate obsolescence, it’s worth considering pairs with a little extra design detail so that the glory doesn’t depend 100% on that pristine whiteness.
Chloé has beautiful embroidered sneakers in suede and mesh that combine femininity and edginess. Penelope Chilvers’ Rocks have a Velcro closure and a brown suede back to add a touch of ruggedness.
Iconic: Converse at net-a-porter, £80
Embossed accents: Gucci, £595
Meghan Markle’s favourite: Veja, £115
Budget: George at Asda. com, £12.50
M&S has plain white lace-up shoes that are so cheap you could buy a few pairs to spend the summer.
The mystery, however, is why we’ve grown so attached to these shoes that do little to define the ankle, elongate the leg, or even flatter the calf.
The easy answer might be comfort, but sheepskin slippers are also comfortable and few of us would ever spend triple figures on them. A trainer’s allure has nothing to do with the negligence of pandemic dressing, either.
No, it’s because they allow us to put down roots. We know that we carry them rather than they carry us.
A pristine pair of sneakers is the simplest feel-good item in the world. Let’s just hope they don’t go out of style anytime soon.
Leopard Spot: Mandco.com, £26.99
Chunky: Alexander McQueen, £420
Platform: Jigsaw-online.com, £120
Gold logo: Saint Laurent, £460
All white for some: Aldo, £65
Platform: Boden.co.uk, £90
Silver finishes: Steve Madden, £130