From Milan to Paris, from London to New York, with a greater or lesser irreverence, fashion weeks, and their surroundings, seem to imply a strong comeback of classic formal shoes. The Financial Times speaks of the “post-sneakers era”.
“Millennials are reacting to the ubiquity of trainers by revisiting formal shoes — even with leisurewear”, points out the publication. “A thirtysomething guy standing in line was wearing bright green sports shorts, a creased white crewneck tee, a baggy zip-up hoodie and thick gym socks (…) But laced up on his feet was not a pair of Nikes or a Salomon trail trainer, but polished black Derby shoes (…) It was an aesthetic jolt”.
The New York Times suggests that men are not the only ones following this trend. Mouki Kambouroglou, a 25-year-old market analyst, had “worn sneakers religiously for 10 years”. But she changed the register, electing models that “tread the line between formal and informal, and you can wear them all day long”. As the “dress code” in offices becomes more casual, the younger generation seems tempted to try other options.
Mark Zuckerberg likes Nike, while Jeff Bezos prefers Converse. “These aren’t exactly trendy guys,” says Oliver Hooson, a 32-year-old photographer in London, while a young man in orange trousers walks, among cars and trucks, adopting a more formal style. Italian football player Moise Kean, from Juventus, for example, opts for leather loafers. “This shift is a reaction against ubiquity”, according to Fraser Moss, co-founder of the hip British label YMC, which released a collection of Derbies, monk-straps and Gibsons for AW22. “Their parents are wearing trainers, so kids are rebelling by dressing like their dads once did” he says to Financial Times. The founder of Noah and former creative director of Supreme, Brendon Babenzien, believes this backlash was “inevitable ”. “We all love sneakers, but there are limitations stylistically and creatively if sneakers are all you wear”, he says. “People are looking to try new things”, he adds.
In Asia as well, formal footwear is being predominantly combined with sporty pieces. Aaron Chang, 35, who lives in Seoul, often wears his classics with a baseball cap and a hoodie. “In Korea, we call it ggu an ggu”, says Chang. “It’s similar to what the Italians call sprezzatura… the point is to look effortless”. Suit the bagginess of a pair of voluminous pants by YMC with a dainty Gucci loafer, and you’d look like you might topple over. The aesthetic equilibrium would be all off. “Chunky soles balance it out,” says Maria Lemos, co-founder of women’s label Legres, suggesting that the masculine shapes make “feminine clothes feel less frilly”.
At Paris Fashion Week, the American fashion consultant Nick Wooster wears Derbies, a nylon gilet and cargo shorts. The shoes were part of the need to assume “radically a new identity”.
For the Financial Times, “in the era of NFTs and bitcoin, it feels progressive to adopt an age-old shoe”.