“ I Don’t Want to Walk Without My Nikes. . .”

It is with some amusement that I saw this page of 101 style ideas in the November 2018 issue of Marie Claire. Nine examples of wearing athletic sneakers are described as “the best ways to wear the surprisingly versatile chunky white trainer.” While six of the examples pair the sneaks with trousers, worn either with a sweater or a coat, three show the white shoes paired with long print dresses.

Back in the 1980s, it was common in my home town of Chicago, for career women dressed in their power suits to walk all or a good portion of the way to work. For many of us, wearing sneakers was part of the ensemble. The look became so ubiquitous and, some would say, so annoying, that the Chicago Bar Association’s Christmas Spirits gridiron show dedicated a number to the phenomenon. I’m proud to say that I contributed the idea for the number, using the 1940s hit “I Don’t Walk to Walk Without You”; the Bar Show writers penned some dandy lyrics that started: “I don’t want to walk without my Nikes, Pumas or Adidas or my Nikes. . . .”

The look of white sneakers with a dress or suit, or even with dark trousers, has not aged well. It draws the eye to the wearer’s feet, and the feet look bigger than usual in the chunky white shoes. There are all manner of low-heel pumps and flats in dark colors that can match trousers or tights, or coordinate with the colors in long skirts, and provide both comfort and a much less jarring version of style.

Overly Casual Style Afoot

While the discomfort and injuries attributable to unreasonably designed footwear continues to pile up, a number of couture designers have looked to the youth market for their version of an antidote to their customers’ pain. The solution they proffer:  Sneakers.

sneakers 0514 Lucky 1 dress REV

Athletic footwear is, this moment, high fashion, worn with absolutely everything, but in designer versions, of course. The May 2014 issue of Lucky magazine reports:  “With designers from Chanel to Marc Jacobs turning out sporty lace-ups, the sneaker is officially the shoe of the season.” Pictured above is a $299 dress from H&M worn with $995 Chanel perforated sneakers. The model’s earrings, $350, are also from Chanel. The cardigan sweater worn around her waist is $128 from Nic + Zoe.

sneakers 0514 Lucky 2 50s style REV

Some styles pictured in the Lucky photo spread, such as ensemble with jeans and a sporty perforated mesh look with a tee shirt — require not much of a stretch to accompany the look with sneaks. A ’50s-inspired look above, looks rather costumey with the addition of the $860 Dior sneakers. (The model wears a $66 Asos skirt, $10 Hanes socks, and  $16 crop top from Forever 21.)

sneakers 0514 Vogue editors eye REV

The design director for Vogue magazine, Raul Martinez, is quoted in the May 2014 issue of the magazine in the feature “The Editor’s Eye”:  “Right now it’s all about the sports influence, especially with the sneaker frenzy going on for fall.”

sneakers 0514 Vogue talking fashion REV

Without any tongue-in-cheek at all, the May 2014 issue of Vogue reports:  “The street-style set trades towering heels for colorful sneakers, pairing high fashion with gym-class footwear.” Among the looks pictured is a highly circulated photo of singer Rihanna in head-to-toe Chanel Haute Couture, wearing sneakers that match her ensemble. To Vogue’s credit, sneakers from athletic footwear experts Nike and Adidas also make the style cut.

While sneakers can be comfortable to wear, no doubt, they also can have a tendency to make an ensemble look more than a bit schlumpy, matchy-matchy Chanel Haute Couture versions notwithstanding, when not worn with sporting clothes or casual wear. As with all trends, in deciding whether to incorporate this trend into your wardrobe, consider whether sneakers contribute to the image you want to convey.