TONY KING CAN recall an irksome time, some years ago, as he would constantly swap his Brand Shoes to get a more comfortable couple of Converse All-Stars throughout the workday, according to whether he was leading an essential meeting or overseeing a relatively laid-back photo shoot. “I was always changing,” he explained.
That stopped around 2008, when Mr. King, 43, bought his first couple of Common Projects leather sneakers. Suddenly, the CEO and artistic director of New York-based digital agency King & Partners, whose clients include 3.1 Phillip Lim, could leave the house in just one set of footwear suitable for pitching business or heading out for Peronis. Bonus: They encased his feet so painlessly he could walk anywhere.
“It was really a socially and professionally acceptable sneaker seems similar to a shoe but is comfortable such as a sneaker,” he explained. Put simply: A size-10 Holy Grail. Though he still pulls out his Church’s for “very smart meetings,” he mostly lives in sneakers and owns around 20 pairs of Common Projects, in a variety of styles, materials, colors and states of wear.
Mr. King is hardly alone in finding that high-end, designer sneakers can constitute an essential part of the modern menswear wardrobe. While Masters of the Universe still dutifully pair their Super 100s suits with proper leather lace-ups, other men in offices nearly as formal routinely pad around in upscale rubber-soled shoes. My very own once-beloved wingtips are gathering dust, forsaken for a set of Adidas Stan Smiths made together with Belgian designer Raf Simons.
Luxury sneakers now dominate men’s footwear sales for e-commerce site Mr Porter and department shop Barneys New York. In a telling move, the latter recently combined the formal and casual shoe departments at its Ny and Beverly Hills locations. (“Did we really need to separate the John Lobb guy as well as the Louboutin guy?” asked Tom Kalenderian, the store’s executive v . p . of men’s, referring to consumers of traditional dress shoes and people seeking designer Christian Louboutin’s studded sneaks.)
How did we receive here after that? A confluence of things are at play. First, dress codes have grown to be increasingly relaxed within the last decade-remember when sneakers weren’t allowed in night clubs?-allowing for more creativity and freedom. Second, as designer-sneaker sales have ticked up as well as the shoes’ 24/7 relevance has somewhat justified the price, more designers have started paying attention to the current market.
Though luxury brands have already been making sneakers because the coming of Gucci’s tennis shoes in 1984, Mr Porter buying-and-sales director Toby Bateman credits both Common Projects, which launched in New York City in 2004, and French label Lanvin with legitimizing the course. Lanvin’s slim-soled tennis-style sneaker having a patent leather toecap, introduced in 2006, moved the needle inside the luxury world, he explained: “Everyone embraced it mainly because it was wearable. It didn’t look like you have been wearing running sneakers with your suit or smart trousers. That led to many other folks entering the arena.”
That also includes folks you’d assume would sniff on the very concept of Sexy Shoes Women. Tom Ford-who launched his menswear label with stores staffed by butlers and uniformed maids-now makes several styles of sneakers, starting from $790 to $1,090. This spring, venerable footwear brand Berluti also launched sneakers, all priced over $one thousand, some in suede among others in its signature burnished patina leather.
Italian maker in the ne plus ultra in cashmere, Loro Piana, has low-key velvety suede running sneakers for $925. “If I went back five-years in time and thought to the guys at Loro Piana, ‘I predict in five years, you’ll possess a suede athletic shoes,’ they would have laughed me out of your showroom,” said Mr Porter’s Mr. Bateman.
Now there’s a sneaker for every single man-regardless of his aesthetic. “You don’t should be wearing a set of drop-crotch sweatpants to become wearing [designer] sneakers,” said Barneys’ Mr. Kalenderian. “You can wear them by using a gorgeous suit and appear just like a million bucks.”
Some, more controversially, even pair them a tuxedo. Bally design director Pablo Coppola, who said he no more wears dress shoes in any way, donned sneakers just for this year’s Costume Institute Gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, arguably Manhattan’s most prominent social event. When in formal clothes, he said, “wearing sneakers is really a strategy for dressing 08dexspky down a little bit.” Michael Schulson, Philadelphia-based chef and owner of restaurants Sampan and Graffiti Bar, also advocates sneakers with a tux. “I have a black-tie event next week and I’ll probably wear a couple of Lanvin’s or Cipher’s Parallax [style],” he said. However, he added, “certain people can pull it well, others can’t. It’s not for everybody.”
To go back to those galling prices, some men will invariably reason that it’s ridiculous to pay, say, $545, for Saint Laurent’s SL/01 Court Classic sneakers, which look a fair amount like Adidas’s classic Stan Smiths that cost around $75. But a majority of designer sneakers are produced with Italian leather on par with that useful for dress shoes, hide that will look more refined and last longer in comparison to the leather of mass-market versions. And while they could take cues from more cost-effective styles by Nike or Adidas, their upgraded air provides them entree where cheaper sneakers wouldn’t dare tread.
Athletic brand “sneakers look so ragged after a couple of weeks,” said King & Partners’ Mr. King. Designer versions feel nicer for prolonged, he added. “And they create me look a little more decked out, like I put more effort in than [just lacing on] some Converse.”
Will the designer sneaker trend soon use up all your steam? Perhaps. But if there’s an individual factor cementing its devote menswear, it’s comfort. “No matter what occurs with fashion,” said David Sills, men’s creative director at Hirshleifer’s shopping area in Manhasset, N.Y., “when a guy wears sneakers and gets that amount of style and comfort, it’s very hard to get him back in shoes.”
Mr. Sills has put his money where his mouth is, recently unveiling a location in the store made of Carrera marble, steel and glass that’s dedicated to sneakers – “a temple for the category,” he said. Along with the retailer himself has swapped his stiff-soled Aldens for a set of Yeezy Boosts, the Brand Shoes from your high-end collaboration between Adidas and Kanye West. “You can put them on everywhere,” he explained. “Every restaurant, every event.”