The rise of the sneaker culture

Purva Grover
Filed on August 13, 2018
The rise of the sneaker culture

"The great thing about sneakers, especially in today's world, is that anyone can be a sneakerhead. Sneakers can be incorporated with absolutely any outfit. Say, an Emirati in his kandura or her abaya, someone rocking them with a Tuxedo on the red carpet, a person running around the park or walking around the mall. Sneakers can be worn by anyone, pretty much anywhere - almost irrespective of the setting. That's one of the reasons I love them so much." Alia Al Mur, owns 100+ pairs, but sticks to her favourite 10"

“A sneakerhead is not just someone with a collection of sneakers, but rather someone who possesses a wealth of knowledge, drive and passion for the product. The obsession does not come and go like a flashing fashion trend, but keeps growing and evolving.”— Khalil Dahmash,owns 100+ pairs“

“It all depends on the sneaker and the knowledge the person has of the culture. I would describe myself as a loyal person when it comes to brands and my sneakers. I can only wear styles which resonate deeply with me.”— Kicks TQ, owns 500+ pairs“

“If I were to sum it up in just one word, it would be HYPEBEAST!”— Mohamed Al Safar, owns 1,000+ pairs

In boardrooms, at brunches, on runways, and even at weddings - have you picked your favourite pair?

Music and food are said to transcend boundaries. The statement may have been true until the arrival of the sneaker culture - now uniting genders and generations across social cultures and fashion philosophies. If until now you've not been giving much thought to your pair of sneakers, then it's time to change. Sneakers are having a moment and we're loving it.

Make a statement at brunches and work

It started with the arrival of the buzzword, athleisure. Track pants became popular at the work place, followed by running shoes. Look around and you'll spot a young CEO of a start-up making an effortlessly chic statement. "Influencers are making it socially acceptable to blur the lines between performance and aesthetic - the freedom to wear what we like and whenever we like. Earlier this year, we launched the Spring-Summer 18 'Comfort In Your Soul' campaign. It captured the sentiment of peace, ease and being unapologetically yourself. The feeling of walking into the office, wearing sneakers and a floral dress, just because it feels good to you - is the key here," explains Jason Beckley, chief brand officer, Clarks. Addicted to the show, Billions? GREATS, whose founder and CEO Ryan Babenzien is a huge fan, has launched a limited edition (100 pairs) of 'Billions by GREATS' to honour the chic look of Bobby Axelrod, the ambitious billionaire played by Damian Lewis. Where can you wear the pair? Anywhere - from the boardroom to a pub. "There is a misconception that suiting is always formal. If you are looking for a relaxed tailoring option, your shoes should also compliment that look. Casual sneakers are a great option to finish a tailored outfit - polished, but not too buttoned-up, and easily worn at work or out and about on the weekend. Leave the white ankle sock at home," says Nish De Gruiter, vice president, Suitsupply.

Defining sneaker trends of 2018

"I think the trend that has been prominent in 2018 is the '90s 'dad shoe', which is built around a chunky silhouette. The Balenciaga Triple S and Adidas (Yeezy 500 and 700) are some good examples," says Dahmash, whose all-time favourite sneaker is Jordan 1 Bred Colorway. "A lot of designer brands are releasing retro sneakers inspired by the early 1990s. My favourites are the Yeezy 500, Balenciaga Triple S and the Gucci Apollo's," says Safar. "My all-time favourite is 2005 Jordan 4's (The Undefeated's)," he adds."Many brands have come out with their version of the 'dad shoe'. I wasn't too sure about them when they first surfaced, but they have started to grow on me," says Mur. She adds, "I love cork - furniture, diaries, bags. So, my Air Max Anniversary Cork are definite favourites. I love Stan Smiths too since I can wear them anytime, anywhere - they're just so versatile."The 'dad shoe' is a trend that began last year, but it seems everyone has jumped on the bandwagon - both streetwear labels and luxury brands. You see it with Balenciaga Triple S, the Yeezy 500 and 700, and the Nike Monarchs. I am not a fan, but I think it will be the hit of the season if the not the year," says Hashemi, who confesses that he doesn't wear all his shoes. Seeking inspiration? Look no further than Rashid Belhasa. He's an Insta star and entrepreneur- his rare sneakers collection is worth millions of US dollars!

Celeb ambassador for sneaker lines

In recent times, a large number of tie-ups between celebs and sneaker lines have caught everyone's attention. Rihanna's Fenty Collection from PUMA included The Creepers, Train-ers, and her fashion collection. Selena Gomez is the face of PUMA's new Defy sneaker. Kanye West recently tweeted about the Yeezy 700 V2, likely to hit retail stores later this year. Nathalie Emmanuel and Gal Gadot are the latest in line to join Reebok's team of female brand ambassadors. "It stems from a genuine love for the original brand and the authenticity for which it's well known. When talent share the same beliefs in expressing their creativity and individuality, a good relationship organically forms with the brand," says Beckley. "It makes sense that celebrities are working on various fashion collaborations. Celebrities are photographed extensively and people look to emulate celebrity styles. Collaborations of this kind are natural and can help give certain trends more visibility," adds Gruiter. "I don't usually rock Air Max's, but I am a big fan of Sean (Wotherspoon) and all the guys at Round Two. I have been following their exploits on YouTube for a long time and visit them whenever I'm in the US. I voted for the Air Max 97/1 Sean Wotherspoon shoe last year and am very happy he won - the pair is my current favourite," says Hashemi.

Cross check - have you made a wishlist?

Clark's Trigenic shoes redefine everyday movement with ultralight deconstructed profiles to casual staples with premium uppers. They promise a perfectly contoured fit, taking the natural movement to a whole new level. > Christian Louboutin's Fall-Winter 2018 collection taps into the endless fascination of the '60s towards space. Sneakers plated with reflect-ing fabric and dusted with metallic spikes, anyone?> The wait for PUMA x SEGA RS-0 Sonic and Dr. Eggman sneakers has ended. The RS-0 Sonic takes cues from Sonic the Hedgehog and the areas he protects, including the iconic Green Hill Zone. > Proving to be anything but a common sneaker, BELIENI's Calibre V1 elevates everyday shoe staples with embossed alligator leather and IP copper ceramic hardware.> The season's iteration of Lacoste's L.12.12 Unlined shoe is made with finesse. It maintains strong links to the iconic piqué polo shirt - fresh, simple and crafted. Yet, it has also been recreated with a premium unlined leather and new seasonal tan colourway.> In April, Level Shoes, The Dubai Mall, introduced its campaign Sneakers Anonymous - a sneaker wall housing over 30 brands and exclusive styles from luxury brands such as Christian Louboutin, Dolce & Gabbana, Emilio Pucci and Ermenegildo Zegna. They tapped into the passions of the region's influencers to kick-start the campaign.

I do - weddings and sneakers is a thing!

Remember the adorable film, Father of the Bride? Actress Kimberly Williams wore sneakers under her wedding gown! From reel to real - at the Royal Wedding, Serena Williams wore a pair of Valentino sneakers. The tennis star's Instagram post read, "Little known fact: I often wear sneakers under my evening gown."Interestingly, at her own wedding too, she had sported a pair of Swarovski-covered Nike Cortez sneakers. The head-turner pair was created by Michelle Meneses in 24 hours. Speaking of the Royal Wedding, Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, has a favourite pair too - the Reebok Classic Leather. Apparently, she wore the $75 white pair every day to a yoga class in Toronto. At the big, fat Indian reception of actor Sonam Kapoor with businessman Anand Ahuja, the groom arrived in a traditional Indian outfit - paired with silver Nike sneakers. Earlier this year, Keds and Kate Spade launched a line of wedding-ready shoes - with sparkles, crystals, pearls and flowers. It's pretty, delicate and irresistible.

What to expect next? Passionate revivals

"Overall, the sneakers trend will continue to shine and be prominent throughout 2018. It will offer the wearers versatility, comfort and style. Since they are available in a variety of subtle colours and easy to pair materials, one can find a pair that is perfect for them or an occasion," says Gruiter. "The Off-White Nike collaboration will continue to dominate. PUMA is also killing it! They've really taken the bulky 'dad shoe' design to another level. I'm excited to see what they have in store from now until the end of the year. I hope to see something different from Adidas and Yeezy," says Kicks TQ, whose all-time favourite sneaker is the Air Jordan 1 Bred. He adds, "I hope to own a pair of OG 1985 Jordan 1s at some point. A pair of Nike Air MAGS is on the wish-list as well." Dahmash says, "I am looking to try and land the Off-White Jordan 1s."

Let's get started now

"Being a sneakerhead in today's tech-driven world is a lot easier than it used to be. With social media platforms like StockX, the hunt is disappearing. If you are willing to pay over and above the retail price, you can pretty much get your hands on any shoe you want. The days of camping out for days to own a pair you really want are over. It isn't what it used to be, and a lot of those campers are doing so with the intent of selling the shoe for a profit. It definitely makes getting shoes in the Middle East easier, as historically we did not receive the same variety as in Europe and the US," says Hashemi.


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