Tradition and “appropriate” footwear be damned — I wear what I want.
I hope it never snows.
Which I guess is a dramatic way of conveying how much I love wearing sneakers — a shocking admission, considering I’d avoided them mercilessly until early this year when it was impossible to find shoes that weren’t equal parts comfy and a throwback to gym class circa Y2K. And even then, I embraced the trend under protest.
After wearing ballet flats for an impromptu power-walk (it was a nice day, and figured I could easily walk several dozen blocks in shoes I’d only wore twice), my already-temperamental back rebelled accordingly. So on a weekday afternoon, I chose to procrastinate by going shoe shopping in a way Carrie Bradshaw would never: I bought a pair of cream-colored Reeboks, announced to the sales associate that I was officially a Sneaker Person and pretended their polite smile was one of pure pride. (And not one masking the horror of how many unasked-for details I was giving about my bad back.)
So understandably, my life was changed forever. I paired my new sneakers with floral mini-dresses, with shorts, with jeans and with slacks, and instead of picking up oxfords or loafers for autumn, I just kept buying sneakers. I’d forgotten how light they were, how comfortable and how I was able to walk around without spending the following days complaining about how sore I was from simply being alive. I re-bought Adidas Stan Smiths to replace the Gazelles I’d destroyed in the rain years before and invested in Filas (not the platform ones — I’d had my window, and it was 1999-2000) and Nikes. And I didn’t even notice when my back felt better. I’d transcended my former footwear norms: I wore sneakers (minus exceptions for formal events, obviously) now.
The thing is, in the same way my Dr. Martens make me feel un-fuck-with-able in the wintertime, sneakers gave me the same feeling throughout the summer and fall. I mean, sure, I was more comfortable, but I also felt like I’d replaced my former stylistic ideologies with one I felt reflected me even more: Tradition and “appropriate” footwear be damned — I wear what I want.
And I wanted to dress functionally. I wanted to wear shoes that didn’t necessitate strategizing outside of, “I hope no one steps on my sneakers.” I wanted to wear shoes that didn’t have a heel, that didn’t bow to the expectations we tend to reserve for women’s clothing (see: skirts and dresses and the need to pair them with “formal” and/or “traditionally feminine” footwear). I wanted to wear shoes that made me look like I’d been plucked from a ’90s rom-com, and I wanted to look more mobile. I wanted to look like if you dared speak to me and I didn’t want to speak to you, I could (and would) run away, quickly and quietly. (Or quickly and loudly, depending on how loudly I was shouting “Never talk to me!” while running away.) I wanted to look like I prioritized function above all other things, and if necessary, could walk for miles without even noticing how far I’d gone. And I wanted the illusion of athleticism, because that’s as close as I’ll ever get to being sporty. (My cardio is worrying about things while walking fast.)
Which is also why I think sneakers morphed into such a defining factor of 2018 style, and have transcended the idea of trends altogether. For me, running shoes became a coping mechanism; a way to outrun and outlast the realities of our dumpster-fire world — or at least a way to tell ourselves that we could. Sneakers made me feel like I didn’t have to wear the footwear deemed “correct” for particular outfits, and reminded me that fashion rules are what we make them; that they’re all arbitrary and temporary and to keep wearing shoes because you “should” — or because you’re “supposed” to — do no favors to anybody. Instead, I chose to keep wearing what made me feel strong or resilient. I chose to wear what makes me feel like you can take on anybody, anytime, anywhere. And I choose to do it all over again next year.
To be fair, there is absolutely a place for heels and loafers and oxfords and sandals and every other type of shoe available on the planet. And if heels make you feel powerful, comfortable and like you can take on everybody all the time, that’s fantastic and I love it and I think that’s how all our relationships with footwear and clothing should be.
But for me, I’ve gone full sneaker. I wear them with my winter coats, with dresses and with pleated slacks. And I’m not alone: sneakers haven’t gone away as the temperatures have dropped, and spring already seems chalk-full of sneaker options. Because of course, they’re not a trend because they never have been. It just took some of us a little longer to feel fine about branching out into footwear that’s as stylish as it is comfortable. That’s why I don’t want it to snow yet: I need to make up for lost time, and I have lots of power-walking to do that Docs just can’t handle quite yet.
Homepage photo: Nike sneakers photographed during London Fashion Week Men’s in June 2018. Photo: Edward Berthelot/Getty Images