I know of no one with anything bad to say about Common Projects’ sleek Achilles. The almost all-white Stan Smith has never caused a fashion week fistfight. But Jeremy Scott’s bewinged work for adidas Originals? “It’s like you kicked a nu-rave pigeon to death and its corpse got stuck on your foot,” according to one friend. “I’d rather lose both legs to gangrene,” opined another.
We’ve experienced equally robust reactions to Raf Simons’ often outlandish work for adidas. The Response Trail? “For geriatric stormtroopers.” The Ozweego? “It looks like someone melted Haribo over a supermarket own-brand trainer.” Yet even a glimpse of either gets a certain strain of hypebeast hyperventilating.
Raf Simons x adidas Ozweego 2
But equally, I’ve never met anyone who raves about the Achilles. They’re “nice”. “Sleek.” “Easy to wear.” For all the minimal sneaker’s charms – versatile enough to work with a suit or joggers, an unobtrusive design that doesn’t drown out the rest of your outfit – their key feature is an ability to fade into the background.
Rock a pair of Erik Schedin sneakers and you’ll get the odd glance. But you won’t be stopped in the street by anyone demanding to know what are those (for better or worse), and where can I get them?
Blame Hardy Amies, who thought clothes should be forgotten the minute you leave home. Because that means you’re not wearing something that makes your stomach flutter every time you catch it reflected in a shop window. Which makes you strut the street like a runway. Which you can post on Instagram and still shrug off every comment of, “Fam, you’re blind”.
Rick Owens x adidas Tech Runner
“John Waters once said ‘To understand bad taste, one must have very good taste’. And I think, contextually, that’s how I understand Raf Simons trainers,” says Warren Beckett, FashionBeans contributor and sneaker obsessive who also goes under the moniker Monsieur Robot.
“Shoes, unlike most other garments of clothing, lend themselves to structural and architectural shapes that allow the designer to do more interesting things. Something like Raf’s Ozweego or Response 2, the shoe in itself is so starkly sculptural it almost seems like a shame to put your foot in it.”
Raf Simons x adidas Response Trail Robot
Trainers are futuristic in a way no other shoes can be. Your brogues, your penny loafers, your retro-styled hiking boots that never tackle terrain more rugged than a poorly repaired pavement; all handsome, in their own way, but never innovative. Their development peaked a century ago and the only breakthroughs they boast is making yet more sumptuous materials foot shaped.
But trainers – like all sportswear – are about furthering humanity’s struggle against what tethers us, even if you never wear them for anything more arduous than your stroll to work. Their shimmering fabrics, their bulbous pockets of air, their function-over-form straps and ties all speak to battles against gravity, against distance, against every force that wants to keep you rooted where you are. Trainers are progress. And that urge to move forward isn’t embodied in anything white and anonymous.
Nike Air Max 95
“A Y-3 Qasa, if you hold it up and look at it objectively, it looks like spaceship. Who doesn’t want to wear spaceships on their feet?” says Beckett.
“Fashion is cyclical and after each trend comes the aesthetically opposite. Years of skinny jeans have led us to billowing wide leg trousers. Years of Converse and Common Projects have naturally led us to this point.”
Minimalist trainers are how you get away with wearing downtime shoes to work. If your headmaster would have given them a pass, then it’s fair to say that your kicks lack a certain edge. So embrace the shock of the new and take steps against the norm. As Oscar Wilde put it: “The ugly can be beautiful. The pretty, never.”
So slot your Jack Purcells back in the wardrobe and take a punt on the Insta Pump Fury; the Nike Air Max 95; hell, even Rick Owens’ bonkers Springblade. Sure, you’ll stand out. But at least you’ll stop blending in.