Sneakers: The Ultimate Guide for Obsessives

A CLEANER SNEAKER? From left: Veja and Allbirds sneakers, whic hproject a more sustainable design ethos, are keeping the big brands on their toes. Veja V-10, $150,; Allbirds Tree Runners, $95, PHOTO: BRYAN GARDNER FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, STYLING BY ANNE CARDENAS

Article by Wall Street Journal

As athletic shoes morph and multiply—emerging as a pivotal business for both men’s and women’s fashion—we offer an extensive primer, including the threats to Nike’s dominance and 5 game-changing technological innovations

By Jacob Gallagher

Updated Sept. 6, 2019 4:25 pm ET

What’s the last pair of shoes you bought? Let me guess: sneakers. Maybe a pair of collectible, cartoonishly colored Nike s? Leather Common Projects lace-ups in minimalist, office-friendly white? Or some humbly ho-hum navy-blue wool Allbirds? You weren’t alone. The sneaker business hit $44 billion in sales last year in the U.S., up 9% from the year before, according to market-research firm the NPD Group. 

Although the modern sneaker era arguably began with Nike’s first running shoes—the basic Cortez—around 50 years ago, today that type of functionally athletic sneaker is not driving the growing market. Matt Powell, the senior industry adviser for sports at the NPD Group, noted that sales of performance-sport sneakers (for running, basketball, tennis, etc.) are tapering off. “For the last four years we’ve been in this period where we do not have a single performance [shoe] trending positively,” he said. Why pay for state-of-the-art, air-bubbled high-tops if you’re not Steph Curry lining up to take a three? 

Simpler sneakers are on the upswing. “Retro definitely has a bit more of the momentum,” said Erik Fagerlind, the co-owner of Sneakersnstuff, a global chain of sneaker boutiques. Tasteful throwbacks, like the reissued Nike Tailwind, Adidas Superstar (see “Os” above) and upscale traditional sneakers like Spalwart’s Marathon Trail Runner and Brunello Cucinelli ’s luxe suede low-tops appeal to a clientele who came of age in the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s. For Frankie Walker Jr., the co-owner of Unknwn, a Miami sneaker retailer, and a child of the ’80s, the sneakers of one’s youth hold nostalgic charm. A plus? These clean styles won’t look out of place at the office. 

Another sneaker that blends well with business-casual garb is the understated, sustainable kick as epitomized by the knitted-upper runner from direct-to-consumer startup Allbirds (“Ds” above) or the subtle shoes from French label Veja (“Ss” above). At a time of staggering clothing waste, these shoes attempt to tread more lightly on the environment. 

At the opposite end of the style spectrum, aggressively trendy sneakers are rife in the Instagram age. Statement shoes like Balenciaga’s colossally chunky Triple-S or Nike’s collaboration with Japan’s Sacai (with its double soles and double tongues) leap out on social media, where brash sneaker fans of all ages battle for bragging rights. The thirst for boast-worthy shoes has supercharged sneaker collecting. On resale platforms like Stadium Goods, StockX and Flight Club, obsessives amass and unload limited pairs, sometimes at hammer prices well into the five figures. In July an entrepreneur paid $850,000 for a set of 99 rare sneakers during a Sotheby’s sale. 

Of course, most of us are just looking for one everyday pair. For many, it’s a low-key minimalist sneaker, but even if you’d never wear Technicolor Nikes (“Ni” above), they can be fun to look at.

TIES NOT OPTIONAL Off Duty’s deputy fashion director wears hertrusty New Balances with a directional Céline dress. PHOTO: RYAN MESINA/THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

Can sneakers be stylish?

Fashion editor Rebecca Malinsky willed them to be following a debilitating foot injury.

AT A CLOSE FRIEND’Swedding in the Portuguese countryside a while back, I danced until the wee hours in a predictably picturesque setting. The next day, however, my right foot was aching. After the seven-hour flight home and a long walk through customs I knew something was not right. Three podiatrists, two MRIs and one renowned foot and ankle surgeon later, I discovered that I had boogied my way to a rather serious ankle injury that would simply require time and supportive (read: ugly) shoes to heal. Time? Sure. But trading ballerina flats for the same sneakers as my dad? 

The accident humbled me into accepting the fragility of the human body—in the painfully conspicuous form of orthopedic shoes. I spent about 18 months solely wearing running shoes, minus the three hours I devoted to getting married in 1-inch Valentino heels lined with Dr. Scholl’s pads (fighting back tears from the pain and the emotion of it all).

Physically, just getting from point A to B has been exhausting; mentally, trying to remain confident as a fashion authority in sensible sneakers has been taxing. In the time I’ve spent in my go-to pairs of shoes—a gray New Balance 990 and a black Asics GT-1000—I’ve had to get creative to make them feel like they are truly a part of my personal style. But along the way, I developed the following guidelines on how to style sneakers fashionably:

  • Don’t dress down. Sneakers look more considered and intentional when paired with trendy clothing vs. basics. Try a slouchy linen pant or floral dress instead of jeans.
  • Consider the classics. Many designer sneakers are inspired by traditional tennis, or running, shoe brands. Scout out the original: It looks more authentic and saves you hundreds of dollars.
  • Venture manward. Why are women’s sneakers always fuchsia and teal? Learn your sizes in men’s sneakers to get the more-interesting lime green/black or red/white/tan combinations.
  • Socks matter. They should match your outfit, not your shoe. Invest in no-show peds for summer, and some gray, textured wool tall socks for the cooler months.

Wardrobe Essentials

Underwear is the foundation of every outfit. The wrong underwear will ruin a look. No matter what size you are, perfectly fitting underwear will enhance your body shape. Be professionally fitted for bra size and style. Keep colour simple – black white and neutral. Avoid seeing your underpants – through clothes, above clothes and below clothes – shorts that are shorter than your underpants are probably not a good idea… at any age. 

You need something to wear to a casual lunch; a job interview; business meeting; a date; a formal…

Keep in mind ‘less is more’.. buy fewer pieces, that are better quality and be discerning. 

Jeans– Take the time to find a great pair that suit your body shape. Spend more on jeans because you live in them. 

Jackets… A jacket is the starting point for so many great looks. Worn with pants, jeans, a skirt or shorts… You can make it casual or formal, depending on your style and destination. Go for a simple cut in fabric and colour and start to build. A denim jacket for summer nights over dresses; and a leather jacket. 

A white shirt, and several white t-shirts. Always make sure they are clean, no stains with careful attention to shirt collars… Whites may have to be replaced seasonally and always keep napi san handy to soak them. 

A selection of simple t-shirts and tops in basic colours – black, grey, navy, khaki. 2 or 3 plain V-neck jumpers in your favourite colours. Keep these pieces fresh. Buy cheaply and replace as soon as they look less than perfect. This includes hosiery (stockings, tights)

A little black dress and another great dress. 

Three pairs of shoes: boots, flats and going out. 

Personalise your basic wardrobe depending on your lifestyle… student, part time work, stay at home parent, work life … You will need hanging around at home clothes also. Be disciplined in buying these items, and remember that less is more. A lot of money is spent on impulse unnecessary pieces that clog your wardrobe. 

Trends are fashion items that come and go so it’s best to buy inexpensive versions of these fleeting styles. Remember this – fashion fans who follow every catwalk trend have an identity problem. Sooner hopefully rather than later, you will realise that dressing from top to toe in the latest look does not work. We aren’t turned on by groups of girls wearing all the same clothes. We admire individuality, imagination and leaders not followers. 

Classics, however, are at the heart of your style. These are investment pieces and where money is well spent. Subtle adjustments will make the difference between bringing your classics up to date and looking dated. This is where ‘trends’ can freshen up your look and help it evolve. The key is striking a balance between the look of the moment and your personal style. Every season, someone reinvents the perfect dress, blazer and shirt. So, when you are thinking about how to make trends work for you, look to the latest versions of the garments you love. Personalising a trend could mean wearing it in your favourite colour, choosing a hem length that works for you, or finding the shape that flatters you. After all, when you look good, you feel good. Blending confidence with personal style is the game aim!

When putting a wardrobe together, if your budget is limited, the most important thing is having the discipline to invest in one or two beautiful key pieces and mixing these with classic pieces like jeans, white shirts, cashmere knits …

In summary, plan your long term wardrobe: only buy pieces you can’t live without, and don’t be controlled by trends. 

4 ways to take the stress out of getting dressed in the morning

First published at Vogue

Every woman in the world can sympathise with the ongoing drama of ‘What am I going to wear today?!’

No matter what type of style you have, here are a few ways you can take the stress out of getting ready in the morning.

  1. The basics Having a well-rounded wardrobe that covers all occasions makes getting ready in the morning much less stressful. Take the time to invest in the wardrobe essentials that will empower you to create an array of go-to outfits with ease. Personally I’m a huge lover of black skinny jeans and a white T-shirt paired with white sneakers and a longline blazer. Below are my wardrobe essentials:

The classics: a black boyfriend blazer, pencil skirt, a striped T-shirt and cigarette pants. Whites: invest in a good linen or cotton white T-shirt and shirt. A little black dress: every girl needs at least one little black dress. Denim for days: a wardrobe essential, jeans are one of my go-tos! I love a good black skinny jean, vintage blue denim and ripped white jeans. The footwear four: these four staples can finish off a look perfectly. It’s all about the sneaker, black leather boots, a classic pump and slides. Statement: invest in a designer piece that adds a little wow factor to your wardrobe, from a Georgia Alice top to an Ellery dress. Leather: toughen up your look with a leather jacket.

  1. Order Creating order in your wardrobe is one of the easiest ways to make getting ready in the morning stress free. Personally I order my wardrobe in categories, for example: blazers, jackets, jumpsuits, pants, skirts, dresses, tops etc. This simple step literally makes your clothing much more accessible and organised, rather than wasting time hunting high and low for that Bassike T-shirt you know is hiding away in your wardrobe somewhere. The key is keeping your wardrobe this way. Make the effort to give your wardrobe a refresh once a week on a Sunday evening, ready to power through the week ahead in style and ease.
  2. Prep Preparation is the quickest way to avoid feeling stressed in the morning. Set aside five minutes each night before you go to bed to check the weather and your diary before selecting your outfit the following day. Thoroughly check your outfit to see if anything needs ironing and once it’s good to go, hang the outfit at the front of your wardrobe with your accompanying accessories. This little bit of prep also allows you more time in the morning to make a fresh smoothie or indulge in a coffee on your way to work.
  3. Accessories Accessories can bring the perfect finishing touch to your look. Make sure your favourite pieces of jewellery, eyewear, shoes and belts are accessible to you when you are getting ready in the morning. I love to keep my jewellery displayed neatly on my bedside table and I keep all my shoes and belts ordered in my wardrobe where I can see them. It may sound simple, but when you’re stressing that your outfit isn’t complete, a simple shoe or new necklace can finish off your look perfectly.

Basic Rules

‘Learn the rules like a pro so that you can break them like an artist’

Pablo Picasso

  • Dress your shape not your size.
  • A well organised wardrobe is essential.
  • First impressions count.
  • Accentuate the good bits.
  • In an interview dress for the job you want.
  • Straighten up. Walking tall is exceptionally appealing.
  • A reliable tailor should be every womans key contact.
  • Well fitting underwear will make you look better in clothes.
  • Bare shoulders are one of fashion’s most effective decoys. They will offset a straight waist and wide hips and they are one of the last parts of a woman to age.
  • Where cleavage is concerned, a little is much better than a lot!
  • White adds weight, black reduces.
  • Big prints are fattening.
  • Shopping right before an event leads to overspending on something you don’t like.
  • Successful shoppers think of each new purchase as an extension of what they already have.
  • Keep clippings from magazines of looks you love. A clear picture will emerge of what you like.
  • Never wear chipped nail polish or scuffed heels.
  • Obvious displays of designer logos are not good!
  • Nothing is more luxurious than comfort and no one looks stylish in pain.
  • Every woman needs something to wear to a casual lunch; a job interview; a date; a black tie function.
  • There are exceptions to every rule!