Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Happy Feet?

Trainers (so British) sounds better than athletic shoes (no ring to that) or running shoes (too much work) or tennis shoes (too specific) or sneakers (too sneaky) or gym shoes (those things moldering in your school locker). I still like to call them sneakers but hate the thought of them with street wear. Karl Lagerfeld disagrees. His models wore sneakers with dresses and gowns on the Paris runway. Marc Jacobs thinks they look fetching with a tinfoil coat. You know once capital D designers lace up their seal of approval, we think we should follow. Anna Wintour— you first.

And who doesn't love comfortable shoes? I was wise to explore Pompeii in sneakers rather than patent leather ballet slippers. There was no one to judge but other similarly shod tourists. However I don't see the reason for this look with real clothes in real life.

The history of canvas top/rubber sole shoes is quite interesting. The Liverpool Rubber Company first produced them to be worn on the sand in the 1830s. Who knew? They earned the nickname "plimsolls" as the colored horizontal band of rubber that joined canvas to sole resembled the Plimsoll line on a ship's hull. If you walked into water that reached above that line, your foot would get wet. The more leisure time, as time went on, the more this comfortable, affordable shoe adapted to various sports: tennis, croquet, basketball, running, etc.

One of these is the Plimsoll line

Sneakers crept onto the public streets in the mid 1980's Working Girl era. I would very much like to forget the sight of young women in suits energetically maneuvering New York City streets. They would stop to switch shoes outside their office buildings, balancing on one foot like so many uniformed storks.

Melanie Griffith in "Working Girl"

Granted there are some very cute sneakers— reptile or leopard patterned, with touches of gold or interesting hardware, in bright colors or covered in fun graphics. But is this footwear meant to be worn seriously with real clothes?

Here's my biggest concern. The Number One Don't Do This on the list for WOACAs (Women Of A Certain Age) is No Sneakers. Unless you are wearing exercise gear (and I love to see us chickadees in fitness mode) or are a tourist who would be crazy not to, sneakers will stamp you o-l-d before you can lace them up. That's actually a shame. Who else but WOACAs deserve a comfy shoe?  After decades of use— let alone years of abuse (tottering in heels) and non-support (flopping in sandals)— our tootsies would be thankful.

The only woman, in my opinion, who has earned the right to wear sneakers with her dress-up street clothes is this one:
And even she doesn't


  1. I love trainers - always have, though when they appear on the runway I start wearing brogues!

  2. But would you wear them with a dress let alone a ball gown??? Do I have to invoke my lifelong mantra of "never say never"? PS I just this minute finished reading your post on the wonderful Daphne Selfe.

  3. I can remember wearing trainers with my business suits in the 90s. I love them in the summer with long dresses.

  4. I disdain running shoes except in the gym or when you are dressed in an athletic outfit and have to stop at the store. I would NEVER wear running shoes with anything else. Until I broke my baby toe. OUCH. Then I HAD TO wear nothing but my running shoes for over a month. Since then I have made a note to myself NOT to JUDGE anyone for anything and when I catch myself to just STOP IT!!!!!!

  5. I remember when Cybyl Sheppard accepted an award, in a ball gown and sneakers. She looked like a moron. That being said, there are lots of comfy shoes that double as sneakers. They don't have the huge sole and are lower profile than say, Nike. I still wouldn't be caught dead wearing them with a skirt.