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.
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|