In 2018, the basic white trainer can be found everywhere – from the world of high end fashion to high street sportswear – and can be found on the feet of every style subculture, from the preppy crowd to hip hop kids to fashionistas.
It has become a classic to sit comfortably alongside the Oxford and Derby shoe in any stylish man’s wardrobe, a versatile, reliable staple that can be suit any occasion. One of the absolute classic white trainers is the Adidas Stan Smith: as the tennis star icon it’s named has observed, “Now it is worn for just about everything except tennis”
The old fashion rule “No white shoes after Labor Day”, as immortalised by John Waters in Serial Mom, no longer holds sway. White trainers are suitable for all occasions, any time of the year.
So how did the white trainer escape form the sports bag to take over the world?
1936 was a pivotal year for the shoe. At the Berlin Olympics, basketball player Chuck Taylor came up with a white basketball shoe in his collaboration with Converse All-Stars. This would have legs beyond the games, ending up on the feet of young Americans.
Meanwhile, Frenchman Georges Grimmeisen founded the tennis shoe company Spring Court, which would go on to cult success with David Hockney on the feet of John Lennon on the cover of Abbey Road. Stateside, James Dean and Steve McvQueen had already given them the cool seal of approval.
In 1971, Adidas would unleash the white tennis shoe, named after the American tennis player Stan Smith, that would become their biggest seller ever, despite NOT featuring the iconic three stripes. The shoe featured a white leather exterior and rubber sole and was named after an American tennis player called Stan Smith.
By 1988, the Stan Smith had sold a record-breaking 22 million pairs, making Smith’s signature one of the world’s most reproduced. When the trainer was recently reintroduced after a hiatus in production, sneaker freaks went wild for them all over again.
Meanwhile, popular culture continued to reflect the growing public obsession with white sneakers, appearing on the feet of film stars such as Tom Hanks in Big and Michael J Fox in Back To The Future, while Run DMC fetishized My Adidas on MTV.
Trainers were becoming big business and more complex in design, with increasingly baroque designs such as the Air Max and the Reebok Pump coming on the market. Hardly the thing you would imagine pairing with a suit – however, athleisure and sports-luxe were just around the corner, signalled when Prada launched their Prada sports line. Soon other fashion houses would follow, and white sneakers would appear with haute couture on the catwalks. The trend has carried over into the street and the (more casual) office, where men are realising the value of pairing a low-cut white sneaker with a cool suit.
Could this be as big a sartorial revolution as men no longer having to wear a hat? We don’t know, but it does look great!