This month, British Vogue ran an interesting shoot in which Grace Coddington styled all manner of frilly, formal outfits with trainers. And, to borrow from Carrie Bradshaw, it got me thinking. Trainers, once reviled by British society – too casual, too practical, too American – are increasingly becoming the footwear of choice for the most fashionably clad – at all times. This is truly not just a silly magazine trend that nobody wears in real life. I recently went to a huge perfume launch at which many a famous foot was shod in the most comfortable-looking of trainers. On my way home, I noticed that most the crowd milling around the local Chicken Cottage was wearing very similar creations to the models at the party.
On the most part, I found this cheering – here is a trend that’s meant to be accessible to all, a truly democratic fashion purchase, of which, let’s face it, there are so few.
But that doesn’t mean the whole trainer thing is without complications. I know people for whom a trainer ‘wardrobe’ is the norm, who delight in each new addition with the fervour previously reserved for heels. They seem to understand the tacit codes: there are, it seems, trainers for dresses (mostly, I’ve noticed, white, of the Stan Smith variety), trainers for Sundays (Superga), and trainers for city workers desperate to shed their stilettos for something eminently comfortable and preferably with cushioning (incidentally, fashion sorts don’t seem to favour this variety, possibly because almost everything a city folk wear seems to instantly repel those for whom style is elevated to an art).
And that’s before we even get to the confusing (for me) limited edition trainer phenomenon. Recently a friend told me his son did a roaring trade in buying up Kanye West’s limited edition collections and then selling them at an eye-watering mark up online. But, it’s a thing, so someone is clearly very much turned on by a trainer with extra embellishment.
Please do not for one minute think my sneery tone precludes a love for trainers – I have now accumulated seven perfectly acceptable pairs including my dazzling Minna Parikkas and wear them with frequency. My concerns all stem from a chequered past with trainers, which shattered my confidence in my taste in shoes and means that every time I’m choosing a pair I have to ask my beleaguered friends if I’ve gone wildly off piste. I’m sure they’ll be delighted to read that I now have additional questions about when and where I can wear trainers.
So I put it to you: trainers with everything? I’m all for them during the day and for getting around and at the end of a party when feet hurt – but with an evening dress? With a pair of culottes? With, dare I whisper it, now-passe (but very much practical and therefore still in my wardrobe) skinny jeans? We’re quickly ploughing into wedding and fun clothes season so this is a question that is weighing heavy on my rather unsure mind. Though after an outing on Sunday, in which I wore trainers with an outfit I’d usually pair with sandals and appreciated the sheer comfort and lack of blisters accrued on a long walk, I find myself unexpectedly in Coddington’s camp.