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How to wear trainers without looking ‘adultolescent’

Does wearing the latest pair of “it” trainers reek of trying too hard to remain youthful? Do brand new kicks yell “down with the kids?” Do I care?

I’ve always liked wearing trainers. And, as moving around and being comfortable become imperative as we get older – see Bolivian grandmas playing handball for further evidence – I’m going to continue to wear them. But I don’t want to look like Tom Hanks in Big, like I’m stuck in adultolescence, not sure which direction to choose. One thing I’m increasingly aware of, as I get older, is that wardrobe basics (and I would class trainers as a wardrobe basic) have to be just right. They have to look chic, sleek and modern.

Tom Hanks (in kid’s trainers) in Big.
Photograph: Moviestore Collection/Rex

So how to wear trainers and not look like a child? My advice is to opt for timeless sports shoes that look just as good today as the first time you begged mum to buy you a pair. I’m currently wearing Adidas Stan Smiths. A lot. And I’m not alone; Adidas owe Phoebe Philo, big time. There is a reason why this plain, simple style has been worn off-court for decades. They’re easy to wear and easy to coordinate. Juxtapose sneakers with smart tailored trousers and an oversized shirt or roll neck sweater and throw on a blazer for an ageless, go-anywhere outfit. For an effortless summer look, this classic white leather tennis shoe looks fantastic with wide leg trousers and a cool cotton shirt; that’s a lot of year-round style in one pair of sneakers.

Phoebe Philo in Stan Smiths.
Photograph: Eric Ryan/Getty Images

A neat alternative to the ubiquitous Stan Smith is the Puma Match now available at J Crew – and if it’s got Jenna Lyons’ seal of approval, it’s going places. The creative director is another style-setter who mixes formal with functional and a shedload of flair. Pairing a tuxedo with Givenchy patterned skate shoes or an all white outfit (boyfriend jacket, T-shirt and jeans) with metallic Nike hi-tops, 46-year-old Lyons has introduced a new kind of casual glamour, turned J Crew from mumsy to must-have, and, like Philo at Céline, changed the way women dress today.

Grace Coddington in ponyskin pumps.
Photograph: Startraks Photo/Rex

Further skate shoe inspiration comes via American Vogue’s Grace Coddington, often seen on the front row in ponyskin pumps: “They sort of make everything look modern,” the 73-year-old creative director told WWD. Coddington wears Céline but if you feel uneasy with hefty designer price tags (and I certainly do), then Ash has a variety of designs including red or indigo lace for spring. J Crew has the original Vans slip-on in silver metallic; I bought a pair of these in gold last year and they make excellent evening shoes teamed with black coated jeans a tuxedo shirt and velvet jacket.

Nike Flynit Racer trainers.
Photograph: Nike

Classic pared-down trainers are always a safe bet but that doesn’t mean we have to discard fancy footwear. Just keep everything else simple and think of this as the new statement necklace. I’m quite partial to a pair of snazzy sneakers fluorescent pink Nike Flyknits are perfect for running around in (but not actually running in, I wear Asics for that) and I wouldn’t say no to the latest Nike Air Max City Collection – a range of floral printed leather trainers that launch on International Women’s Day. As for Céline’s diamond knit sneakers, well I might just break my designer ban…

Alyson Walsh is the author of Style Forever: the grown-up guide to looking fabulous published by Hardie Grant 13 March 2015 – and blogs as That’s Not My Age @thatsntmyage

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