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.
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.
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.
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.
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