Tailored and Trainered

Is it really now not only acceptable, but de rigueur, to wear sneakers with a suit? The Rake shows how a footloose approach can be carried off with rakish aplomb.

Just a few years ago, wearing trainers anywhere apart from the tennis court or gym was borderline sartorial blasphemy. Smarter bars and restaurants would look you up and down disdainfully and then point at their framed dress codes, tutting impatiently before shooing you away like riff-raff. And who amongst us in years past hasn't stood in a queue for some lame club, only to be turned back at the door by the clipboard Nazi who wouldn't know style if it garrotted him with that red braided rope that bars entry? (Not that it still rankles or anything.)

The idea was that in the days before the average man on the street started dressing well, he needed to adhere to some generalised tick-box rules: no jeans, no T-shirts, no trainers, no choice. You could be wearing the most horrific shapeless shirt with horrible cheap shoes and still sail through, while the more discerning man in raw denim and rare sneakers is deemed too scruffy.

But change is afoot: sports luxe is the next big thing in fashion. At this summer's menswear fashion shows in London, Milan and Paris, one trend was particularly prevalent. It wasn't one seen on the catwalk so much as the streets. Sneakers are bouncing back - and in various forms, from the super-high- end and showy Valentino and Lanvin, to the retro rereleases from New Balance and Nike, to casual summer plimsolls by Converse, Superga, Vans and Common Projects. There is even a big trend right now amongst fashion editors for more technical running trainers such as Nike Flyknits.

'There's been a marked shift,' says Marc Hare, Designer and founder of Mr. Hare footwear - a man well known in sartorial circles for what one devotee describes as his 'epic shoe game'. 'The major fashion houses have commandeered the sneaker like never before, and suddenly it's fine - commendable even - to wear trainers with your suit.'

But is it? Is it really? Just because the Kanye Wests and Justin Timberlakes of the world deem it OK, doesn't mean it works for all of us. This is The Rake you're talking to. We are men of lasting style, not victims of fickle fashion.

I mentioned the subject of this article to Tom Stubbs, a regular Rake writer and indubitably one of the best-dressed men in London. He arched an eyebrow, blew out his cheeks and said, 'Rather you than me, old son.' We both dress in Savile Row finery on a daily basis. He finds the idea of wearing trainers with a suit downright offensive, not least to the tailor.

Of course, trainers are not right for every occasion. There are still times and places where such informality is inappropriate - funerals, gentlemen's clubs, formal dinners - but their number has greatly receded. No longer are trainers synonymous with slovenliness. Just as suits aren't just for weddings, so trainers are no longer just for running. The dress code has been reset.

The joy of wearing unstructured shoes - be they loafers, espadrilles or trainers - lies in their comfort, especially during warmer seasons or in certain holiday destinations where casual dressing is a signifier of being off-duty. A clunky pair of J.M. Westons or a pair of Church's brogues could look incongruous in St. Tropez or Portofino. JF Kennedy was not afraid to dress down with plimsolls when sailing, for example. It's about context.


September 2015


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