It may still be cold outside, but the hottest Spring fashions are already hitting the stores and fashion website hot-spots, like Tilly’s. What all the “cool kids,” both young and old, are going to be wearing this year are retro-style sneakers. Shoe styles and brands that first became massively popular in the eras of rock-n-roll and funky punk rock music, or even earlier, are back, with styles that emulate the versions from that era, but with some modern twists and improvements.
So which shoes have been reincarnated? The good ole Chuck Taylor shoes from Converse, AKA the “All Stars,” are back, in both their low and high-topped versions, and are more popular than ever. In this age, shoe makers have extensive R&D departments to design shoes with optimal cushioning and support and space-age materials that will give one runner a fraction of a second advantage over another. They then spend millions convincing us that those new design features are worth buying. So it is surprising that such an absolutely plain style, with a sole as flat as a board and absolutely no arch support, would enjoy such a resurgence of popularity. Why?
Perhaps it is because they used to be a fairly inexpensive shoe that was made of lasting, durable material. Their accessibility by people of all social classes made them so prolific that they eventually became iconic. The original shoe was first designed in 1917, and got their name from a famous basketball player. Its widespread popularity actually started before WW2. Original vintage Chuck Taylors are coveted by collectors, often selling for hundreds of dollars per pair. However, their popularity once declined so much that the company went into bankruptcy in 2003. Perhaps the answer to their resurgence of popularity is the marketing genius of the company who bought them, Nike. The new version of this classic promises to have more internal support and padding, but their success is truly from tapping into the nostalgia factor. The other thing that has changed is the wide variety of color schemes available and customization. Wearers now can get these iconic shoes in colors and patterns that their parents or even grandparents could never dream of owning.
Another shoe, that had its heyday in the 70’s and 80’s, and is back in style are Van’s. They started out as a boating “deck shoe” that became a California skateboarder shoe. But they were soon on the feet of teenagers all over the country. Their shape and design has also changed relatively little over the years. But, as with the Chuck Taylors, are now available in a myriad of colors and wild patterns, to let wearers express their own originality in their icon shoes.
Ironically, two of the most popular athletic shoe companies, Nike and adidas, are getting tremendous sales from new shoes that look old. You can now buy very plain, monochromatic Nike shoes with a clunky old looking style with the simple swoosh, that look very much like the first Nike shoes, made for track athletes in Oregon. And one can get adidas shoes, in a similar retro style, with the 3 stripes on a solid color shoe.
These hot retro styles of 2016, show the cyclical nature of fashion. What was old has become new again. Perhaps what is actually new about these shoes is simply that you can quickly see hundreds of versions of iconic coolness and order them on your smartphone.