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Image / Fashion

I once thought the trainer phenomenon would elude me… now I want a sparkly pair!


by Marie Kelly
24th Nov 2018

I remember a time when a trainer was called a runner and it was only ever worn with a tracksuit. My London born-and-bred cousin used to laugh at the colloquialism, and at my narrow understanding of these shoes’ sartorial possibilities. But at that time in Ireland, you could be turned away from a club, bar or restaurant for showing up in a pair.

Fashion has always been a means for social jockeying, and trainers are now no less a part of this than the handbag you carry or the watch you wear. Whereas once they were worn solely for practicality and comfort, they are now the answer to modern chic as well as street cool. They say something very definitive about your aesthetic and the tribe to which you want to be aligned (white adidas for Phoebe Philo fans, high tops for Olivia Wilde wannabe’s).

When Gucci and Prada began incorporating sportswear shoes into their collections, the former as early as the 1980s and the latter in the early noughties, trainers began to slowly evolve beyond the functional into the newest form of self expression. Sportswear brands saw an opportunity and began collaborating with fashion labels – Adidas teamed up with Yohji Yamamoto and Jeremy Scott as early as 2002 – and the concept of “athleisure” was born, although it was several years before it was packaged up, given this label and sold to consumers as such.

Now we’re all obsessed with it, myself included. I never wore Converse when they were cool, and when the white trainer phenomenon took hold, I imagined myself looking more like I was about to tee up than step up. Yet the subliminal appeal of this fashion shoe simply wouldn’t go away. I have since conquered the white trainers style conundrum, and invested in other colours too. Today I’m donning my version of modern laid-back chic in a pair of charcoal cropped trousers (Cos), textured burgundy trainers (Zara) and a thin knit jumper dress in earthy green with a cut-out back from Karen Millen.

Of course it’s the trainers that inject the “laid-back” into this look. Without their informality, the outfit would appear too much for a Saturday afternoon strolling around town. But as it is, I look like I’ve made an effort without appearing as if I’m overthinking it. That’s what trainers give you – the kind of cool insouciance that women everywhere want to exude.

I once debated the virtues of flat shoes in the pages of IMAGE Magazine, and now I find that everything I said about brogues and loafers I feel about trainers. They allow me to move around with ease, to look in control and they suggest an independence that reflects exactly the kind of woman I want to be, or hope I already am. To quote Stella McCartney, “There’s something about having the confidence to wear a shoe that is not ten inches tall that sends a message.” Insert trainer instead of “shoe” and the sentiment remains the same.

So for Christmas, I’ve decided I want sparkly trainers. It’s the natural next step in my athelsiure journey. If you read my piece on wearing red yesterday, you may have noticed the gorgeous black sequin trainers one of the street style stars featured was wearing. They’re my inspiration.