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TRENDS

June 14, 2018

By Jody Hume

LOVE OR LOATHE? THE DAD SNEAKER

Dad Sneaker Trend Balenciaga SHOP EDITORS' SNEAKER PICKS
It used to be that people were afraid of turning into their parents. Now, it seems like it’s the coolest thing you can do. First it was mom jeans that were everywhere, and now it’s dad style that’s staging a fashion takeover. Among the Hawaiian shirts and floppy bucket hats being embraced by designers and fashion people, it’s the chunky, un-streamlined, dorky, practical white dad sneaker that’s become the key must-have. You could argue that Balenciaga is at the center of this trend, and depending on your outlook, they’re either to be blamed or celebrated. Because, like many It items, the dad sneaker is divisive. Is it the perfect dose of irony to add to a pretty dress or staid suit? Or are they just plain ugly? To get both sides of the debate, we asked Senior Designer Eric Johnson (also our go-to sneakerhead) and Editorial Style Lead Kyle Stiansen to share their opinions.
Eric Johnson
So you are on the pro side or still trying to sort out feelings on this label?
Kyle Stiansen
To me, I equate dad sneakers with those perplexing trends in history like ‘80s power shoulders and MC Hammer harem pants. I remember when Raf came out with his version of them years ago and I couldn’t wrap my head around it.
E
I agree, I feel like the label only came about because they came into the forefront at a time when the tech trainer was dominant, and the only assessment they could make was that these were something their dad would wear. So what do you feel was patient zero of this wave? I feel like the fact that the Raf Ozweegos took off should have been a sign.
K
I think where we are in fashion right now is sort of the pinnacle of ironic fashion, and dad sneakers really reflect that. In the ‘80s to shock people was to do something like Gaultier or Mugler and create these insane fashion forms. Now designers are choosing to grab attention by making pieces that make you go “who would pay 6 figures for that?” Were you into them when they first became something or did it take time?
E
I was instantly on board when I first saw the [Balenciaga] Triple S samples. I think it was the fact that shoes had been so safe for so long, that this overly brash and hideous thing grabbed my attention. I came from wearing skate shoes and Air Force Ones for so long, that it was familiar territory to go back to something so chunky and random-looking.

K
Like a hardened marshmallow. I think what makes it more rebellious in a way is that they are so scuffed-looking. I actually think the Gucci Rhyton sneakers are more successful. Something about the logo gives it a funnier look that I like.
E
I think because of how slapped on it looks. Like the model was done, and someone in a panic realized there wasn’t any branding on it so someone stuck a sticker on the side of the prototype and said ship it. But you could honestly sit that in a Skechers store, without the branding, and no one would know the difference aside from the quality of materials. I will say, I’m extremely fond of the Dior Homme trainers. I think I’m biased based on its similarity in shape to the Air Max 90, which is one of my favorite sneakers of all time.
K
So how do you wear these? Because I look at them and know I will definitely look geriatric from the waist down.
E
For me, it’s either a nice wide leg or a cropped pant. I feel like unless you are a size 9 or smaller, wearing them with anything even remotely fitted, looks terribad. You don’t need anything as crazy as like a Rick Owens Mastodon pant, but you don’t want to look like a stick with blocks on your feet. I’m not even really a fan of wearing them with jeans, which feels like it pokes even more holes in the “dad-shoe” moniker …
K
Oh you definitely can’t wear these with jeans. You have to play up their peculiarity. Do your friends embrace the dad sneak?
E
Yes and no. A few of my friends have veered down the route of the functional but ugly as sin route, like the Salomon S-Lab or a New Balance 990v4. Others can appreciate the design while not wanting to touch them with a 10 foot pole personally. I think I’m a lot more willing to crash and burn with sneakers, so I would have given them a chance regardless.

K
And people thought good style can’t be fashionable and functional. Do you see brands trying to evolve it in a more interesting way? Aside from Dior.
E
I think Balenciaga is the top of the hill on this wave, and I believe they intend on staying at the top. Their F/W ’18 Trail runners look like a great evolution of the Triple S, and probably just as expensive. Also Puma came out of left field with a heater in the form of the Thunder Spectra. It turned into a big hit and they’ve been digging in their archives since the release with shoes like the Prevail OG. Do you think we’ve hit critical dad shoe mass?
K
Well with almost every major design house creating versions of dad sneakers, I think people like me will just have to accept their presence. Maybe it’s one of those situations where if you see it enough times your eye becomes used to it. I personally would like to see brands try to refine the shape, but maybe that would take away from its humor?
E
Not necessarily, the Versace Chain Reaction seems like their stab at it, with a relatively civil upper, and then all the insanity going on with the sole. So they figured out their own brand-defined humor without the shoe feeling like a random collection of layers of leather shapes in the form of a sneaker.
K
I think for people like me who need dad sneaker training wheels, I would probably go for the Prada Cloudbust. There’s something sleek about them that doesn’t feel as chunky.

Balenciaga Triple S Low-Top Sneakers | Louis Vuitton Archlight Sneakers | Nike Leather Air Monarch IV Sneakers

E
I know what you mean. I’ve been interested in getting a pair myself, but having big feet doesn’t help my cause at all, which is also why I think all these dad shoes seems to look great on women. They are like the perfect combination of upper and sole to define the shape and levels of irony.
K
I think what’s funny about the trend is that I almost feel women/girls have adopted it full on with jeans, sneakers, hat, etc. whereas non-dad guys I think will just pick one piece and incorporate it into their wardrobe. My dad was more of a Sperrys guy so when Gosha sent those down the runway I got more PTSD about that than dad sneakers.
E
My dad was a basketball coach, so it was mostly loafers during the day and Jordans in the evening. That said, I know for a fact that he has a pair of Monarchs, which I had nothing to do with. Seeing John Elliot with a pair of Monarchs at his last show at least gave me hope that I can be a cool dad, as the Monarch I think will outlast this trend for sure.
From dad sneakers to classics, our editors’ sneaker picks have something for everyone — shop them here.