They are reaching iconic status, rather like heels and bags for women, but sneakers are part of fashion for men as well, and in the latest collections, they often accompany suits as well as smart casual outfits. Versatile and comfortable, they can be made in all sorts of materials, and they are ideal for design flair with the relatively large area provided by the sides, above all in the hightop pattern.
Sneakers have a long history, from the invention of vulcanization in the early 19th century that made it possible to make shoes with rubber soles and canvas uppers. So-called 'plimsolls' were sold as beachwear from the 1830s in the U.K., but they were very basic, often with no difference between right and left shoes. They developed into more comfortable gym shoes, and in America they became sneakers (because they are so quiet when you are walking in them) in the early 20th century. In 1917, Marquis Converse made the first basketball shoes, and they quickly became best-sellers.
From the 1950s on, they became part of youth fashion, particularly after James Dean wore them in the film 'Rebel Without a Cause.' Today, they have extended from sports and are now firmly ensconced in luxury fashion. Dolce & Gabbana, for example, have designed ranges of men's and women's sneakers for the fall/winter 2014-15 season, a pageant of colour and geometric shapes. The inspiration, as for other items in Dolce & Gabbana's work, has links to Sicily, and in particular, Etna and the adventurous folk who venture up there. Laces, welts and other details are inspired by climbing ropes, and the perforated sides overlaid with strapping recall rucsac details. The combination of different materials, textures and colours makes them absolutely modern, powerful and reassuring, and ideal for use in the city.
The women's collection of Dolce & Gabbana sneakers takes the same inspiration from mountain gear, but have an original low-cut style that suggests running. With rugged soles and a comfortable lining, they ensure warmth on even the coldest winter days. They are carefully designed with a light midsole and a heel spring, providing 30 millimetres of extra height.
Hogan have also translated traditional sneakers into high fashion, with internal wedges as seen in the capsule collection designed by Simon Holloway. Contrasting colours and suede detailing adorn the shoes, giving them a street-inspired appeal. For men, there are some biker-inspired looks, in bright colours that are perfect to accompany the leather garments.
Alberto Guardiani's sneakers are a symphony of prestige materials combined with stylish, edgy design. There is ample room for new technology, with features such as drawstring lacing, neoprene uppers, super-light rubber soles, and laser-cut metal straps. Giuseppe Zanotti reaches heights of exuberance with his sneakers, with fur, metal, giant zips, print uppers and fluo yellow soles. Swiss brand Bally shows off white sneakers in many of their fall/winter 2014-15 looks, pairing the shoe with sweaters, long coats and even ties. This mixing of casual and dressy doesn't stop with sneakers. Other types of footwear that have been traditionally casual are now being worked into business collections. Pal Zileri, for example, has come out with a stylish moccasin that exemplifies the crossover of casual shoes into corporate wardrobe. Handcrafted from suede and leather, the shoe gives a high-quality edge to a relaxed style.
As ever, there is no end of choice, and in the latest trends, mix and unmatch is definitely the way things are going. Put your best foot forwards and make your statement!