At no other point in history has the sneaker, once synonymous with sport, tech billionaires and Jerry Seinfeld, been so pervasive in our daily lives. At the start of 2019, US Vogue
editor-in-chief Anna Wintour said the sneaker would be the most important trend of that year. And despite Net-a-Porter’s senior fashion market editor, Libby Page, predicting late last year that “proper” shoes would make a comeback in 2020, the coronavirus pandemic has only reinforced our addiction to sneakers.
In the long months at home, the sneaker was our friend. Walking was one of our few freedoms; it behoved us to wear comfortable shoes while we did it.Credit:Getty Images
In the long months at home (possibly on JobKeeper, or at least wracked with uncertainty about our incomes), when we couldn’t justify discretionary fashion purchases, the sneaker was our friend. Walking was one of our few freedoms; it behoved us to wear comfortable shoes while we did it.
We know sneaker sales skyrocketed because retailers told us so. Adidas' latest release of Beyoncé's Ivy Park brand included a pair of $230 spearmint-green high-tops that flew off the shelves in days following their release. It made us wonder whether sneakers were the new “lipstick economy”, the term that explains why even in times of economic recession, sales of lipstick (and cosmetics, generally) tend to remain stable. But if there's one thing we learnt in COVID-19, it's that lipsticks and face masks make sticky companions.
So, if sneakers and sweatpants were the twin fashion hallmarks of the pandemic, and comfort their lasting legacy, where do high heels and “fancy” dress shoes fit in our future?
It's a tricky question to answer, says Bridget Veals, general manager of womenswear, footwear and accessories at David Jones. She says although women will wear heels again, it's unlikely they will wear them as often or for as long a period as before, especially among the work-from-home set.
As lockdowns have eased, Veals says sneaker sales have not taken a dive, a sure sign that although we may be yearning to dress up, our feet are happy to maintain 2020's enforced state of comfort. Though some styles are slowly regaining interest, Veals says that, instead of jumping straight into heels, this will be the summer of the chunky sandal.
And when we do wear heels, Veals says it's more likely to be in the six-centimetre range – higher than a kitten, lower than a stiletto – except on special occasions where something like, say, a 10.5-centimetre Saint Laurent tribute is regaining interest.
“There are still key brands like Jimmy Choo, René Caovilla and Christian Louboutin where heel heights will remain high,” she says. “[The question is] how long you keep them on … it just makes you feel normal again.”