Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Where Were You Daddy When the Sneaker Freaks Crashed?

While meandering through the endless aisles of the WSA in Las Vegas last week, the one brand that stood out was the newly launched Patagonia footwear line (I'd link to the site, but it doesn't show the shoe line yet). In one fell swoop, the brand managed to hit the nail right on the head of the industry's most leading shoe trends. In a launch collection, Patagonia's design team managed to riff off the utopian coolness of the VisVim profile and mix in just the right amount of earthy consciousness via recycled materials, hemp fabrications and hand-stitched details. The result is New Millennium Trail, a ground-breaking line, which will hit retail in spring 2007. (And no, lol, I didn't receive any shoes or advertisement in exchange for this paragraph!)

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^^Patagonia: Moving Forward (as photographed in Footwear Plus magazine)

So, you ask, what the heck does that have to do with crashing sneaker freaks? Well, among the folks who make it their business to follow athletic footwear sales, the conventional wisdom for at least the past six months has been that sneakers aint the fashion trend that they once used to be, and consumers are starting to seek out other footwear trends. This isn't based merely on personal opinion. One need only look at the quarterly sales reports for the leading brands to see the declining sales story for yourself.

The funny thing is, when I speak to sneaker freaks or check out the boutiques, they seem to be oblivious to this fact. Many of them have this perspective that sneakers are forever. When I recently interviewed a bunch of collectors for a story, all of them spoke of their lifelong love affair with sneakers. They've loved sneakers for as long as they can remember and they will love sneakers until the day they die.

I'm not going to argue with people who claim that mostly because I believe they're telling me the truth. I can easily envision them wearing their flashy Nikes in their eighties and still looking fly as all get out. Still, outside of the diehards who latch on to a greatly designed item and never let it go, it has been my experience that in fashion, nothing is forever. There is no classic so classic that it lasts for all of eternity.

And let's be clear. I love sneakers, too. I have many pairs. Yesterday I almost bought another pair. But sneakers weren't always "it" for me. Back in my days as a punker, I mostly wore Stacy Adams boots. I had a side pair of gold, hightop Chucks, but I didn't love them nearly as much as my boots or a pair of black, pointy flats that I wore into the ground. When I first came to New York in the late 80s, I wore a beat up pair of men's dress shoes for a while and then some chunky-heeled old lady shoes. I also had a fabulous pair of flourescent, pink, patent leather, mod sandals, which I'd pull out every once in a while and it was only around the time my son was born in 1994 that I started checking for sneakers. So no, I won't pledge my lifelong allegiance to only sneakers. Based on my past experience, that's not the type of committment I can see be anything less than problematic. (It's okay, call me a poseur. I can handle it.)

One other thing that people seem to forget is that shoes weren't always the focal point of the outfit like they are today. And again, that might not be forever either. While shoes are hot items now because of great design, it could happen that apparel designers get back on their game and shoes will get pushed more to the background. Hard to imagine given how lost the fashion apparel world seems to be these days, but shit goes in cycles. That is just the way of the world.

So to all you committed freaks, keep doing you. I would never be so foolish as to get in between you and your beloved kicks. In many ways I admire your stick-with-it-ness. It's a trait I have in short supply.

However, to all you sneaker boutique owners, if you haven't already, I think it's time to at least consider expanding your horizons. Yes, that limited edition Nike SB Dunk is the shit right now, but will it still be five years from now? Or even two years from now? Or are there other brands and trends like trail that you're ignoring 'cause they don't quite fit the sneaker profile? Even if you loooove sneakers, remember, it's not about the personal. As we all like to say, "I'm not a businessman, I'm a business, man!"

1 comment:

androka said...

i think the trend will be design your own, like at rbkcustom.com i got two pairs, even though i'm not much of a sneaker freak. i just like them.