By Margo McLean
Sneakers have always held a special place in street style and fashion– a symbol of youth, mobility, and athleticism. In recent years, however, sneakers have walked the line separating “skater style” and casual wear from high-end fashion and couture.
For example, sneakers by Balenciaga, Versace and even Nike have become the staple shoe of top models such as Kendall Jenner and the Hadid sisters as “street style” becomes mainstream. In fact, you might remember Bella Hadid’s interview with Complex magazine (and the ensuing meme) where she stated, “If homeboy comes in wearing these (Air max or Jordans) he can like… get it” According to top model Bella Hadid, Sneakers are SEXY!
Air Max’s and Jordan’s are both classic unisex shoes that have withstood the test of time, but how do other brands and variations stand up to the OG’s. Can floral sneakers be sexy? Couture brand “Gucci” and skater brand “Vans” both say yes.
Gucci recently launched a new line of sneakers (as well as handbags, clothing, etc) featuring a floral patchwork design. However, these flowers are anything but “sweet.” Often floral sneakers are an accent on an otherwise muted, grunge aesthetic — worn ironically. Because while sneakers inspire mobility, athleticism, and freedom, floral prints suggest a more matured and curated style. The marriage of these two concepts is an example of ironic fashion.
“Ironic” fashion extends beyond sneakers, to childhood favorite characters such as “Hello Kitty” and even to religious paraphernalia (i.e. cross necklaces etc) where they are worn as a fashion and sometimes even political statement.
Vans is another brand which has recently introduced a floral twist to their classic and iconic black and white checkered Vans. Vans are a trademark brand of “skating culture”, and similarity to Gucci’s new line, these floral prints are not for the older Floridian generation to match their Hawaiian shirt and khaki shorts. On the contrary: they have been appropriated by the socially conscious and artistically driven youth who push boundaries.
The juxtaposition between floral and footwear is redefined by Mr. Flower Fantastic’s sneaker-inspired boutiques and displays. Using tulips, roses and other flowers Mr. Fantastic (https://mrflowerfantastic.art) plays with color and texture in an unconventional way. Most memorably Mr. Fantastic recreated Serena Williams’ air max 97, an eye-catching display which seamlessly synthesizes pop culture and traditional floral art. Both the craftsmanship and attention to detail is inspired. In fact, one could make the claim that Mr. Fantastic in pioneering a new art form which takes the ordinary and reimagines it– creating a space where footwear can be unisex, fabulous, and quite literally: groundbreaking.
Groundbreaking in more ways than one– Sneakers worn by supermodels is a testament to the growing number of women entering the previously male-dominated “street style” or casual fashion scene.
According to fashion expert and Syracuse professor Joyce Corrigan, “Floral sneakers are like pink leather biker jackets: it’s women appropriating traditional “tough” menswear because they can.”
Corrigan, who worked for both Marie-Claire and Vogue, believes sneaker chic grew out of the American obsession with sports, which has long been dominated by guys, but in an era of superstars like Serena Williams, Alex Morgan and Simone Biles, female athletes have reclaimed Amazon status on a global scale.
Dolce & Gabbana
“Sneakers are modern and cool, and, unlike heels, you move fast in them,” she notes. “Adding flowers, sexy appliqués, and other embellishments, we’re wearing athletic shoes but making them our own.” Sneakers have been ‘reclaimed’ as gender stereotypes are challenged– “flowers” signifying the latest blow to the status quo.
So when we imagine floral sneakers, remember to first rejoice in flowers as artistic concept– a take on the juxtaposition of femininity and masculinity, soft and hard, naive and refined…
Or, don’t think too hard about it– just lace up your fashionable floral sneakers and hit the town (or wherever they may take you).