Man in vogue: Designer Kunal Rawal on a guide to white sneakers

  • Kunal Rawal, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: Dec 11, 2015 15:20 IST
From being cloth shoes you had to wear once a week to becoming the darlings of hip-hop artists, the white sneakers have become quite the trend

White sneakers have always been around. For me, the earliest memory of them were dad’s Tretorn tennis shoes. The Swedish brand has always been quite the celebrity favourite, with the keepers of style — the likes of David Beckham and Kanye West to Vanessa Hudgens and Natalie Portman swearing by them. Personally, my first white sneakers were the more common variety, something you, me and pretty much everyone in this country would be familiar with — Bata’s white PT shoes. Of course, back then, we didn’t much care for it as a fashion statement. They were just cloth shoes you had to wear once a week, and were nearly impossible to keep clean.

So, how did they go from being generic ‘sports shoes’ to a fashion statement, the darlings of hip-hop artists, and of hipsters walking down Canal Saint-Martin (Paris), SoHo (New York), Shoreditch (London), and Pali Hill (Mumbai)? Like with a lot of other trends, it was down to the brands. The sportswear giants saw a big market in reinventing classics through alternate lines. So, an Adidas has Adidas Originals, the Nike equivalent of which is Nike Sportswear. They didn’t just bring classics back, they made them even more coveted, by bringing in iconic names from the world of fashion. Soon, you had an Alexander McQueen collaboration with Puma (My first and only pair from Puma was a Puma x McQ), Adidas Y-3 (by the legendary Japanese designer Yohji Yamamoto), Originals by Jeremy Scott, and Rick Owens Adidas X.

Actor Anushka Sharma during the launch of Bombay Velvet (Photo: Yogen Shah)

Today, the humble white sneaker is available in tremendous variety, and across a vast range of prices. From high street to contemporary design to luxury labels, everyone has a white sneaker, staring out from a display window, calling you in, like a symbol of coolth. Of course, with a market for premium varieties, they aren’t just shoes made out of basic, white cloth. You get them in suede, in patent, and with gold and silver highlights. After watches, jewellery and clothes, now, white sneakers have climbed up the fashion ladder into the category of collectibles. The price tags on limited-edition offerings can be mind-boggling: there are varieties of which only 50 or 100 are ever made, and they retail for as high as USD50,000 (that’s Rs 30lakh approx for a pair of shoes). Then, some varieties attain iconic status. The Air Jordan Colorways is counted among the most iconic white sneakers. One of my favourites is the Nike Air Cement 3 (Ranbir Kapoor owns a pair of them). And sneaker freaks are waiting with bated breath for the launch of the 2016 Air Jordan 4 Retro White Cement. People queue up for these shoes for days, and then, they sell out within minutes.

And it isn’t just the lines that have become cult-ish; so have stores dedicated to them. The store called Sneakerboy is perhaps the biggest success story when it comes to these white kicks. If you’re a sneakers lover, you must follow them on Instagram (@sneakerboy). If there were ever to be a museum of white sneakers, these guys could supply the whole collection.

How towear them

* Always wear white sneakers with white socks.

* If pin-rolling or wearing shorter hems, go for ankle-length athletic socks. With low tops, wear ballet socks.

* Wear low tops when wearing shorts. You’re allowed high tops with shorts only if you’re a basketball player.

* When wearing high tops, roll your bottoms so that the pants fall correctly and sit on the mouth of the shoe.

* White sneakers look best slightly worn-in. So, don’t clean them until there’s a big stain on them. Dry-clean when needed.

Kunal Rawal is a leading men’s fashion designer. (Photo: Yogen Shah)

Follow Kunal Rawal on Twitter at @kunalrawalvibev

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