In the Nineties, Velcro-strap sneakers were the staple of many a kindergartner’s wardrobe. The style was perfect photo op fodder for first-day-of-school pictures, especially when paired with denim overalls, a shiny new lunch box and a Koosh ball in hand.
But now, thanks to the ongoing wave of Nineties nostalgia, the style has gone high-fashion for adults. This spring, brands like Rag & Bone, Marni, Superga, Kenzo and more have created styles outfitted with the foolproof fastener.
The look brings new meaning to fashion’s favorite tag, ath-leisure, melding an athletic preface with the leisurely, time-saving convenience of a laceless design. Just strap in and go.
Those who have already been keen on Nineties redux paraphernalia — crop tops, high-waist mom jeans, platform sandals and bucket hats — are not planning to shy away from Velcro sneakers either.
Model Ali Michael, whose popular Instagram account is laden with sartorial throwbacks — many mom jeans among them — said of the look: “I tend to like clothes that make me nostalgic for my past. I had a lot of trouble learning to tie my shoes as a child and had to wear Velcro shoes almost exclusively.”
Wren designer Melissa Coker was also an early adapter of the style. “I had a pair that I was obsessed with when I was really little with E.T. on them — they were my most memorable shoes,” she said.
Coker added of the style’s practical merits: “You don’t even have to worry about tying your shoelaces. Everyone could use a few extra minutes in the day. They could give me enough time to make an actual phone call instead of texting.”
Shoe brands and retailers are already reporting success with the Velcro designs, which many have labeled as “grip-strap” instead.
Erica Russo, fashion director for women’s accessories at Bloomingdale’s, found that the styles have been “popular with many customers, from the trendy Millennial scouting classic athletic brands like Puma, to high-fashion mavens gravitating to styles from brands such as Marni and Gucci. Velcro is attractive to shoppers because it offers a unique spin on functionality and that incomparable feeling of nostalgia.”
Jennifer Green, president of Superga North America, which collaborated with Steven Alan on a limited-edition $79 Velcro-strap style, said her team found inspiration for the design in an archival pair of Superga’s from 1980. It reminded the company of Reebok’s early fashion-meets-athletic designs, which were often flanked by Velcro strip fastenings.
Green said of the design’s new popularity: “It’s part of the nostalgia, possibly taking us back a bit to a time when sneakers were very prevalent as they are again. Now, like then, you’re able to wear them on a daily basis regardless if you are going to play or going to work.
“I don’t know if it’s really irony, or if it’s just something that makes us all feel good.”
The Superga x Steven Alan style, which looks most similar to seminal Nineties kids shoes — with a thin rubber sole akin to Ked’s — is already on the road to selling out, with a second run of production soon on its way to Steven Alan stores.