Blame it on the sneaker.
The ubiquitous, comfortable, and oh-so-trendy choice of footwear has created a sea change in men’s wear. Many guys today think nothing of wearing their Nike Air Jordans, Under Armour Curry 3s or Adidas Climacools for all occasions. And it’s not just sneakerheads — men from all walks of life have embraced the footwear model.
It’s not unusual for retailers to hold raffles or pass out wristbands to customers seeking the latest hot models. There are even Sneaker Cons in cities around the country as well as a National Sneaker Day — it was Nov. 5 in 2016.
This sneaker mania has carried over to the designer market as well, where luxury labels such as Saint Laurent, Prada, Gucci, Bally, Alexander McQueen and Fendi have introduced their unique iterations — Gucci emblazoned a Tian print onto glittery fabric and stuck a price tag of $650 on its low-top model, while Prada’s platform wingtip leather sneakers retail for $980.
But the impact of the sneaker is also being felt above the feet as streetwear-inspired brands such as Off-White, Hood by Air and Vetements take the fashion industry by storm. Their distinct aesthetic — Demna Gvasalia of Vetements showed billowing suit jackets alongside high-end white joggers and Reebok track jackets on the runway for spring — has spilled over to the more traditional market. Established brands, many of which built their fortunes on tailored clothing, are scurrying to respond to this ath-leisure trend.
Eric Jennings, vice president and men’s fashion director at Saks Fifth Avenue, calls the movement “active lifestyle” and said the store is “building a zone of business” around the trend. At Saks, this encompasses everything from the urban version of activewear from Y-3, EFM and J.Lindeberg to the tailored casualwear offerings from more conservative brands such as Brunello Cucinelli and Ralph Lauren.
With athletic references as a backdrop, the big sports brands want a piece of the action as well. Nike, through its fashion-skewed NikeLab initiative, offered merchandise last year from everyone from Givenchy designer Riccardo Tisci and Balmain’s Olivier Rousteing to Undercover’s Jun Takahashi and Kim Jones. Under Armour brought Tim Coppens into the fold to design its UAS contemporary sportswear collection, and Adidas has long-standing relationships with Yohji Yamamoto for Y-3 Sport, Jeremy Scott, Alexander Wang and Pharrell Williams. Its association with Kanye West the Yeezy collection will be expanded — presumably this year — with the launch of the Adidas + Kanye West line, which it has called “the most significant partnership ever created between a nonathlete and an athletic brand.” Of course, West’s recent hospitalization and his much-maligned spring show could delay the launch.
Surprisingly, the focus on the sneaker, ath-leisure, active and streetwear categories hasn’t impacted sales of tailored clothes in the U.S. According to The NPD Group, men’s tailored clothing dollar sales increased in the 12 months ending November and accounted for 8 percent of total U.S. men’s apparel sales for the period. This could indicate that tailored men’s wear brands are making strides by adapting to the current marketplace. For example, Barneys New York initially opted to not sell tailored clothing at its New York downtown store, but in October it picked up P. Johnson Tailors’ ready-to-wear and made-to-measure collections. The Australian tailored clothing brand, which was founded by Patrick Johnson, is known for its comfortable, lightweight suits that are made for travel. And in September Berluti tapped the romantic designer Haider Ackermann as its new creative director — his first collection for the brand will make its debut this month. Antoine Arnault, chief executive officer of Berluti, told WWD, “All categories — whether it’s T-shirts, or sweaters — everything casual is overperforming the sartorial right now. Casual is king.”