PARIS—Shall we just stop pretending? Sneakers are the only shoes that seem to rattle designers out of their torpor. They are the only shoes that have shoppers standing in line overnight like they’re on the dole and the last bit of government cheese will be gone by lunchtime. Sneakers are ground zero for collaborations. They are the sun around which streetwear — and pretty much everything else — revolves.
When people talk about designer shoes, rarely are they discussing some particularly captivating mule, pump, loafer or bootie. They’re talking about sneakers bearing names such as Balenciaga, Saint Laurent or Nike x fill-in-the-blank. It used to be that sneakers were a menswear thing. And while there is still a market for sexy shoes and artful sculptures masquerading as footwear, womenswear designers have increasingly included some delectable rubber-soled footwear in their collections.
But designer John Galliano is not one to do anything in a subdued or cautious manner. The sneakers he put on the runway at the Maison Margiela presentation earlier in the week were not examples of delicate footwear. They were as big and ballsy as the coats, the handbags and everything else on the runway.
The sneakers have been dubbed the “Security Margiela Sneaker,” or the SMS for short. They come in both high-top and low-top iterations and they have super-thick soles that made the models look as though they were clomping down the runway with mini-mattresses on their feet. They had elaborate heel guards and a kind of security belt cresting over the top of the foot.
There was nothing delicate or pretty about them. They are obnoxiously ugly, aggressively sporty and ostentatiously devoted to comfort. They are a giant middle finger to the traditions of fashion that have for so long given men footwear meant for walking — and running and jumping — while women get shoes that elongate the leg, flatter the tush and delight the eye.
No one wants to give up a pretty pair of pumps, but Galliano gives women what men have long had: comfort first shoes. The 21st-century variety.
What makes the Maison Margiela sneakers particularly splendid is that they wallow in their heinousness. They delight in being grotesque. They are ridiculous and ornery and counter-intuitive.
They are, of course, fashion. Fall 2018.