Everyone and their brother loves to write about French style and how to emulate it. Yeah, yeah, yeah, we know: The red lipstick, the striped shirts, the slept on hair (God forbid you blow dry it before leaving the house, it will look like you are trying too hard!), the classic pieces, blah, blah, blah. I am quite sure you are aware of the tenets of French fashion, you live here. But no one talks about the French style staple: sneakers!
I will never forget the moment back in 2011, when Phoebe Philo of Celine, stepped onto the runway after her show wearing Nike Air Max 90’s. The fashion world was all a buzz about this seemingly insignificant detail. It was as if the whole of the industry was quietly waiting and suffering in their uncomfortable shoes, dying to give their toes a rest. Finally, everyone felt the release of adding sneakers as fashionably acceptable attire.
Isabel Marant then created the infamous sneaker wedge in 2012; her way of joining the sneaker conversation in the fashion foray. The sneaker wedge became one of the most copied fashion items in history, but Philo’s display of nonchalant yet chic-as-hell attitude was when the rest of the world took notice and pulled their beloved sneaks from the crevices of their closets and began to style their outfits around them.
What the fashion world didn’t realize is that tennis shoes have always been fashionably acceptable footwear in Paris. One fashion rule I noticed, right away, upon arrival in Paris is authenticity, to never look like you are striving. I will never understand how red lipstick can be made to look so effortless, but it does here. And tennis shoes are a sure fire way to look and feel comfortable in your own skin. For this reason, Parisians take pride in their comfortable footwear, the one they’ve had since they were young. The sneakers in Paris give a glimpse into the person who is wearing them.
You will start to notice the ever expansive, White Stan Smith tennis shoes. First created in 1971 by Adidas, they have a certain street cred attached to them. Look for the yellowed rubber soles and you will know which are the originals and who’s been wearing them since they were teenagers. Spring Courts, are another timeless shoe dating back to 1936 that the French have been wearing their whole lives. John Lennon and Yoko Ono wore them on their wedding day and they’ve been an iconic shoe since their inception.
The sneakers I wear are the same style that my mother-in-law wore as a child growing up in Paris. Superga is an Italian shoe that has been in production for over 100 years. Unlike the Stan Smiths street cred, Supergas have a certain class about them that has stood the test of time. In fact, as a heritage brand, they are seeing resurgence, as they team up with big fashion brands such as Rodarte and Miharayasuhiro. Bensimons, another French shoe in production since 1975, are also being heralded as a heritage brand that’s being brought into the international fashion spotlight by partnering with J.Crew.
Clearly these are not the only sneakers worn by the French. You will also see Nike, Converse, New Balance, Vans and the like. The French are all about understated fashion and what they wear tends to affect the fashion world. So feel free to bring out your favorite tennis shoes and next time you are sipping an Aperol Fiz at Progrès, pay attention to how all the cool kids are styling their attire around their broken-in sneaks.