Comfort Rules, Style Too

Ecco Intrinsic 1 peforated leatherEcco Intrinsic 1 in perforated leather upper

By Shu Xie

I am not an ardent consumer of cool anything. That includes sneakers, but I do pay attention to what sneakerheads obsess over. So much that is grabbing major headlines and Instagram spaces these days are due to the marketing might of big players that when unexpected, out-of-the-radar shoe makers offer something not of their ordinary, my curiosity is stirred.

One such company is Ecco, a Danish shoemaker that, for a long time, I had associated with the kind of footwear akin to what my maths teacher wore in secondary school: they look undoubtedly comfortable, but they lack style. Some people associate such footwear with one category: orthopaedic. The Ecco I had in mind, however, vanished the moment I saw their recent shoes. It was like encountering a rare tome in an antiquarian bookshop.

The pair that drew my interest is a sneaker in a form that projected street and fashion cred instantly. It stood in direct contrast to its kinsmen, exerting a pull with its modern silhouette and fashion’s favourite colour: black. What was most appealing was the perforated leather upper, over which it enfolded a neoprene sock-liner. I was smitten by its charms. The salesperson told me the Intrinsic 1 had worked its magic. “It’s our best-selling shoe,” he added for good measure.

Intrinsic 1 BlackThe Intrinsic 1 in a knitted fabric and leather trims

Intrinsic 1: now, that’s a name, not something as unfathomable as Yeezy! Is the naming practice a reflection of the change reportedly sweeping over Ecco? Change is not intrinsic, but when there is change—palpable modification for the better, it gets noticed. It is tempting to speculate that the Intrinsic is the result of extrinsic influences. In the footwear business, strong brands do hold sway over smaller players. Even luxury brands look to what the giants of trainers do. Look at Louis Vuitton.

Ecco shoes was founded in 1963 in Denmark. Quality has been a hallmark of the brand as it owns the tanneries, production and research facilities that are behind each shoe—ownership that typifies many European leather goods companies. While Ecco has quality and comfortable shoes on its side, it isn’t until the emergence of the Intrinsic last year that they are thought to have stepped up in the style stakes. To validate their output, they’ve worked with bloggers, also known by the irascible term “influencers”, and gone quite Instagram-berserk (#partofmyworld). The result: visible youth association many brands hanker after.

Held in my hand, the Intrinsic 1 weighs as much as three bars of chocolate (or 300 grams, depending on the size of the shoe). It didn’t look light, but it is. When worn, I immediately sense the sock-like comfort. I tried to understand my (at-first) irrational attraction to the Intrinsic 1 and came to the conclusion that it held, in one shoe, everything I love about Nike’s Lunar LDV Trail Mid, Air Huarache, and Free 5.O. Finally, there is footwear beyond this triumvirate.

The patient salesperson had another nugget: the perforated upper of this Intrinsic 1 is made of yak leather, which, according to him, is lighter and more durable than, I suppose, cow hide or pig skin. The exotic factor makes the shoe even more appealing. To be sure, I have never own a shoe in yak leather. At the risk of annoying PETA, there’s a strange allure in the hide of highland bovids for footwear. Admittedly, I’m the bigger beast.

Ecco Intrinsic 1, SGD249.90, is available for men and women at Ecco stores. Photos: Jim Sim

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