Ready For Ripped

Not really. It is harder to wear tattered shoes than torn jeans

The tattered version of the Converse Chuck 70

By Ray Zhang

I own only a pair of carefully tattered—but not knee-baring or buttocks-exposing—jeans, and I think I have only worn it once. It’s now somewhere inside a box of unworn clothes asking to be in favour again, but they are more forgotten than loved. I have never taken a shine to anything torn except, maybe, frayed hems. So it amuses me to no end when social media went mad with the news that Balenciaga released a pair of practically damaged shoes. I only saw the photographs, but they look ridiculous to me. The kicks in that condition are saleable? No retailer would accept returns of shoes in that state, but Balenciaga would sell them like that? I remember when Maison Margiela made available in 2017 a pair of battered sneakers for US$1,425, I told myself that the world has gone quite berserk. But at least those shoes—broken-down version of the brand’s ‘Future’ high-tops—were not dirty. Soiled shoes, I learned on SOTD, are trending—that also escapes me.

The “destroyed” Balenciaga shoes look to me like Converse kicks worn at a construction site on a rainy day. And I have really seen them in that condition, unaided by Balenciaga’s very capable China factory, but I have never been seduced by them. I own only one pair of Converse in my entire life. It was the Chuck Taylor conceived in collaboration with Junya Watanabe that came in Madras check of rather bright yellow (unfortunately the soles crumbled and I couldn’t wear them anymore). Pristine, uncoloured Converse canvas shoes do not appeal to me. People have frequently said to me that Converse shoes look better when worn out and soiled. I don’t know about soiled, but I am willing to try a little worn out. I have tried ugly, how bad can mildly ragged be? When, at The Foot Locker, recently I spotted a pair of Converse Chuck 70 High that was quite torn on the heel and collar (and on sale!), I was oddly drawn to it. I tried them on, and my friends who were with me said: “They really look good on you.” Really? I bought them despite the very certain fear that with them on my feet, I might look like I do not have money to buy proper shoes that are in tact, even if that could be true.

A fellow torn Converse wearer. Photo: Ray Zhang

While I refuse to buy into Balenciaga’s wrecked aesthetics because I am unable to entertain the brand laughing at all the idiots who could be so easily duped into this possible high-end scam, I thought I might give sneakers that are not violently ripped a try just to see how I’d feel in them. After I put on my new torn Converse, my mother caught sight of them. She said somewhat sternly, “if you have no money to buy shoes, let me know.” Why did she not say that earlier? Not long after I stepped out in my new torn kicks, I saw a buffed-up fellow in a scuffed-up pair of the same Converse I had on. Were there so many sold that I would meet someone identically togged on the very first that I put the sneakers through their paces? But, his looked worse than mine, and were as beaten-up as he was worse for wear. He did not appear to adopt the shoes to be on trend. With nondescript T-shirt and ‘berms’, he looked like your regular heartlander. I was suddenly relieved; I would not, I thought, look like an unfortunate victim.

In the MRT train, I noticed that many commuters wore white sneakers, but none of them were torn, not even a tiny nick could be seen on any. On my feet could be a fashion statement, but it did not make me feel particularly fashionable. As classic kicks go, few are as adored as the Converse, especially in school-shoe white. And perhaps therein lies the deep doubt for me. There is something not quite grown-up happening on my feet. Perhaps I need to wait till my Chuck 70s are really threadbare. I realised as I stared at them in the train car that there is, in fact, a hidden blue layer beneath. It is possible that when the upper is decorticated, what’s below will be revealed and it will be whole. Tatty, I reminded myself, is not better than tidy.

The Converse Chuck 70 High (torn), now SGD79, is available in stores. Photo (top) Jim Sim

Disgruntled Once More

Kanye West is peeved again. And, he has attacked another business partner, anew. Unrequited love?

Nike must be so thankful that their pairing with Kanye West ended when it did. They must be reading with such relief the news of Mr West’s online berating of his current footwear production partner Adidas. The rap star asserted that the German company has been designing Yeezy products without his involvement. On Instagram two days ago, Mr West boomed: “”The fact (Adidas) felt they could color my shoes and name them without my approval is really wild. I really care about building something that changes the world and something I can leave to my kids. They tried to buy me out for 1 billion dollars. My royalties next year are 500 million dollars alone.”

A buyout! Has it really come to this? Was Mr West surprised that Adidas, producing Yeezy since 2013, is considering ending their partnership? That they had enough of his egomania? The Sunday denunciation was, of course, not his first levelled at the manufacturer of his Yeezys. In fact, since last Friday, his fingers have been hard at work, generating posts that suggested Adidas had done him great wrong, to the point that he threatened to “legally finish with you”, directing that at the brand’s top brass, in particular the senior vice-president Daniel Cherry III (who has not offered a public response).

…his fingers have been hard at work, generating posts that suggested Adidas had done him great wrong, to the point that he threatened to “legally finish with you”

To make things more complicated, the executive board of JP Morgan Chase was also dragged into the one-sided quarrel, with the angry rapper uploading screen shots of the bankers. JP Morgan Chase assisted Adidas in finding a buyer for Reebok in 2021. And on Monday, Mr West posted: “I need a shoe company like how Jamie Salter bought Reebok”. Mr Salter is the CEO of Authentic Brands Group (ABG), the company that acquired Reebok from Adidas. It is curious that ABG was mentioned. Was Mr West hoping Reebok would be the next Yeezy collaborator?

His palpable rage, of course, goes further back—to June, when he accused Adidas of copying his Yeezy slides after the former teased the release of their Adilette 22. And then came “Yeezy Day” in August—some pseudo-important occasion that Mr West called “made up” and claimed he did not agree to, nor the Yeezy sneakers that Adidas was allegedly going to drop. It is not clear why he did not take his displeasure or misgivings directly to Adidas instead of publicly declaiming, “I have no chill. It’s going to cost you billions to keep me, It’s going to cost you billions to let me go, Adidas.“

This is, of course, not surprising. Even Gap was attacked. A week ago, as he had a go at Adidas, he concurrently accused the other half of Yeezy Gap of conducting a meeting without him. He added that they had copied his designs (the ones “Engineered by Balenciaga”). Can a pattern of behaviour be discerned? Not hard. For Mr West, lines are not drawn, not demarcated. Professional and private lives have no borders. Everyone is fair game. Even people close to him—or once were—were not spared. He attacked his ex-wife on more than one occasion (who strangely did not seem too upset by it) and her (now) ex-boyfriend with not a vestige of regret. Does he care how he may appear to his children?

But it was Adidas that he seems to spurn most. In his latest IG fume-post, he even clarified that “billions” mean “2” if Adidas wants to free him from his obligations to them, and that includes the alleged “stealing” of his intellectual property. This and others were no blank rants, even, if in many cases, he would delete them. They have been effectual among his friends, with Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs just announcing on IG that, in support for his mate, he was “done wearing Adidas” after a Ye-like blast: “’Since the era of Run-DMC, @Adidas has always used Hip Hop to build its brand and make billions off of our culture. BUT WE ARE MORE THAN JUST CONSUMERS NOW, WE’RE THE OWNERS. @KanyeWest and YEEZY are the reason Adidas is relevant to culture. WE KNOW OUR VALUE!”

Anger begets anger. And love for the Yeezy brand?

Illustrations: Just So

Two Of A Kind: Get A Grip

They are different product categories, but both are caught in claws

Alabaster Industry’s ‘Web’ watch and the the Adidas Yeezy 45 in slate. Photos: respective brands

From wristwatches to sneakers, things are getting clawed. American cult watch brand Alabaster Industries is known for releasing timepieces that sellout in minutes. Their watches were first available here at Dover Street Market SG last April. DSMS has announced that Alabaster Industries will be back in the store this Saturday. One of the most distinctive (hence, sought after) feature of the watch is the stainless steel case cage, shaped like some claw, catching the face in its menacing grip. Even the lug (which holds the matching band) are talons. It is not quite traditional, for sure. They do appear rather sinister, even when the face of the watch is violet, but collectors love the ungual bezel precisely because they do not look like anyone would mess with them.

No less ominous-looking is the Adidas Yeezy 450, first seen online last February. Even in the butter yellow that the brand calls “sulfur”, there is no escaping those bestial appendages—only Kanye West (or his design team) has made them more alien-looking. In fact, they have been called “futuristic”. The shoe is essentially a Primeknit upper caught in the claws, made of the now-trendy material, EVA (ethylene-vinyl acetate) foam. The entire base has been described as a “dynamic-shaped” sole. Seen from the top, if the sneaker does not hold a foot or is propped by a shoe tree, it looks like flaccid fabric framed by limp dough. However strange it looks, the Yeezy 450 remains wildly popular, and difficult to score.

Looking at animal extremities for ideas is not that strange a practice. We remember Alexander McQueen’s “armadillo” shoes. That the fascination with hoofs is now extended to claws is really, especially in the case of Alabaster Industries, rather a matter of time. Even Raf Simons’s skeleton bracelet-cum-arm-band is in similar territory, never mind that the reference is decidedly human. Fashion is clearly in the grip of the strange and the claw-like. When will chicken feet be next?

Alabaster Industries watches will launch at DSMS on 6 August 2022. Adidas Yeezy 450 is available at adidas.com

The Heart Isn’t Lonely Anymore

The mighty heart of Comme des Garçons’s Play line now has a Converse star for company

A good heart is hard to find, they say (and sing). But the Comme des Garçons sub-brand Play did discover one. And the brand has used it well, establishing a long relationship with it—20 years! It first appeared on T-shirts, followed but other garments, then on shoes, and perfume bottles. But the mouthless heart—the first-born is red—has mostly been a solo act, even if it has appeared with its siblings of other colours, even expressions. On sneakers, it certainly has been more of a singleton (even if it appears as multiples of itself). Until now. In Play’s latest collaboration with Converse the seeing heart—in red—is given a celestial companion, a star. And a red one too.

On the quarter of the cotton upper of the Converse One Star sneaker (rather than the usual Chuck Taylor All Star since 2009), the heart is placed on its side, as if reclining. The star, a pentagram, slightly askew, appears as an inset, as if framed. The pointed end (chin?) of the heart is directed at the left vertex of the inner pentagon. It is tempting to think there could be a message in that side-by-side placement, but if the pentagram is also a symbol of humanity (as suggested in Leonardo Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man for instance), than the heart, even if it is not looking at his mate, is a fitting—and comely—match.

Play Comme des Garçons X Converse One Star, SGD210, is available at Play corners and Comme des Garçons. Photo: Comme des Garçons

Crocs Not

At Daiso, Crocs found the Japanese retailer’s once two-dollar clogs to be imitative, and did not consider the similarity flattering

Daiso´s version of Crocs clogs seen at one of their stores last year. File photo: Zhao Xiangji for SOTD

The much-copied Classic Crocs at Crocs own store. File photo: Zhao Xiangji for SOTD

When we saw the familiar clogs in Daiso last August (top photo), before they changed from the fixed two dollars per item (mostly) to tiered pricing, we were curious if they would really get away with those lookalikes. You’d think Daiso would know better even if the clogs do not look identical, but it seemed not. A couple of days ago, it was reported that Crocs has officially put up a case at the California District Court last month with the alleged claim that the Japanese retailer was selling foam slip-ons that were “virtually identical to the design of Crocs’s three-dimensional design marks.” It reportedly also said that the former 100 yen brand tried “to free-ride and trade on the significant goodwill developed by Crocs through its innovative footwear.” Some serious charges there. But if it crossed our minds then that questions of copyright could have arisen, should it not have struck Daiso executives’ too?

For certain, inexpensive Crocs look-alikes are now really visible in the market—as in market stalls and HDB neighbourhood shops. And they are sold for what might be considered a fraction of what Crocs charges for their grandly-named ‘Classics’. At a footwear shop in one of the oldest housing estates on our island, you need only part with S$14.90 for a pair that looks very much like the Crocs Classic (and, if you are mindful of not wearing exact knock-offs, can choose those with square holes!), which is presently retailed at S$69.90 (standard styles). On Taobao, you can find a pair for as low as S$7.20. It is hardly surprising that Daiso’s then two-dollar version was appealing to those for whom branding mean nothing, compared to very low price. But did the Hiroshima-based “variety store” think that really cheap would not arouse the notice or wrath of the original creator who sells their clogs way dearer?

Skechers’s Arch Fit Foamies (women’s) in a familiar silhouette. Photo: Jim Sim

The Crocs influence, unfortunately for Crocs, has reached across footwear brands at both high and low price points. Its popularity was augmented when Balenciaga collaborated with the Colorado-based company for some “really cool” clogs, as described on social media, including one hitherto unseen at Crocs, a heeled version. One shoe buyer pointed to us that foam clogs have “low barriers to entry” and “can be found anywhere in China”. It is hardly surprising that many brands on the opposite end of Balenciaga have released their very own. One of these that has started to offer foam shoes as a product category and clogs with the rear strap that could be moved to the front is Skechers. Their women’s Foamies bear rather striking similarity to Crocs, except that the holes on the uppers are hexagonal, not circle, and there are 15 of them, rather than the 13 on the Crocs. And each pair goes for S$59.00—that’s S$10 cheaper than what Crocs is asking for.

It isn’t known how Daiso has reacted to Crocs’s charges, but this is not the first time that the American brand has brought its alleged imitators to court. Last year, Bloomberg reported that Crocs sued “Walmart Inc., Hobby Lobby Stores Inc., and 19 other companies alleging trademark infringement related to the shoes.” We are not certain what the outcome of those cases were. But years earlier, in 2013, French company Gifi Diffusion (describing its brand Gifi as “the French leader specialising in affordable goods for the family and home“) argued in European Union’s General Court that the design registration filed by Crocs should be invalidated because the latter’s shoe (presumably their clog) “lacks novelty”, having been around for longer than the period stipulated by EU requirements. In 2018, the Court concurred, thus backing the European Union Intellectual Property Office (“EUIPO”) cancelling, two years earlier, of the legal protection of Crocs’s shoe design. It will be interesting to see how Daiso will fight this out.

Updated: 15 July 2022, 9.15am

What Will Kanye West Say Now?

Does Adidas care? With the release of the new adiFOM Q, probably not

After the last outburst, it is hard to imagine Kanye West shutting up now. It is not unreasonable to think that his Instagram and Twitter feeds will be abuzz again, now that Adidas has announced the impending launch of their new shoe, the adiFom Q. Even we can’t ignore the obvious: That this pair of all-foam kicks has more than a passing resemblance to the freaky form of the Yeezy Foam Runner. In fact, we had thought, just looking at the side profile of the show in photographs released by Adidas, that the Yeezy Foam Runner had struck again with a sibling. As it turns out, this new EVA shoe has really nothing to do with Mr West.

On closer look, the shoe is different, even if both are are exoskeleton with ameboid holes (or shifting boomerang?). And Adidas was quick (preemptive move against a possible Kanye West attack?) that its Yeezy-seeming kick is based on 2901’s Quake, now considered an “archival” model. Like the shoes that supposedly will make you tremble, the adiFOM Q has laces and those holes of curvy shapes on the sides. And to make sure the dissimilarity holds up, it comes lined with Adidas’s Primeknit-looking socks, which possibly (and oddly) constrict the feet under a tongue too, in a style of shoe that is supposed to allow the terminal part of our legs to be free and that we can then walk naturally, as if un-shod.

Footwear that looks like something extraterrestrials left behind seems to be the future. With different foams—basically EVA (ethylene-vinyl acetate) or PU (polyurethane), or a compound of both—now offering all manner of forms, in weirder and weirder shapes and with odder and odder apertures, shoes, like clothes, are departing from the natural contours of our feet. In time, they will only be known as shoes in name, not by appearance. And Kanye West would be happy, at last, to say that he started it all.

Photo: Adidas

Adidas Accused

Kanye West claims the German brand has ripped him off with the soon-to-release slide Adidas Adilette 22. Well…

Yeezy is big, powerful, and untouchable. Adidas can’t be unaware of that. It is a monster brand that they partly created. Yet, somehow, they managed to step on Kanye West’s toes, with the coming-soon pair of slides, the all-foam Adilette 22 (above). In a totally unpunctuated Instagram rant-post that is now deleted, Mr West wrote to a “Kasper” (believed to be Adidas’s Danish CEO Kasper Rørsted) that he is “not standing for this blatant copying no more”. The accompanying photo is that of the Adilette 22, which Mr West called “a fake Yeezy”. It was quickly assumed that the rapper/designer was comparing the slide to his ‘Pure’ footwear sold under Adidas Yeezy.

This accusation, coming in the wake of Adidas suing Nike over alleged infringement on certain tech the latter uses, seems rather ironic. But it is really more curious on the part of Mr West as brand and man have been partners since 2013. Without Adidas, there would be no Yeezy (remember Mr West decamped the Swoosh to the Three Stipes?). Moreover, we, like so many others, do not see the similarity between the two slides in question. One has a discernibly textured surface and a flat sole while the other is very smooth (so much so that it could be called ‘Pure’) and has a zig-zagged sole. Shape-wise, they are different too. Both are easily identifiable as slides, but it would be a challenge to say they come from the same design mind.

Same or not: Adidas vs Yeezy. (Top) Adidas Adilette 22 and (bottom) Adidas Yeezy ‘Pure’ slides. Product photos: Adidas

Frankly the Adilette 22 looks 3-D printed, while the Yeezy’s own appeared to be blown into molds, the way PU foam shoes are usually made. Both slides seem to have the same foam for their entire sole unit, tread, and mid-sole, and in one colour. And perhaps it’s the chromatic similarity that had Mr West’s boxers in a knot. One name, ‘Sulfur’, appears on the Adilette, and this is also the moniker used in the Yeezy Foam RNNR ‘Sulfur’ (although also foam footwear isn’t quite a pair of slides, as in pool slides). It isn’t known if this ‘Sulphur’ is, in fact, already part of Adidas’s in-house palate of colours or a name Mr West came up with. The colour sulphur that is popular known is usually brighter than that (those who go camping regularly and use sulphur to repel snakes would be familiar with the shade). To quibble over the name of a colour seems trivial.

The summer of the West is also know as “slide season”, similar to our all-year “slipper season”. It is understandable that Mr West would want his Yeezy to reign, to be seen on the streets, now that Yeezy footwear is not quite the hit as it was before. Given the publicity leading to the launch of the Adidas Adilette 22, the slides are destined to be a massive hit. And now this Kanye West rant. Is it possibly a strategy between both to stir up the hype necessary to make any footwear a much bigger hit? Kanye West helping Adidas? It is clear to many that the Adilette 22 will now be in even greater, crazier demand. Following the accusation, foam slides—not just those by Adidas or Yeezy—will definitely be the footwear to covet.

Photo: Adidas

Dirty Is Stylish, Clean Is Not

’Tis the season of scruffy sneakers

An MRT commuter seen with a pair of stained Sperry canvas sneakers

By Ray Zhang

Pristine is passé, dirty is dapper. If what I have been seeing during my daily commutes in the MRT train these days is any indication, the more soiled your sneakers are, the more fashionable you will appear to be. Unclean is today’s ugly. You are probably saying the same thing: We have Balenciaga’s Demna Gvasalia to thank for this preference for the dirty deed, er, kicks. He is probably laughing every day now since the “fully destroyed” Paris canvas high-tops were launched and had gone viral. I have no idea who’d want to own the really hammered shoes (those are the really expensive ones. Most others are less destroyed [see below for an example]), but it seems that there is a flaming desire for the deliberately damaged, even when the shoes are generally slammed by Netizens.

For the longest time—since school days, in fact—I have this thing about clean sneakers, not just your regular clean, but immaculately clean: Not a spot, not a crease, I could appreciate. Which explains why, for the longest time, I would not buy white sneakers even when they were the kicks to wear. Till now, they are not only reminders of school days, they are canvases for grime and mud. It even took me a long time to accept white mid-soles. And the few sneakers that I own with that wide white underscore are always worn only when I carry in my pocket Crep wipes. So you can imagine my delight when, in Italy years ago, I bought my first Premiata sneakers with white mid-soles that were graffiti-ed—marvelous camouflage for filthy matter that must adhere down there.

Dirty preferred. Clockwise from top left: Golden Goose Super-Star, Balenciaga Paris high top, Autry Super Vintage Medalist, and Premiata Steven low top. Product photos: respective brands. Collage: Just So

As you know, Balenciaga did not only destroy the Paris sneakers, they’ve roughed up the Adidas Stan Smith, too. I won’t be surprised if there are more to come, but I think it would be bolder and more of a mockery, even arrogant if Balenciaga messes up their own iconic Triple S (although in latter iterations, some mid-soles did look somewhat dirtied, but definitely not destroyed! Ugly and dirty—double the cool?). To be sure, Mr Gvasalia is hardly the first designer to smear the spotlessness of new sneakers. One of the earliest to do so was Raf Simons on the collaborative Stan Smith (again Mr Gvasalia was not the first). I remember it well because, while I was oddly attracted to them (that perforated R!), I could not bear to part with good money to buy shoes that are scruffy before they’re worn. And by the time the really dirtier and scruffier Golden Goose ones came around in the early 2000s, I was still stuck with the stainless and sterilised.

I consider myself a fairly adventurous sneaker fan, but I stop before the toe box of those dirty and defiled. It is disconcerting to me if I wear kicks that are more stained than those seen on waste collectors (who, in my estate, are, conversely, very well and neatly shod!). While I understand that soiled sneakers reflect a don’t-give-a-shit attitude (that commensurate with today’s fashion and habits, such as placing shoes on a dining table, next to food) rather than a grubby appearance, I can’t subscribe to the “destroyed”, whether intentional or the result of wear and tear, or with a mission to “mock poverty”. “Vintage experience”, as it’s also called? Scuff marks are “decorative art”? What will be cool next? Holed and soiled socks?

Photo (top): A. B. Tan

Old-School, Yes!

They are not your plain white plimsolls, but neither are they some overwrought monstrosity

By Shu Xie

As sneakers become more outrageously styled, such as the Balmain B Bold, or the new, ridiculously hammered Balenciaga Paris sneakers, which are sold “destroyed”, I find myself gravitating towards simpler silhouettes that are undoubtedly pristine. I mean, shoes will get soiled eventually, even when you have a solid rotation in place. Okay, may be not soiled, but definitely scuffed. I know mine do. Perhaps, it’s also my tendency to attract those who love stepping on my feet. Sure, social distancing is, regrettably, no longer required, but must people come this close? Which also explains why I have no love for all-white sneakers. Not one bit. But I am easily attracted to those that are off-white (colour, not brand!) or cream, or shades of stone, from pebble to pumice.

Such as this pair by Novesta. This is from the Slovak brand’s Marathon Trail silhouette, a shoe that is much appreciated by aficionados of the decidedly old-school, such as the Loewe Flow Runner. It is essentially a running shoe with the ruggedness of a trail shoe and attended all-terrain outsole in a neat little package that has more than a whiff of retro. In fact, Novesta would be quick to say that this particular style is reminiscent of kicks produced during the era of Czechoslovak, the former sovereign state of Czech and Slovak in Central Europe.

Fans of vintage-y European running shoes, such as I, would be happy to know that Novesta, other than its exotic provenance, is linked to another major name in footwear that, too, has links to Czech and Slovak: Bata (yes, that Bata). In fact, Novesta was conceived by Jan Antonin Bata, one of the three siblings that founded The Bata Shoe Company in 1894. Till today, Novesta shoes are produced entirely in Europe, with some in Partizánske, the town where the brand began. Most of their shoes are low-key and low-tech, which lend their output immediate appeal.

The shoe’s main allure to me is its surprising lightness. The upper is made of mesh and suede, with unfussy overlays, including the contrast ‘pine’ that stretches from the eye-stays and laces to the collar and then the heel. This truly seals the deal for me. It continues to speak to my eagerness with its not-too-narrow toe box that is slightly rounded, and that striking underscore of the toothed outsole. In sum, the pair would encase my foot for a long while to come, on track or trail.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Novesta Marathon Trail in beige-pine, SGD189, is available at Goodluck Bunch. Photo: Zhao Xiangji

Clean Cut

The latest iteration of the Comme des Garçons X Salomon collaboration is a beautifully simple silhouette

As if to mock the purposely-filthy ‘Paris’ sneaker launched by Balenciaga last week, Comme des Garçons released a very pristine version of a Salomon’s trail-runner, the SR90. The ongoing pairing (second, in fact) between the French sports/outdoor brand has yielded a surprisingly clean silhouette, sans CDG’s usual eye-opening redefining of what is considered acceptable for sneakers (SS19’s Nike Air Presto Foot Tent!) and still appeal to sneakerheads. Of course, no one seriously puts on a pair of CDG—or co-branded—kicks for sporting pursuits, so whatever tweaks or add-ons they introduce to a sneaker, fans will lap them up because they won’t look standard-issue. But, with this Salomon, CDG is suggesting that looking near-OG is on the right side of edginess too.

We are not a major fan of all-white sneakers (or, for that matter, all-black). Regular SOTD readers would know that. But the Comme Des Garçons X Salomon SR90’s whiteness is not nothingness, or too much a part of a school uniform. A trail sneaker that looks like a retro runner, the SR90 sports a contemporary sense of minimalism that is more akin to what might be offered at Jil Sander. But there is nothing basic about this shoe. Salomon’s much appreciated tech, the Contagrip sole (mixed compound for different terrains and better traction) and SensiFit mid-sole (for customised and secure fit), are there. So is a water-repellent synthetic upper. The sum: a handsome sneaker, if not to go with a set of tux, will definitely pair well with anything less pristine and neutral from CDG’s main line.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Comme des Garçons X Solomon SR90 sneakers, SGD450, are available in black or white at Comme Des Garçons and DSMS. Photo: Comme des Garçons/Solomon

Battered At Point Of Purchase

You can pay Balenciaga to wear out your shoes before even wearing them. Is pre-mature ageing the new cool?

Why wait till your sneakers get dirty and beaten up to wear them vis-à-vis current trends? With the rotations we give to our kicks, few— if ever—get really worn beyond fixable or recognisable. If you want your shoes to look like that have barely survived everything thrown at them, Balenciaga has just the pair for you. Their latest iteration of their Paris high-cuts are deliberately dirtied and ripped in the manner similar to how some new jeans looked severely soiled, like they were retailed after first allowing mechanics to wear them in their grimy workshops. Or, in the case of the Paris kicks, a chance with contestants in a dirt bike race! That Balenciaga would do this to its otherwise unblemished sneakers is understandable: They have a recent history of making ugly cool.

To be sure, Balenciaga is not the first to offer new dirty shoes. Back in 2016, Raf Simons released a pair of Stan Smith in collaboration with Adidas that was intentionally unclean. But they were not this soiled and tattered. Balenciaga’s remake of the cotton canvas, made-in-China Paris trainers are self-touted to be “fully destroyed”. For certain, the actual shoes do not look as down-at-the-heels as those seen in the publicity images now doing their obligatory online rounds. The worn-out pairs for sale are actually more descent and in a wearable state, although we do find the destruction a tad too calculated, even meticulous. That the Balenciaga name had to be inscribed on the mid-sole like a graffiti by a novice, and then smeared is really rather studied.

It is interesting, though, that Balenciaga has chosen the Paris sneakers to soil. The French capital was, from the 17th to 19th century, a filthy city, by many accounts of the time. According to Holly Tucker, author of City of Lights, City of Poison, “The filth of Paris was inescapable. It attached itself ruthlessly to clothes, the sides of buildings, and the insides of nostrils.” Why was this so? “Slosh from chamber pots thrown from windows mixed with dirt in the city’s unpaved streets to form a sulfurous-smelling stew”! The rues of the city were such an indiscriminate brown that even fashion was inspired by it, as well as the bugs that lived happily in the nasty grime. As one story went, a chestnut brown was popular in the summer of 1775. When King Louis XVI saw it, he exclaimed, “That is puce!” Or, (the colour of) fleas. Puce became the veritable fashion. And, now, Balenciaga’s Paris too.

Balenciaga ‘Paris’ sneakers, SGD895 are available in stores and online. Product photo*: Balenciaga. Photo Illustration: Just So

*Actual product differs

Easy To Slip On, And Go

Is the Nike Go FlyEase the new ‘lazy shoe’?

By Awang Sulung

When I first saw Nike’s newest kick, the Go FlyEase, I thought they were for bound feet. Seriously. Pick one in your usual Nike size, and the shoe will look decidedly shorter than the length of your feet. It does because, as you examine it closer, you will see that the shoe is bent downwards, somewhere in the middle, at almost 45 degrees. Initially, I toyed with the possibility that this could be Nike’s more hi-tech take on the Louis Vuitton Archlight. Then the shoe, in my hand, yielded to the squeeze lengthwise that I gave it. It is hinged and can be flattened!

As it turned out, the Go FlyEase is designed in this manner so that when placed on the floor, or wherever you usually situate your prized shoes, it allows you to just step into it and, when your heel kisses the ground, it immediately hugs your foot. No lacing up required and no shoe horn needed to ease your foot into the sneakers either. You don’t even need to arch forward! Quite an engineering marvel, as I saw it. The Go FlyEase is initially bent to allow effortless entry into its first half when you slip your toes inside. As you (must) bring your heel down, the shoe shapes up—or flattens—as, well, a ‘regular’ shoe.

Nike has been on the forefront of shoes that can be slipped on with practically no effort from the part of the wearer, such as 2019’s Bluetooth-connected, self-lacing Adapt (with its own app!). Frankly, as a sneaker lover (but not quite sneakerhead, I should say), I do not consider putting on a pair to be such an ordeal that the shoes have to be designed to be worn without involving hands. When I was in primary school, my mother would buy slip-on plimsolls for me, saying that it was easier for me as I, according to her, could not tie laces properly. She called those slip-ons, including others such as loafers, “lazy shoes”. It was not until secondary four, when I got to buy my own sneakers that I realised shoes are not lazy, people are.

Shoelaces have been around for a very long time, some historians say since 3,500 BC. The laces, as an invention, however, was associated with one Englishman, Harvey Kennedy, who filed for a patent on them in 1790. Even back then, no one considered laces Mr Kennedy’s invention, but one thing truly was: the narrow plastic- or metal-wrapped sheath at the end known as the aglet. Despite that little convenience, making it easier to lace shoes, increasingly wearers are finding them too much a bother to deal with. Nike is, of course well aware of that. They first started exploring shoes without laces with the advent of the Flyknit upper, such as the Free Flynit of 2013, just a year after the appearance of the former. That Free was, however, essentially a sock atop a mid-sole. You’d still need to use your hands to put them on. But now with the Go FlyEase, totally “hands-free” is a reality. Indolence wins?

The FlyEase itself is not new, the Go iteration is. FlyEase debuted five years ago with the main objective of making the wearing of sneakers effortless. But it has never been this easy. With the Go hinged, they are in the “ready” mode. Step in, toes first, and then rest your entire foot on the one-piece footbed (the whole bending and flattening rather remind me of ‘fold’ smartphones), and you’re in the “set” position, ready to move. When removing the shoe, instead of stepping on the vertical rear of the heel, do so on the extended ledge with the other foot, and, presto, the shoe is hinged again, and the foot can slide out easily. Shoelaces, I fear, will face rapidly-approaching extinction.

Nike Go FlyEase, SGD215, is available at select Nike stores and online. Photos: Nike