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.

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

Carabiner Swoosh!

The Air Force 1 is given even more outdoor cred

It is not good enough that the Nike Air Force 1 is the favourite of fashion folks and designers alike. It now has to appeal to those for whom a utilitarian touch in the end product is crucial. Although much has been done to the Swoosh (it morphed into a shark on the SB Dunk High Pro!), there has not been a functional add-on. Until now. The latest appears on the AF1 and is a Swoosh-shaped carabiner that seems to be inspired by the thunderbolt. It is fastened to outline the appliquéd version on the upper of the familiar shoe. You’d think this is an output or update from the Off-White studio, but it’s not. This is, as we understand it, a release under the main brand, as model ’07 PRM.

The carabiner would, no doubt, be the big draw here. It’s affixed to the lateral side of the shoe through four paracord loops stitched under the Swoosh. The carabiner is removable as the Swoosh-shaped ring comes with a spring catch. Many of the AF1 enthusiasts are excited about how the carabiner could hold, apart from keys (really?), charms and little soft toys, such as those now seen dangling from bags. Could this be levelling up the zip ties that Off-White made popular in their collabs with Nike? We are, however, more inclined to use the carabiner to fasten the shoes to, say our belt loops!

If, for some reason, you are not planning to use the fancy carabiners, you could stash them away in a secret zippered pouch under each tongue. Additional receptacle that is far more discreet—and less alluring to thieves—than those pouches that sit atop laces of some trending kicks. Handy storage has indeed come to sneakers.

Nike Air Force 1 Low ’01 PRM, SGD229, is available at the Foot Locker. Illustration: Just So

Court Case: He Showed Up In These

Charged with taking monetary perks to reserve limited-edition kicks for resellers, Muhammad Faiz Amy Jasman appeared before the judge in a pair of just-as-limited Nike X Off-White Rubber Dunk

He had his day in court, so did his sought-after shoes. Former sneaker sales assistant Muhammad Faiz Amy Jasman willingly accepted payment for reserving limited-edition kicks at the now-shuttered AW Lab for two resellers, who traded them for profits. That is, simply put, the taking of bribes. When he appeared in court yesterday to hear the sentencing after he pleaded guilty to one charge of corruption, he showed he knows his limited-edition sneakers, especially those from trending collaborations. A photo in Today offered a clear view of Mr Jasman arriving at the State Courts in a pair of Nike X Off-White Rubber Dunk, in “University Blue”, complete with the signature orange zip-tie left visibly intact.

The Nike X Off-White Rubber Dunk was launched in February 2020, but the colourway that Mr Jasman happily wore to his sentencing was dropped in October 2020 as an “Europe exclusive” (it was also available, according to Nike, in the Middle East and Africa). At that time, the regular retail price for the shoes was US$180 (or about S$245). The Rubber Dunk, a mashup of the Nike Pegasus line and the Nike Dunk, is now asking for more than S$600 among online resellers, with a Farfetch listing priced at S$1,631. It is not known if Mr Jasman acquired his pair from AW Lab, a store known to carry limited-edition sneakers in colourways that were released, as Nike describes, “with exclusive regional availability”—mainly Europe, where the Bata-owned retailer has about 200 stores. According to his lawyer, Mr Jasman wanted to make a quick buck in order to support his family; he does not, apparently, splurge on luxuries. Perhaps S$245 is nothing, compared to, say, S$3,100 for the Nike X Dior Air Jordan 1.

Muhammad Faiz Amy Jasman. Illustration: Just So

According to news reports, Mr Jasman received a total of S$5,295 in “reservation fees” from two individuals. In the year that the Nike X Off-White Rubber Dunk was made available globally, he was working at the Wisma Atria outlet of AW Lab in basement one. Initially, he listed a pair of unidentified sneakers on Carousell. A man named Brian Fong responded, and when he was told that Mr Jasman worked at AW Lab, asked if the latter could reserve sneakers on his behalf, with additional “fees” offered for each pair. An arrangement was made. Mr Fong would transfer the monies—cost of the shoes and the attendant “fees”—into the bank account of Mr Jasman’s wife, who would make the purchases at the Wisma Atria store. Mr Fong would later collect the sneakers from her. Mr Fong reportedly bought a total of 49 pairs through Mr Jasman in this manner. Another reseller who similarly secured shoes from the ex-AW Lab staffer was Meng Fanxuan. Mr Jasman was fined S$10,000 and was also made to pay a penalty tantamount to the bribes he took. Mr Meng was fined for his part in the scheme, but it is not known if Mr Fong has been charged.

At the time of its launch, the Nike X Off-White Rubber Dunk, discernible by its overlays and offsets, was described by the media as “a real winner”. Wearing a pair on the day of his court appearance, Muhammad Faiz Amy Jasman was perhaps saying he was a winner too: He did not have to do time.

Photo: Nike

From Spindly To Orthopaedic

Blahnik meets Birkenstock

From this to that: Manolo Blahnik ‘Hangisi’ pumps and Manolo Blahnik X Birkenstock Boston clog

When it comes to footwear, the fashion-mad Carrie Bradshaw is rather a traditionalist. She wears court shoes with spiked heels. One that is synonymous with her—and her obsession with expensive footwear—is the pair of blue satin Manolo Blahnik ‘Hangisi’ pumps, with the sexy 11-cm heel and the blinked-out crystal buckle evocative of a fancy belt clasp. It first appeared in Sex and the City, the 2008 film (not the TV series that preceded it), in which Mr Big, circumscribed by a walk-in wardrobe, proposed to Carrie Bradshaw, not with a ring on which a massive stone sits, but a pair of high heels, with a crystal buckle. That shoe would have millions of women around the world yearn—deeply and desperately—for a similarly romantic, on bended-knee proposal. The blue ‘Hangisi’ pumps’ now-iconic status would be further enhanced when they returned in the SATC sequel, And Just Like That. Mr Big and Carrie Bradshaw are married—happily it appears—and the Hangisi is the shoe that keeps them together.

Carrie Bradshaw’s love of the shoe is key to the Hangisi’s staggering success, according to the designer Manolo Blahnik, who told Footwear News recently that “it just goes on and on”. By that, Mr Blahnik was saying that that one shoe has enjoyed many spinoffs: there are Hangisi booties, mules, slingbacks, flats, d’Orsays (pumps with inside half of both sides cut away), and believe it or not, belts (to match the shoes?)! And all in that blue Carrie Bradshaw adores too. There are, of course, other colours and fabrics—not just satin—but despite the chromatic and textural variations, there is a certain uniformity about them. Every Hangisi footwear (and that belt) is delicate prettiness through and through.

But now there’s a deviant iteration. Manolo Blahnik has collaborated with Birkenstock, the 248-year-old German sandal brand that was snapped up by Bernard Arnaud last year through the LVMH-associated private equity firm L Catterton. And one of the Birkenstocks given a foxy Hangisi makeover is the Boston—the flat, round-toed mules that would delight your podiatrist. A complete opposite to the typical Blahnik heel, this collaborative output proves once again that high and low do meet, even if it is not clear on which rung of the fashion ladder it sits. Birkenstock describes the Boston as one that “represents pure comfort”. It says nothing about style. Perhaps, this is where Manolo Blahnik comes in, although a clunky crystal buckle hardly changes the clog’s geeky profile. It is hard to imagine Carrie Bradshaw obsessing over it.

Manolo Blahnik X Birkenstock with be available at manoloblahnik.com on 24 March 2022. Illustration: Just So

Not Against Type

…but still appealing. Beyond the Vines introduces cotton canvas sneakers

Beyond the Vines has done good things with the humble cotton canvas. Their Carryall 01 in this fabric, for example, is an east-west tote that deserves much more attention than it really gets. It’s simple and smart, and those are the qualities that the brand has extended to their debut line of footwear, Type 01 (never mind that Nike, too, has a ‘Type’), also made with similar cotton canvas. In view of the unceasing love of bombastically-designed footwear, these lace-ups may look a tad too low-key, even juvenile, but their classic construction would stand them in good stead, in the face of constantly shifting trends.

Made of a 12-oz plain-weave canvas, also known as cotton duck, these sneakers are available only in one style, but it is the colour-blocked pair that spoke to us. Sure, they are nothing like the more daring chromatic schemes of Moonstar X Fennica kicks (available at Beams, Japan). Or the whimsical Comme des Garçons Play X Converse All-Stars, with the now-recognisable smiley-hearts, or the ‘Converse Addict’, which is N.Hoolywood reimagining the Chuck Taylor with archival fabrics of Undercover. Or, for those with edgier taste, the more advanced silhouette of the OAMC ‘Inflate’, with the exaggerated rubber corridor. Nope, Type 01 is not cast against type. They are, without doubt, classic plimsolls, but the subtle colour blocking does set them apart. And with the nicely rounded, slightly pointed toe box, perhaps the ideal shoes to strut into the New Year.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Beyond the Vines Type 01 canvas sneakers, SGD139, are available for men and women, in stores and online. Photo: Chin Boh Kay

Growl: The Tiger Cometh

Japan’s Onitsuka Tiger can’t wait for the Lunar New Year to arrive

You would expect that, with 2022 being the Year of the Tiger (from 1 February, of course), many brands will be releasing tiger-themed products. And you’d expect rightly. One of the earliest to announce their adoption of the tiger for a capsule collection is Japan’s Onitsuka Tiger. But that is not surprising. In five days’ time, it’d be what the brand calls the “Year of the Onistsuka Tiger”. As it coincides with the Chinese zodiac tiger, this occasion comes only once every 12 years. A symbol of the brand, the tiger—confident, brave, and thrill-seeking—would be seen not only on shoes, but in a limited range of fashion items for those born in the year of the tiger or those who consider the panthera tigris its spirit animal. These include tees and hoodies, socks, and bags.

But the most eye-catching and desirable would likely be the Serrano sneaker with the tiger-stripe upper. At first glance, the interpretation looks a tad too literal to us, even for Chinese New Year! But we are not, admittedly, big fans of animal prints. However they are used, they frequently would result in a form that borders on the camp. And to us, the Serrano of the Year of the Onitsuka Tiger is no exception. In fact, the more we look at it, the more it reminded us of another shoe: the yellow and black Mexico 66. Yes, the pair worn by Uma Thurman in Kill Bill, a movie with such deliciously intense artifice that even the gory revenge and growling violence cannot dial the camp down.

It is not yet known when the Year of the Onitsuka Tiger capsule would be launched. Watch this space for updates. Product photo: Onitsuka Tiger. Photo Illustration: Just So

Balenciaga’s New Kicks

…is a monster truck of a shoe. Let the ugliness go on

Balenciaga, it seems, is bent on sticking to ugly and freakish sneakers. Their soon-to-be-released style, known as the Defender, presumably tries to reprise the Triple-S and Track’s ridiculous massiveness and their busy overlays (also seen in the Tyrex), and, in doing so, also duplicate their just-as-large success. First seen during the brand’s red-carpet-as-runway spring/summer 2022 presentation in October, the Defender appears to be the hunkiest of Balenciaga’s footwear releases, in line with the still large silhouette of their apparel. There is no reversing the course for Balenciaga: the bigger the better. Only now for the new shoe, avuncular is cooler than dad-like.

But is the overall shape of the Defender really new? When we first saw the profile images of the shoe, we thought of MBT immediately! Yes, the Swiss(!) “physiological footwear” brand known for their chunky shoes and curved soles. According to the company’s sales literature, their shoes and the unique soles—such as those seen in the brand’s Kibo GTX—offer “your body benefits from (the) extensive MBT technology” which “ensures a complete rolling movement (that) improves your balance and posture.” Such curve-soled footwear are also popular known as “rocker bottom shoes”. It isn’t known if the Balenciaga Defender offers any physiological benefit, but they will likely provide psychological advantage to those for whom being ostentatiously shod is comfort to their very being.

Balenciaga Defender is expected to launch next year. Price TBC. Photo: Balenciaga

Heels For The Field

The soccer pitch, that is! Trust Comme des Garcons to think of that

By Shu Xie

Just as you thought that heels are facing retirement, Comme des Garçons has collaborated with Nike to release a pair of football boots—of all shoes—with, yes, heels! Nope, these are nothing like Balenciaga’s spindly-heeled Crocs. Far from them. Based on a silhouette guys would be familiar with, the Nike Premier, these kicks now look like they have been taken out of a Victorian shoe cabinet for airing! No fellow today, I suspect, will tell you these are sexy (unless he is into cleat and heel!). Yet, there is something intriguingly appealing amount them that I can’t quite describe. The blockish heels won’t be the object of some people’s fetish or the instrument of crime, but they could help elevate a footballer to have a better on-field view!

Women have probably played football for as long as a ball can be kicked around. But as competitive sport for lasses, it took form only in the 18th century. These days, women’s football leagues and matches would be considered progress for the equity of sports and the popularity of the game attests to how far women have come with sporting pursuits. Would Comme des Garçons X Nike Premier, then, be considered having a go at this admirable progress? If anything, CDG’s Rei Kawakubo has, through her work, shown that women need not be hindered by conventions and traditions, with heels or not.

Launched in Dover Street Market London early this week, the shoes are mostly sold out, proving that women do not consider the heeled, all-leather Premier anything but desirable fashion footwear. What’s interesting—though not surprising—is that these Premiers are attracting the interest of guys. One of them, told us, that the largest size is too small. Another, for whom the heel is the immediate draw, said they are, “a bit too masculine”. It is rather surprising that CDG didn’t offer them as non-binary footwear, with larger sizes. Or is that Nike’s conservative decision?

According to DSM, the shoes came about “at the suggestion” of Ms Kawakubo. Nike, always the willing CDG partner, then “updated the classic Premier football boot to feature a built-in heel”. The Premier, launched in 2013, is itself an improved version of 1992’s Tiempo Premier, then already considered to look “timeless”. Now, even rather ungulated, the heeled version looks set to be grailed. It is not certain if Rei Kawakubo is a football fan, but I think, with her Premier she has scored a gold. Sure, no footballer will execute a scissor kick in these, but she could be watched and cheered on by those wearing them, on the bleachers.

Comme des Garçons x Nike Premier, SGD990, is available in limited quantities at DSMS and CDG. By the time you read this, they could be sold out. Product shots: CDG. Photo: CDGfan. Photo illustration: Just So

Close Encounter: Yeezy Foam Runner

By Awang Sulung

Now that we are going out more, I am also looking at things around me with greater keenness. Ugly’s trajectory, as I have been seeing, is not on the downward slide. Not even a bit. It is all around us like, what my mother would say, “bijan tumpah (spilled sesame seeds)”. Perhaps, I have spent too much time at home, avoiding Delta and its mutated siblings like some people would loanshark runners. Sure, as with most of you, I am vaccinated, but why court the unwelcome virus by throwing myself at crushing humanity? And, also like most of you, I can’t be holed up at home indefinitely. So out I went. To be certain, I do not dislike my own company within the four walls of my Sembawang flat. Yet, I can’t totally keep myself away from what has been amusing the world or fascinating many folks. Have things changed—or not—while I was ensconced at home?

One of the first trendy things I saw very recently, as we scramble into the holiday season, was the Yeezy Foam Runner. Okay, Kanye West’s alien-looking footwear, released last June, is not new, but I have not had an IRL view of it, just those boastful images shared on social media by Yeezy diehards who find anything Mr West puts out, including a very blah bubble jacket, attractive and desirable. These are still not as widely seen here as, say, Crocs, the first brand to make foam shoes so persistently ugly and crazily popular. So when I saw these bombastic Yeezys on actual moving feet, I had to go quite low to have a proper look at the rigid, masak-masak footwear. If they are worn and on a pavement, they can’t be toys, can they?

For sure, now one could miss those shoes. I don’t recall what the wearer looked like, but I remember his Yeezy Foam Runner. When he was still, his feet looked caged, as if restrained in a torture device or a chastity contraption. I wanted to ask him if they were comfortable, but I didn’t want to seem to doubt his happy feet. I wanted to know if the opening of his kicks is stretchy and if it was easy to push his feet through to rest inside the one-piece, but I did not want him to think that I thought that he, like many fashionistas, suffered for fashion. I wanted to know if the slip-on in the colour of oatmeal (Yeezy calls it “Ararat” in place of off-white) was easy to clean and if the many holes on the top and sides are dirt traps, but I resisted so that he would not mistake me for a germaphobe.

Kanye West seems to know what his fans want when it comes to footwear. Although so many unkind descriptions were thrown at the Yeezy Foam Runner, it continues to be in unimaginably high demand. Co-conceived with Yeezy’s design director Steven Smith, the monstrous shoe (it might be called a “Runner”, but we resist calling the bloated loaf a sneaker) was sold out within hours of its release last year. Who’d guess that ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA) foam and some algae in a clog-like form could entrance that many shoe lovers and collectors? I thought I saw a silhouette that Zaha Hadid would have approved (look at those shoes she did with Lacoste in 2008). On that guy, the two sides of the Runner were dragged as if they were slippers. Pandemic or not, some things just don’t change.

Photo: Awang Sulung

Nothing Fancy

And that is the way many like it

Regular readers of SOTD would have noticed that we’ve been rather partial to retro-looking sneakers that do not appear to be sitting on a mountain of cushioning technology. Or, worse, contraptions that pass of as heels (in fact, enough of fancy rears or mid-soles that gape!). Sneaker designs have had so much “ugly” piled on them that these days we’re looking at ‘classic’ as a palate cleanser. One of the brands that do this classic we speak of really well is the often sidelined Reebok. And the most alluring we have seen this past month is the leather version of the unisex Legacy, which Reebok enthusiastically calls “rad ’80s running style reimagined”. Yes, not looking at the ’90s, as fashion seems to be this season, is a good thing.

And reimagine, Reebok sure did. The Legacy seems to be lifted from the past (even as far back as the ’70s), yet it is has a spirit about it that is contemporary. Perhaps it is the colour combo of this particular pair: four tones of what might be called earth shades, plus that grassy green that Reebok intriguingly—and invitingly—names midnight pine. It is a colour that is dark enough (but not black) to give the shoe visual heft and provides an effective base (nylon) on which the overlays (suede) criss cross beautifully. Even with the many pieces that form the upper, the Legacy is light and looks sleek yet modest, even reserved. Without doubt, the humbler looking, the better.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Reebok Classic Leather Legacy in stucco/midnight pine/sepia, SGD129, is available at Reebok, Orchard Central. Photo: Chin Boh Kay

Old Sneakers Smell Brand New

Your kicks deserve a clean break, if not materially, perhaps smell-wise?

If there are those who love to smell like fresh laundry (consider the original Clean fragrance), it is not unreasonable to assume there are sneakers that love to smell like they have just come off the factory floor. To be sure, we do not know who would like to go so close to your shod feet to determine if what you have put on smells new, but in case you fear that your kicks are an affront to the olfactory glands around you, consider this fresh offering from French “aesthetic perfumer” Officine Universelle Buly, grandly called Eau Gymnastique (or gymnastics water). Made in France specifically for sneakers, they promise shoes that are not merely clean-smelling, but new-smelling, As the brand describes it: “Designed for athletic shoe perfectionists, the Eau Gymnastique is ideal—if not necessary—for sneaker collectors obsessed with the immaculate appearance of their treasures maniacally stored in their original boxes.”

It is hard to imagine that sneakers are allowed to get so fetid before something is done. “Obsessed” is perhaps the key word—the quality that makes an indiviual desire to go to extremes, such as totally undoing the aquired funk of footwear, even if it’s not necessarily bad for every shoe. With the Eau Gymnastique in standby, he could provide what Officine Universelle Buly describes on the bottle as an “olfactory fix”, promising that “the scent of newness will embalm your sneakers… forever.” How is that possible? The spray dispenser, housed in what looks like a bottle of a household cleaning aid (500ml, no less! Clearly shoes need to be spritzed in larger amounts than bodies!), contains a water-based formula than has the benefit of “micro-encapsulation technology”, which provide long-lasting odour masking. Perfect for anything that covers despicable feet, really. Even if sneakers no longer look new, they could smell new. Just marvelous.

Eau Gymnastique, €58.33 (or approximately SGD90), is available online at the Officine Universelle Buly website. Photo: Officine Universelle Buly