The Shoe Companion

Sean Wotherspoon is not the first to plonk a mini-bag on a pair of sneakers, and he won’t be the last

Sean Wotherspoon X Disney X adidas Originals Superturf Adventure SW

Who’d guess that sneakers will one day get their companion bags? Or, as sneakerhead-turn-retailer-turn-designer Sean Wotherspoon is wont to say, “No waaaay, duuude”. Our kicks these days must serve more than what they were originally designed for: sports. As fashion items, brands and collaborators need to do more to them. They can be accessorised! But, it is not good enough to hang useless danglies on them a la Off-White. There must be more that can be attached to a pair of sneakers, but not something pseudo-useful such as Mason Margiela’s iPhone holder strapped on to boots. Sean Wotherspoon, co-founder of Round Two, “the streetwear empire”, as Vice calls it, has hooked up with Disney and adidas Originals (collabs these days are a triumvirate) to conceive the Superturf Adventure, which as the name suggests is for multiple terrains. This is, according to social media blurbs, a sustainable shoes that is “vegan”. But perhaps what is most attention-seeking is the pouch that, like a kiltie, obscures the shoelace.

It is still hard to determine the usefulness of a little bag placed down there. What does one store inside that does not need to be within reach? Isn’t a similar pouch more practical if hung to a belt loop with, say, the aid of a carabiner? Bending down to one’s feet to tie undone shoelaces is an action that attracts no attention. But, reaching out southwards to retrieve something stored away in a pouch above the foot is not only odd, it’s a bodily move few would not call elegant. Assassins might conceal a dagger in the ankle of boots, but fashion types hardly have anything to put away so far down the leg—not even unattractive Trace Together tokens! SOTD contributor Shu Xie told us that the pouch is for keeping money on days when one does not wish to carry a wallet. Mothers often tell us not to carry our wallets conspicuously as doing so is tempting to would-be thieves. Perhaps to the three brands, money on feet—an area of the body usually considered unclean, and barely acceptable to the average nose—is less tantalising or rousing to the discriminating stealer?

Mr Wotherspoon could, in fact, be considered late to the bag-on-kicks club. In March, New Balance launched the ‘Utility’ version of the X-Racer, an already handsome shoe, now equipped with two flap-top stow-away pouches—in full-grain leather (including the upper)—on each side of each shoe, like a saddle, which means you would be walking about with a total of four pouches on your feet! The mini-bag is larger on the lateral side than on the medial side, which also comes with a zipper pocket on the upper. Plenty of storage, as it appeared, but, again, what can we real carry in them, all? The E-Race Utility came in three colourways, but the white is especially striking for the Hender Scheme-ish tan pouches and the similarly hued trail shoes-inspired outsole.

New Balance X-Racer Utility

Nike Jordan LS Slide

Prada Wheel Re-Nylon high-top

Perhaps it was Nike that foretold the future when, in May 2018, they released the Benassi JDI ‘Fanny Pack’, a slide, with an actual bum bag in place of the wide strap. Back then, we thought the fanny pack on bare feet to be an idea better on paper than on the metatarsus. After all, the waist bag was not going to include the foot bag as member of the family. Looks like we could be wrong now that fully-functional pouches are made specifically for footwear. Before the Superturf Adventure, there was Nike’s Jordan LS Slide. This too came with a removable pouch, or what the Swoosh distinguishes as a “stash pocket“ (that’s not the only detachable part. The slide can be given a heel strap so that it becomes a sandal!). Compared to Mr Wotherspoon’s fancier version (which includes elasticised slots and a ring) for Adidas, this pouch is rather basic, something national servicemen might recognise as a rifle magazine holder.

In fact, one of the earliest to incorporate little bags to their footwear is Prada. The “catwalk” Monolith mini bag lug dole combat boot, for example, is not only eye-catching, it certain draws your attention to the logo-ed oblong bag strapped to the side of the ankles. The idea seems to have come from the brand’s bags, such as the Re-Nylon shoulder bag, which comes with a similar pouch that can be attached to the shoulder strap. Their latest high-tops under the Re-Nylon series similarly spot the “mini bag”, which itself looks like something you can buy separately from their store’s accessory counter. The success of these unusually-placed pouches has even prompted Prada to include them on unlikely items such as gloves! Unsurprisingly, serial imitator Steve Madden has their version with the pouch-strapped Tanker-P boots too. Expect other brands to follow in no time.

Sean Wotherspoon X Disney X adidas Originals Superturf Adventure SW’s availability here is not known yet. Nike Jordan LS Slide, S$129, is available at nike.com. Prada Wheel Re-Nylon high-top sneakers, $1,980, is available at Prada stores. Product photos: respective brands

New Balance’s Fanciest

The retro-leaning UXC72BB2 is the coolest silhouettes from NB yet

New Balance has been doing rather incredible things to their sneakers. Like so many athletic brands, they look back to see what they could bring back to the present, and with panache. But rather than hybridising or deconstructing, or, as the trend seems to be, creating a new bombastic heel, New Balance enhances the selected kicks’ old-school vibes, with a strong fashion hand. This is so true of the XC-72, a relook at at least two other silhouettes, the 237 and the 327 (our current favourite). The running-shoe-of-yore vibe is unmistakable, and with the visible outsole threads, reminds us of the very appealing and able Loewe Flow Runner. The New Balance XC-72 is, of course, more affordable, but no less stylish. The brand even boldly describe is as “aggressively experimental”.

Part of its appeal to us as fashion-forward kicks is the colour story, which New Balance simply called “Bone/Multi”—a neutral base on which colour-blocking is judiciously applied. Some sneakerheads call it “retro-futuristic”. We would not go that far, preferring to see the chromatic partnership as part Marni, part Junya Watanabe. The suede and nylon upper is primarily split in the middle to allow different colours to take up space on both sides. What’s additionally appealing is that the outsole too is halved: bi-coloured lengthwise, with a thick black line that runs through the middle. In the front, near the toe box, you can see the threads. At the rear, the heel and the heel clip are split, allowing the mid-sole the jut out (those who wear US size 11 and above, do watch out when you are alighting an MRT train!).

The XC-72 first launched in August as a collaboration with the French label Casablanca, one of the winners of last year’s LVMH Prize. We weren’t too crazy about the candy-wrapper colours at that time, and did not pay much attention to the sneakers. Then came this uncollaborated release. The dusty colours, geometrically applied, truly give the shoes new life, and just in time. We are not putting ourselves through another raffle (Nike X Sacai X Clot!!!) and we were starting to get bored with those kicks that still ride on the faded glory of ugly.

New Balance XC-72 “Bone/Multi”, SGD189.00, is available at DSMS and the New Balance e-store. Product photos: New Balance. Illustration: Just So

Father Figures

For late adopters and those not willing to shell out a chunk of a month’s salary for a hunk of a shoe deemed the height of fashion, but shall no longer be, there are alternatives

 

Dad shoes

It’s been a year since we were acquainted with clunky, heavy, thick-soled shoes so monstrous they had to be associated with dad to be evocative. What should have been a dud has, instead, become sneaker culture’s unlikely hero and energiser. From then, there are dad shoes and more dad shoes, and some are seriously daddier—or uglier (in fashion speak, glorious!)than others. One of them is not Adidas’s own Klump, the Yeezy 700. Despite their chunkiness and their so-uncool-they’re-cool oddball stance, these shoes are being released by brands like Buddhists freeing turtles into the sea (放生, fang sheng, or live release, for improving the devotees’ karma). Dad shoes, it seems, have quite a long life to come, now that even unlikely brands have come on board, from Aldo to Skecher, even Timberland!

It is, of course, a no-brainer to just go buy a pair of the slowly-fading Balenciaga Triple S or, if you’re the leader of the pack, the even flashier Track, but not many, although able, are willing to cough up close to S$2,000 for a pair of kicks. Rather than consider the likes of Gucci Flashtrek (or, gasp, the bejewelled version), auditioning real sneakers by sports brands could be a lot more fun and rewarding, not to mention easier on the wallet. Some fashion types think that fashion shoes should be purchased from a fashion brand and would, therefore, consider Zara or China’s not-too-shoddy Urban Revivo. But at a specialist sneaker retailer, you do get better value even if most of the desirable sneakers are above S$200, as well as the performance that come with the DNA of these shoes.

This could possibly be virgin territory for those used to the Stan Smith and co. While you are looking for a hunk, you do not wish for too much heft. And although the side of the shoe may be a pull, do not dismiss the top view: you do prefer architectural wonder than a slab of dough. Since these shoes are designed to look at least one-and-half times the length of your actual feet, be prepared for them to appear unusually large. Stick to your usual size and do not allow ill-informed sales staff to tell you that your feet are “too small”!

Nike M2K Tekno

Nike M2K Tekno

This is a sneaker that Nike, for reasons unknown to us, isn’t offering in large numbers. In fact, they’re not easy to find. The women’s version (above) has recently appeared and, as usual for most trending shoes, is available in fetching colours, such as this sweetest of pinks (and the strongest of reds). Colours aside, what works in Nike’s favour, as handsome dad shoes go, is its form. From the top view, the M2K Tekno is wickedly well-shaped, with adequate spread and corridor on the sides to give these kicks the right balance all shoes with a hulky silhouette should have. In this case, the shapely upper is unsurprising as it sits atop the equally dad-like, beautifully grooved mid-sole of the Air Monarch, which is another shoe to consider if only because it is a lot cheaper.

Style strength ★★★★★ Chunk aspect ★★★★★ Comfort factor ★★★★★

Nike M2K Tekno, SGD 159, is available at AW Lab

Adidas Yung 96

Adidas Yung 96

It isn’t quite clear if the current craze for the Falcon (women’s only) is because girls think they are handsome dad shoes or because Kylie Jenner is the kick’s near-billionaire model. If you don’t care about celebrity endorsement, you may prefer a cousin, the Yung 96. This kick may not score as the daddiest of dad shoes out there (that honour goes to its sibling the Yung 1), but it sure looks like the geeky kicks its pitched to be. The Yung 96 has the prerequisite chunkiness, but it also sports the three stripes that looks decidedly a relic from the ’80s. Nothing, of course, wrong with that since most shoes today are built on the very old soles of yore. Still, Adidas, could have given it a fancier spin, especially the somewhat lame mid-sole.

Style strength ★★★☆☆ Chunk aspect ★★★★☆ Comfort factor ★★★★☆

Adidas Yung 96, SGD159, is available @ Foot Locker and JD Sports

Puma Thunder Spectra

Puma Thunder Spectra

When the Thunder Desert first appeared two months ago (now in peach or peppermint shades for women!), many people thought this is the shoe the Ye should have designed. When the second iteration Thunder Spectra (above) launched last week, many consider it a worthy competitor to the Triple S. This is arguably the most striking sneaker release of the season, one that can be traced to Puma’s collaboration with Alexander McQueen back in the ’90s. Its handsome profile and the layers of colours are exactly the reasons people post shoe photos on IG. When worn, the snug is a delight and the total mass an eye-opener. However, the top view of the Thunder Spectra has more in common with a baguette, not those you’d find at Delifrance, but the corpulent versions at neighbourhood bakers.

Style strength ★★★★☆ Chunk aspect ★★★★★ Comfort factor ★★★★★

Puma Thunder Spectra, SGD201, is available @ Puma stores, AW Lab, Foot Locker, JD Sports.

Reebok Aztrek

Of all the brands seen here, Reebok has the potential to release striking dad shoes based on some of their past styles. But they have not done so in a big way—pun firmly in step. Their most dad-looking is the Aztek, first released the ’90s, but it is an uncle of a shoe if compared to the Adidas Yung 96. Still, the Aztek, cut higher at the ankles than others, is appealing because it is the most retro of the selection here. Serious-looking, even! With the Vetements collaboration on the brand’s revolutionary Instapump Fury still fresh in mind, many are turning to Reebok for kicks with street cred that do not—normally—shout out loud.

Style strength ★★☆☆☆ Chunk aspect ★★☆☆☆ Comfort factor ★★☆☆☆

Reebok Aztrek, SGD139, is available @ Reebok stores and Foot Locker

Fila Disruptor II Premium (W)

The comeback sports brand of the year (thanks to Gosha Rubchinskiy?) wasted no time in releasing flagship styles that are consistent with the craze for the thicker and the taller. The Disruptor II does not only has the bulk, it has the height to go with the girth, which is why, we were told, it is especially popular among women. This is the clunkiest sneaker seen in the stores, and, in large sizes, do take up space in the MRT train. And, offers less than ideal flexibility to sprint for the bus. While it may be mistaken for a Skecher, the Disruptor II, even in white, is the exaggerated kick that defines fashionable footwear now.

Style strength ★★★☆☆ Chunk aspect ★★★★★ Comfort aspect ★★★☆☆

Fila Disruptor II Premium, SGD269, is available @ Fila stores and Foot Locker

New Balance 99H

NB 99H

The New Balance silhouettes for its shoes have been rather consistent through the years: neither too narrow nor too broad—chunky not being the UPI of their past, which means they are not the first brand you’d go to for styles that are tagged ‘dad’. In spirit, however, there’s something quite papa’s shoe about the 99H. Sure, the mid-sole isn’t thick or complicated-looking enough (compared to the 990 that sneakerheads prefer or the 608 that girls are now gravitating to), but this is an elegant reflection of what’s trending, and possibly a shoe you’d still want to wear after the current craze is not even a vestige of our collective memory.

Style strength ★★★☆☆ Chunk aspect ★☆☆☆☆ Comfort aspect ★★★★★

New Balance 99H, SGD199, is available at New Balance stores and Robinsons at The Heeren

Under Amour Forge 96

Under Amour Forge 96

Under Armour, while a brand now frequently seen among gym goers, isn’t exactly known for their forward or trend-leaning ‘lifestyle’ sneakers that you might wear to Manhattan (the bar!). The appearance of the Forge 96 this month may change all that as it is the first pair (in different trendy colours, it should be said) that launched UA’s Sportstyle category. The Forge 96 is less retro than retro-futuristic and is, despite its appreciable hunk, rather minimalist, if placed next to the more expressive Puma Thunder Spectra. Strictly for (fashion-considering) fans.

Style strength ★★☆☆☆ Chunk aspect ★★★★☆ Comfort factor ★★★★☆

Under Amour Forge 96, SGD 159, is available at JD Sport

Calvin Klein Jeans Leather Chunky Trainers

Calvin Klein Jeans Leather Chunky Trainers

We’re hesitant to include this in our line-up, but since it’s sold in a sneaker store, we thought, why not. Calvin Klein Jeans, even in its re-branded form, is late in the dad shoe showdown, but, as it’s always said, better late then never. Their version, simply called Leather Chunky Trainers, are rather attractive even if they look a tad too close to those by Balenciaga. The mixed upper of mesh and suede (and those eyelet stays!) gives them a rather high-end, fashion-y vibe. And the colour combo of the above is what non-white sneaker fans would want to cop.

Style strength ★★★☆☆ Chunk aspect ★★★★★ Comfort factor ★★★★☆

Calvin Klein Jeans Leather Chunky Trainers, SGD260, is available @ AW Lab

Shoes are mostly available in men’s and women’s sizes unless indicated. Photos: Zhao Xiangji

Stylish Anniversary Narrative

imageimage

It’s not often a sneaker’s anniversary is celebrated with such style. New Balance Athletic Shoe Inc’s pop-up exhibition salutes their 580 model in its 20th year so strikingly that it will be a visual treat to those who can pry themselves away from the screens of their digital devices to be moved by the mutli-media display. Installed at its former retail store in the hotch-potch centre *Scape, the New Balance exhibition expresses the story of a shoe more experientially than a virtual room could.

The Japanese aesthetic is unmistakable. Opaque, all-white vinyl adhesive screens the store’s front doors, partially obscuring the gallery/retail space within. In the tradition of special-edition launches designed for those in the know, New Balance’s tribute shop is high design paired with what is essentially destined for the street. It could have been a transplant plucked straight out of Shinjuku. See-through casing, suspended amid a sea of white 580s that sticks out alluringly at you, house the star shoes. This is unquestionably sneakerporn.

imageDSC_0586EFor an athletic shoe, twenty years of existence can be considered longevity. The New Balance 580 did not, however, have a terribly auspicious start. Its genisis can be traced to the American-made 585, a running shoe that did not gain much traction when it was launched in the mid-Nineties. When it became the 580, it would take the Japanese’s spin for it to eventually take the sneaker world by storm.

In 1996, Mita Sneakers, the Japanese retailer almost every athletic brand wants to collaborate with, tweaked the original to give it, dare we say, a bolder silhouette while augmenting its retro vibe. Together with the now-defunct Japanese street wear label HECTIC, they started a trend in what Mita Sneakers’ creative director Shigeyuki Kunii, who is here for the launch event, calls “Japan-modified products”.

image imageTop and bottom: Mita Sneakers X New Balance MRT580

The New Balance 580 sneaker may not enjoy the attention that its sibling shoes numbered 9++ receive, but through the years since its introduction, each collaborative release has been much sort after, especially those with Mita Sneakers, which amounts to more than 40 to date. The 580’s distinctive midsole with diagonal, moulded heel has not changed significantly despite the proliferation of fancier, all-manner-of-material-infused versions from competitor brands. It’s this classic leaning that has kept the 580 enduring and a firm favourite among sneaker aficionados.

For the 20th anniversary issue, New Balance has once again tapped the flair of Mita Sneakers. The unsurprisingly limited edition of the MRT580—out of 96 pairs made available to the Asia-Pacific region, only 24 are assigned to Singapore—is distinguished by a tri-colour combo of navy, white, and red, which seems rather more flag-like than the unusual chromatic pairings sneakerheads usually seek. Still, for collectors, this is no doubt worth queueing for.

The New Balance 580 20th Anniversary Pop-Up Gallery is open till 17 July at level 2, *Scape. The Mita Sneakers X New Balance MRT580, SGD229, is available from this Saturday. Photos: Galerie Gombak

Collab SG Via TYO

mita-sneakers-x-sbtg-x-new-balance-x-fabrix-mrt580sm-special-packIt’s a multi-national partnership: mita sneakers X SBTG X New Balance X Fabrix or Japan X Singapore X United States X Singapore. Ueno-stationed Japanese retailer Mita Sneakers has collaborated with Singapore-based design house SBTG to fashion the American New Balance MRT580SM sneakers with new colours and patterns, and the shoes come with a tote designed by Singapore brand Fabrix.

For a long time sneaker freaks have been complaining that, unlike in Japan, shoes available here rarely come in unusual (or bright) colour combinations. Now is the time to debunk that belief, even if it will be a tough call. This new pair of New Balance really shines the spotlight on Singapore designers, especially in the area of footwear and bags.

mita-sneakers-x-sbtg-x-new-balance-mrt580sm-01SBTG’s founder Mark Ong is no stranger to limited-release sneakers having worked with not only New Balance, but Nike as well. In fact, his 2006 collaboration with Nike’s SB Dunk is now considered something iconic. With New Balance, he has created a skin that’s clearly urban because of the sporty and military coupling that is not an unholy union: nubuck upper in black and some green bits, as well as SBTG’s signature Vine and Tiger Stripe camo.

What makes this New Balance even more desirable is the tote that comes with it. Designed by Fabrix, the bag label founded by Colin Chen, the two-tone tote is not only current; it helps you pair your bag to you shoes without looking like you have been listening to someone whose idea of matching is obviously two of a kind.

The mita sneakers X SBTG X New Balance sneakers pack are now available at Limited EDT and Leftfoot