Young men are officially the biggest consumers of footwear in the UK. Move over Carrie Bradshaw, or is that reference way too old when you consider many of these 16-24 year old men weren’t even born when she started shopping for her Manolos.
According to the latest research from Mintel on footwear retailing, 95% of British males aged 16-24 bought shoes last year, making them Britain’s number one footwear buyers.
There’s been a revolution in men buying shoes and while women (86%) are still more likely to purchase footwear than men (78%), females aged 16-24 (10%) are twice as likely to have not purchased footwear in the last year compared to their male counterparts (5%), as the continuation of the casual and ‘athleisure’ trends drive men’s footwear sales.
Male shoe addicts are fast catching up on women. Men’s footwear accounted for 37% of all footwear sales in 2017, up from 34% in 2015. Valued at £4.38 billion in 2017, sales of men’s shoes increased an impressive 31% between 2015 and 2017. In comparison, sales of women’s shoes grew by only 10% over the same period to reach £5.48 billion in 2017.
“Men’s footwear, particularly among younger age groups, is really fuelling growth in the footwear sector.” says Chana Baram, Retail Analyst at Mintel. “In fact, our research shows that men aged 16-24 are more likely to be swayed by big brand names than women of the same age.” says Baram. “With trainers such a popular category for men as a whole, young men in particular are likely to respond positively to advertising campaigns by the big sports brands that feature their favourite male sports personalities.” she says.
This footwear sales growth is being fuelled by trainers, trainers and more trainers. Casual shoes and trainers are now the most popular shoe styles purchased by men.
“These are not just essential buys, but, got-to-have-it buys,” says Richard Wharton, footwear veteran and founder of Office & Offspring. “It’s all about the latest sneaker, there are millions version of that: the luxe trend, the Balenciaga Triple S, Off-White, Converse or Vans or whatever.” says Wharton. “These young guys have never worn formal shoes or been forced into wearing them at school. They buy what they want,” he says.
“Sneaker culture has really grown, from being a niche market to having mass appeal,” says Pamela Dunn, Senior Buyer, Schuh. “The rise of exclusive collabs and hard-to-get releases from brands like Nike/Adidas has fuelled the sneaker market.” she says.
In our age of sportswear and dress-down, our footwear choices have mirrored this and what was once unacceptable in certain social situations has now become mainstream and mass. Comfort is key.
“In modern offices nobody wears any other formal attire anymore so it’s acceptable to wear sneakers,” says Wharton. “Hype’s there. Before you didn’t have trainers for different occasions,” says Wharton. “Where you had that in formal wear, you, now, have that in sneakers: all black sneaker for work, weekend, something casual, or a club, maybe Dior or Louboutin,” he says.
The trainer market has grown to such as size that there is now multiple categories within this market and men are buying a full wardrobe of trainers for every social occasion. Designer brands have piled into this market seeing big margins and huge volumes. But what are these guys buying into?
“Big brands at a more mass market level like Nike/Adidas or more top level brands include Off-White / Gucci / LV etc.” says Dunn.
“It’s so broad. They are buying high-end street couture to basic Vans or Converse,” says Wharton. “Nike rules with guys buy into their new technology. There are huge queues waiting for the next thing and Nike limit it, so they drip feed it in.” he says.
Boys are buying brands and this may go someway to explain the latest movements within the men’s footwear market. Ted Baker recently bought back its shoe license for £21 million. The fashion brand bought ‘No Ordinary Shoes’, the worldwide licensee, from the Pentland Group. “This is an exciting opportunity to drive further growth in our footwear business by leveraging our global footprint and infrastructure, in line with our strategy to further develop Ted Baker as a global lifestyle brand,” said Ted Baker founder Ray Kelvin.
As Pentland lost Ted Baker, it appointed Marc Hare as the new ‘Product Director of the Lacoste Footwear Joint Venture’. He will be leading the new ‘Mainline’ and ‘Future Concepts’ product teams and working with Lacoste JV CEO, Gianni Georgiades, to support the company's vision for the brand. Marc Hare is known for his luxury evening styles and his, now, defunct Mr Hare footwear label. It’ll be interesting to see whether Pentland want to grow Lacoste further out from its sporty origins or use Hare’s skill by giving those sports shoes an elevation to compete within the luxury sneaker market.
What these brands see is growth, but is there further room for expansion or is the market becoming saturated?
“I think males will increasingly buy into footwear in the future, but the market will change,” says Dunn. “I think exclusive products may become less desirable, but brands that are big now will become even more dominant e.g. nike/adidas.” she says.
“It depends when it becomes saturation point,” says Wharton. “So many people want comfort that looks cool and there are multiple sub-genres such as Japanese sneakers, and Palace/Supreme collabs,” he says.
While the sports brands continue to offer newness, limit 'exclusive' product and raid their archives for classic styles, the trainer market seems healthy and will sustain the desire of men to keep adding to their collections. But, this rise of young men becoming the largest consumers of footwear is skewed towards one category and it will be interesting to see how the footwear industry gets this entire generation off their sport wears addiction and into a pair of leather lace-ups.
It wasn’t so long ago a ‘slider’ was something containing pulled pork and came in a mini brioche bun. Today, it’s one of the biggest categories in casual footwear.
It was our obsession with everything sportswear and retro that saw the return of Adidas’ ‘Adilette Slides’ which, arguably, started the whole mainstream trend. Teamed with white sports socks it became the default cool and comfortable warm weather shoe for fashionable geeks.
Slydes - 'Flint' AW18 - £25
Fast forward a couple of summers and ‘Sliders’ has become a footwear category in its own right. Much more ‘on-brand’ than flip-flops, luxury brands have piled into the market attracted by the volumes and margins. This is their cool entry shoe and shows no signs of going anywhere and will, no doubt, be one of their biggest selling footwear categories this year.
“I love how fashion works in mysterious ways and the pool slide is a great example - five years ago it would have been a faux-pas and, now, it’s a must have summer shoe, trending globally. Since this humble shoe’s luxury makeover, at the hands of brands such as Bottega Veneta, Gucci and Prada to name a few, it has grown in popularity becoming a style to not only wear on holiday, but in everyday city life too. It’s also been a great platform for brands embracing the logo mania trend to position their logo.” says David Morris, Senior Shoes Buyer at MR PORTER.
Ben Carr, Buyer at MATCHESFASHION.COM, says, “Sliders can be a great way to buy into a designer brand because of their competitive price point and with celebrities like A$AP Rocky and Justin Bieber often wearing these styles we’ve definitely noticed an uplift in their popularity.”
“Sliders and sandals have become one of our biggest growth areas, the biggest fashion houses have made it their focus on runways and within their collections. Prada champion the sandal and have reintroduced a range of sliders. The competitive price point enables increased accessibility for a wider audience.” says Carr.
Right - Balenciaga - Logo-debossed Leather Slides - £435 from matchesfashion.com
The slider is the cheapest shoe for many luxury brands. The margin on a pair of £435 Balenciaga logo-embossed leather slides would be significant. That’s an understatement, I know. Just imagine how many £225 sliders Gucci has sold this summer to the Love Island wannabes. This is big business.
On the more affordable spectrum, and founded in 2014, the footwear brand ‘Slydes’ specialises in, well, slides. Brand Owner, Juls Dawson, says, “Four years ago the founders spotted the trend as to was coming up over the horizon and jumped all over it. The rest, they say is history.”
He won’t reveal how many pairs of £16 sliders he is, now, selling, but says, “we can say sales are doubling year on year.”
Dawson highlights the versatility of the slider for its growth and popularity. “They are so versatile, worn from gym to pool and from beach to club, spanning not just most age groups and demographics, but the globe. They have been embraced across all genres of music, Influencers, clubbers, Millennials, keep fit fanatics, to name but a few,” he says.
The slider is part of the dominant sportswear trend and, of all the summer styles, the flip flop has probably taken the biggest hit from the slider. The slicker slider has managed to upstage the flimsy flip flop, which still looks somewhat underdressed, dirty and cheap.
“The flip flop, albeit a classic open toed sandal doesn’t have the scale of a slider. Limited to a narrow thong and a thin rubber outsole, where as the slider’s outsole can be raised, coloured, embellished and re-designed the upper of a slider. By its very definition, as long as you can slide you foot, it’s a slider, and, you can do pretty much anything with the silhouette.” says Dawson.
You also can’t wear flip flops with socks. So, what’s the future for the slider category?
“Every trend will reach a peak at some point, but Slydes have the capacity to move on and evolve as the uppers are like a blank canvas to add embellishment, print, texture, grahics, logos, materials…the possibilities are endless.” says Dawson.
“I think it will be less branded and graphic, moving into a more simple design. The rise of the logo focussed collections is down trending and we can see it already starting with footwear.” says Carr.
The slider looks set to become more subtle and lowkey. One brand introducing sliders for the first time is Grenson, which featured a couple of styles in their latest SS19 collection.
“I love looking at styles that are ‘on-trend’ and seeing if I can do a Grenson version, that makes sense. This was a challenge as most sliders are rubber with huge logos, but I found a way to do a leather version.” says Tim Little, Creative Director and Owner, Grenson.
“People needed a replacement for the flip flop for the summer, but also the ugly shoe trend made the slider the perfect choice. Added to that, of course, is comfort and convenience.” he says.
Explaining the attraction to many premium footwear brands, Little, says, “The flip flop is very basic and cheaply made, whereas the slider allows more opportunity to create a crafted version. I can’t see us doing a flip flop as there isn’t much that we can bring to the party.”
While the slider is still cool, it’s grown to a size which makes it bigger than a fashion trend. The slider category will continue to grow and become more permanent as more and more people buy and wear them. Attracted by the branding, comfort and the infinite designs and finishes, the slider category will continue to see more brands enter the market. Much like the designer trainer trend before it, we’ll see more brands put their own DNA onto this simple shoe and happily price it to match. Even Tom Ford has done a dressy velvet pair named ‘Churchill’.
Left - Tom Ford - Churchill Chain Trimmed Velvet Slides - £370 from MRPORTER.COM
David Morris, from MRPORTER says, “Slides have never been as relevant as they are now, especially as we’ve seen a shift in the market as men continue to embrace casualwear and sportswear as part of their everyday wardrobe. Luxury brands such as Prada and Balenciaga have seamlessly incorporated luxury slides into their collections giving credibility to the footwear style, so they are now an option to team with the ready-to-wear. This footwear category will continue to dominate over the summer seasons whilst this sportswear trend is still key.”
Right - Grenson's first sliders for SS19
This is an exclusive behind the scenes peek of the new SS18 Base London campaign starring TheChicGeek. Move over Linda, Naomi and Kate, TheChicGeek is here and he’s blowing it out of the water.
Left - In the studio - A preview of TheChicGeek's Base London campaign
Giving pure ‘Ginger-Steel’, TheChicGeek wanted to showcase every facet of his character while ticking all the boxes for the latest menswear trends. Pairing Base London’s latest collection of footwear with the biggest looks of the season, it’s a geek-fest of characters to see you through the entire Summer. See how the magic happened!
Below Left - TheChicGeek's selection of the all the hottest menswear SS18 trends to pair with the Base London collection. Which geek are you?
Below - You can feel the sunshine. TheChicGeek in a couple of the final images for the Base London SS18 campaign
See TheChicGeek’s full looks of the season - here
See TheChicGeek's #SS18 trends here
Guys, listen up. As you’re probably wearing trainers or sneakers, right now, you’ll probably want to know the direction your next pair is coming from. Think of the worst pair you can imagine, double it and then sprinkle on another cup of ugly and you’re there.
Left - Vetements X Reebok Instapump Fury Canvas Trainers - £610 from matchesfashion.com
Gone are those minimal, sleek cup-soles, that have, let’s be honest, had a good run for their money, to be replaced by the fugliest fuckers to hit the pavement.
Right - Raf Simons X Adidas Ozweego III Low-Top Trainers - £285
This is all part of our addiction to bad 90s style and everything of dubious taste. You better start planning the rest of the outfit!
Below Right - Eytys - Angel Low-Top Chunky-Sole Leather Trainers - £265
Below - Nike Air More Uptempo Triple Black - £140
We need some good news, and with new footwear label, Good News, it’s coming in spades. I first saw Good News at the Designer Showrooms during the last LFWM, where they were previewing their new AW17 collection. What I liked was it was a twist on the classic American baseball shoe, but in material of the season - coloured corduroy.
Left - 80s styling from Good News SS17
Good News is a British contemporary footwear brand founded in 2016 in London by co-Founders Ben Tattersall and Nia Jones with the shared aspiration “to bring the world a little bit of GOOD NEWS”.
Nia was a shoe designer at Topshop and Ben has a background in marketing and sales. The shoes have a unique thick natural rubber sole that gives ultra-comfort for men and ladies looking for a fresh contemporary sneaker at an affordable price. Fresh bold designs and colour is at the essence of the brand’s identity and the styles that are available for the SS17 season.
Each piece is named after a traditional baseball term; ‘Dinger’ and ‘Bagger’ after a homerun, ‘Hurler’ the fast pitch, ‘Babe’ after legendary Babe Ruth and ‘Slugger’ after the ball is hit out of the park.
Hurler is a traditional baseball stripe, which comes in monochrome striped canvas with a natural rubber sole. The Bagger style comes in cotton canvas white, black or navy. The Dinger introduces colour into the collection with primary blue, red, green, off white, 70s burnt orange and black. This striking style has a contrasting white tongue that comes in cotton canvas. Babe is a canvas and nylon mix combining vibrant multi-coloured tones and Slugger is an easily styled black canvas with a noticeable white lace or matching black laces.
The collection ranges from £50 for the low height styles, to £60 for high-tops.
Right - More Good News SS17
Good News look to create a positive change in the world. From ethical product monitoring fairtrade and supply chain, to collaborations with charities and brands that share the Good News values. The aim is to engage target audiences and communities through raising awareness on important issues.
Now, just ask yourself, why buy a pair of Converse when you can get a pair of these?
Instagram @goodnewslondon Facebook @goodnewsldn www.goodnews.london
Below Right - Everything is coming up corduroy for AW17 - Good News Rhubarb Low AW17
Left - Hurler Hi AW17
If you wanted that summer feeling to last you well into the autumn, then those standard jute-soled espadrilles may get a little soggy come all the wind and rain. This was the thought MULO founder, Tobias Cox, 35, had when he was unable to wear his favourite summer shoes in the changeable climate of London.
Left - MULO - Suede - Cobalt - £115
Inspired by a sailing trip across the Atlantic, which saw another pair fall apart, Cox became determined to create a version that could stand up to wear and tear yet retain the charm of the original.
With no formal fashion training, Cox made a DIY prototype by cutting up his waxed cotton Barbour jacket to see if the weatherproof qualities of the material would translate to footwear. Further product testing proved that by using waxed cotton the shoes were not only durable but also aged beautifully.
This breakthrough instilled the belief that each part of the shoe should be enhanced in the same way. Over the course of two years Cox deconstructed the espadrille and rebuilt it using only the best materials, working with specialist suppliers to customise each component.
The result was a simple yet elegant slip-on.
TheChicGeek took time out to ask Tobias a few more questions:
CG - Where does the name MULO come from?
TC - It is the spanish translation of the word 'mule' - humble, pretty and hard working. It captures our goal for the shoe, and seemed a fitting homage to the Catalan heritage of the espadrille.
CG - What did you do before founding MULO?
TC - I have no formal fashion training and worked in management consulting, but always had an entrepreneurial spirit.
Right - MULO x David Kafri - Tribal - £115
CG - When did it start?
TC - The idea for a modern version of the espadrille came during a sailing trip across the Atlantic. I was wearing a traditional pair that very quickly fell apart and it made me realise that as a concept the shoe does not really work. I wanted to create a version that could function whilst respecting the simple charm of the original. It was several years in development and launched in 2013.
CG - What’s the difference between a MULO espadrille and any others?
TC - We don't use the traditional rope sole, we work on an Oxford last which makes the shoe a properly structured one. We are an elevated staple that combines the fit and feel of a sneaker to the summer essential. We rebuilt the espadrille on an Oxford last, lending structure and a fitted shape, and customised each component using premium materials to make it best in class.
Our limited edition collections using bold prints and images add personality. We recently collaborated with Design Miami/Art Basel. We applied a print by Pierre Frey named Chromatropic to our shoe, an assemblage of palm trees, sunsets, and foliage, cut from current Pierre Frey designs and pasted together to resemble wildly coloured camouflage. The shoes were made using different parts of the print, meaning each pair was one of a kind. They were a statement piece that immediately sold out.
CG - Where are they made?
TC - Our shoes are entirely handmade in Portugal. It takes 20 steps to make our shoe - from cutting and stitching to lasting. We work with a family run factory who share our values and take pride in their craft.
CG - What inspires you?
TC - Good design and craftsmanship.
CG - Where is the business based?
TC - London.
CG - What does becoming one of Walpole's Brands of Tomorrow mean?
TC - It is an honour to be recognised by such a reputable institution - Walpole is a unique alliance of over 170 of Britain's finest luxury brands, with companies such as Burberry, Jimmy Choo, The Savoy and Harrods among its membership. We are at a very exciting stage of development and are constantly navigating opportunities whilst also needing to stay nimble. Walpole is providing us with invaluable counsel and a wealth of resources to successfully expand in the luxury marketplace.
CG - What are the future plans? Own retail outlet?
TC - Our goal is to follow former Walpole Brands of Tomorrow - Orlebar Brown, Charlotte Olympia, Mr Hare, The Business of Fashion - and become recognised as a leader in our field. We plan to build the business selectively, through retailers and online, to maintain our premium market position and push creative boundaries.
Dear Chic Geek,
My boyfriend is 6'4"... That's not the problem. The problem is that he has size 13 feet and shoe shopping is a NIGHTMARE! And it's not just shoes, socks are also a challenge. He ends up cramping his feet into socks that are too small for him. Poor baby! Can you help?
If only he was a baby this would be so much easier! There's an online company called Walktall which sells a range of formal and casual footwear in sizes 12-19. You can simply click on your size and see what is available.
In a size 13 I would go for these Tredflex Chelsea boots. They look great with jeans and chinos and should last a while. Walktall also do larger socks, as well, so no more crushed toes. Just tell him TheChicGeek sent them!
Above - Tredflex Chelsea Softie Leather - £70