At the recent European men’s AW20 fashion weeks and trade shows and there was the perennial talk of what’s next. Branded booths full of fur-trimmed arctic parkas and look-at-me colourful chunky trainers didn’t really give an indication of the next big direction in menswear or fashion in general. Talk of tailoring’s recent return and the variations on the duck boot didn’t really satisfy the over aching question of “What’s the next big trend/idea?”.
Left - GH Bass putting a comfort spin on the classic penny loafer for AW20
When you think about the regular, engaged and fashion buying consumer, what’s the overriding trend of the past decade? It’s comfort. While it started with the dreaded term ‘athleisure’ creeping out of the gym and into people’s wardrobes and then exploded into sportswear, in general, people really connected with the laziness of it all and they’ve got used to it. There’s no going back. Items that are easy to put on, easy to wear, easy to take off, morning to evening, are really the driving force of people’s purchasing decisions. Asking people to be uncomfortable again for fashion’s sake is never going to return. Never.
You don’t realise how used to uncomfortable we were until you give yourself a rare reminder of what we used to wear. And compared to our historical forefathers it was certainly nothing in comparison to those days of being trussed up like a turkey. Even a regular pair of cotton denim jeans feels uncomfortable and such-an-effort to put on without any stretch and an unelasticated waist. The genderless meeting in the middle of sloppy oversized clothes and sports shoes is the perfect example of all this. When was the last time you saw a women hobbling along in uncomfortable high-heels? And good riddance to that too.
Sportswear is currently fulfilling this need, and brands with product outside this genre can no longer wait for the pendulum to swing back to them. They have to get involved. For example, GH Bass, long the custodians of the classic, leather men’s penny loafer has incorporated an Air Max type air bubble sole to their shoes for AW20. Okay, so I know we’ve had shoe/trainer hybrids since the early days of Prada Sport in the 1990s, but this is less about trend and more about getting people to make the leap from trainers back to something resembling a traditional shoe, rather than previously the other way aroun
Right - Fitness Influencer Joe Wicks wearing trainers on his wedding day
Every major shoe trend of the last few years has been related to a slipper. Every Croc to Ugg to Vans to slider is basically an outdoor slipper. It’s all about comfort. The JOMO/Netflix Generation are having to be enticed with a outdoor sole just to leave the house and even then it has to feel the same as if they were indoors.
There’s also a psychological thing going on here. If something feels or looks like an effort, then it is instantly rejected by the consumer. Certain items, fabrics and styles are associated with discomfort. People want clothes and accessorises then can forget about, aren’t conscious wearing and are instantly comfortable. Long gone are the days of expecting customers to wear or break something in. For example, there were many hiking boots styles on offer for the Autumn/Winter 20 season, but looking all the many laced eyelets and thought of having to wrench your foot in and out, has you reaching for the nearest tent mule no matter how beautifully patinated or light they are.
While this all relates nicely to the current sportswear domination, and the two go hand-in-hand, this idea will resonate and underpin any future fashion styles or trends. Whether it’s preppy or more formal clothes, the underlying trend will be comfort. There are generations of young people who don’t know anything different. Fashion has to be realistic and the future is comfortable. The visuals can change, the looks will morph, but this macro trend should be the starting point for any brand or designer hoping to appeal to the mass market. You only had to look at fitness guru Joe Wicks getting married in his trainers this past summer to see how far this has all infiltrated formal scenarios. The shoe makers of Northamptonshire must have been crying into their Cherry Blossom when they saw that. But, he obviously wanted to be comfortable on his big day and it also reflected his brand and personality.
This idea is an overarching trend in fashion. What started with sports could end anywhere. What’s next in fashion nobody's really sure, but one thing’s for sure, it ain’t discomfort.
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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
Sliders are here to stay and while the design stays pretty much the same, for many, it’s all about the branding. The majority of brands make it all about them, but these, from Isabel Marant’s first men’s collection, are the footwear equivalent of a conversation pit. Think Joe Colombo furniture and Space Odyssey.
While pricey, they are made from leather and I love the homage to some of the footwear greats of the 20th century. Here's also a mini footwear history lesson too.
Left & Right - Isabel Marant - Hellea Quilted Tri-Colour Leather Slides - £305 from matchesfashion.com
Left - 1938 Cork-layered sole and heel covered in multi-colored suede. This style was designed for the London department store Fortnum & Mason and was a variation of the model that Ferragamo created for Judy Garland.
Left - Mid 1970s Terry De Havilland Sima 1 is pure glam rock. The tiered cork wedge is an outlandish and timeless classic.
See a top inspired by Memphis