Ask Esquire: Are Sneakers Shoes?
Hi! We’re back for another installment of on-point, totally not satirical, and very sensible advice about anything that niggles your wormy mind, from deadly nipples to Ivana Alawi, funky socks to screaming women.
From our fat mailbag full of spam, ShoeLover88zz asks an interesting style question: Hey, Esquire, are sneakers shoes?
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Are sneakers shoes? Are. Sneakers. Shoes. #aresneakersshoes
Let’s get right to it. Merriam-Webster, our dear friend (Webster is our neighbor), defines shoes as “an outer covering for the human foot typically having a thick or stiff sole with an attached heel and an upper part of lighter material (such as leather).”
And so, ergo, and therefore, a sneaker is a shoe because it fulfills the parameters of functioning as an outer covering for your troll feet and possessing a sole, heel, and upper.
Ask Esquire’s Mom also says, “You have too many shoes!” To which, we replied, “Okay.”
Now, we are going to do a deep-dive into your funny question because, even if you are you a bridge troll who is trolling us (are sneakers shoes?!), it is our duty, as keepers of the legacy of Esquire, to enlighten and inspire no matter what and even if it hurts. Remember, there are no stupid questions—only stoopid…
Anyway, the question “are sneaker shoes?” can be re-tooled as the following:
Are sneakers proper shoes?
Now, here’s a question that’s worth mixing your metaphors and getting your panties into a spoiled bunch of apples.
Maybe, ShoeLover88zz is an old baloney (sorry to baloneys) who is a stickler for the rules. Eons ago, say, in 2013, the rules of styles were more rigid. The well-dressed gentleman did not consider sneakers as proper shoes that stood on equal footing with the lace-up leather oxford or derby. There were even men who would never be caught dead in sneakers no matter what. For informal affairs, they put on brogues or loafers or maybe an exotic espadrille.
But never sneakers. These were reserved for when they were actually playing a sport that required a rubber sole or when they were drunk at home. Haven’t we all done a secret sneaker try-on while drinking vodka and jamming to “Ignition.” Just us? No one? Okay.
Of course, times have changed dramatically and the style rules, which have been modified, circumvented, or just thrown out the window, reflect the tumult we are experiencing. After all, in the pandemic reality, we are shut-ins who don’t require closed shoes or pants to function.
Because of Newton’s laws of motion (not really!), sneakers have risen to the forefront of style, ultimately becoming totems of cool. There are two schools of thought here: the slick and smooth premium sneakers (think clean planes of yummy high-grade leather) and the butt-ugly sneakers as popularized the Balenciaga Triple S (its popularity has waned now though).
So, to the horror of the proper gents from long ago (2013), sneakers, whether they are from high fashion labels or big athletic companies, are the norm and worn everywhere.
Also, if Crocs, a crime against feet, has become a cool thing espoused by Justin Bieber, Balenciaga, and Christopher Kane, then sneakers have a right to be called a shoe. Please don’t deny sneakers their rightful status as proper feet coverings.
Did we answer your question? Anyway, “are sneaker shoes?” might also be reframed as this:
Is it okay to wear sneakers with a suit?
Can you wear sneakers with the ultimate armor of men, the suit? To this, we say yes. We have long supported the wearing of sneakers with a suit—a cool mix—but there are nuances to remember:
1| We prefer the very first incarnation of the idea, the clean white sneaker with a suit as this combo provides enough of an insouciant contrast (the goal of the pairing) while staying within the vicinity of neat and tidy, which the suit stands for.
2| Having said that, the black Converse All Star (or the CDG version), the black Vans slip-on, and even a sportier, slightly chunky sneaker in a gentle pastiche of colors like the New Balance 997 are also pleasing. These express even more the shattering of the formal suit and your insistence to become a unique individual who defies The Man.
3| For a very successful mash-up, please note the trim fit of your suit, especially your trousers, which should be slim (not skinny) and possess little to no break—it should end cleanly where the sneaker begins. A cropped trouser with sneakers can also be done but would need more courage to wear.
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4| One more thing before we go: Can you wear the suit-and-sneakers combo to a wedding? To this, we say no. Our Old Baloney self rises from the dead to nag you about dress codes. Confer respect to the ceremony and your dear friends by going all the way with formal leather shoes. The sneakers you can save for drunken dancing later.