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Say goodbye to 'dad shoes' — Balenciaga just released a new sneaker collection inspired by martial artists and soccer players

Dominic-Madori Davis , Business Insider US
 Jan 11, 2020, 04:28 PM

It seems football shoes are the new dad shoes. Or at least, that's what Balenciaga is trying to tell us.

The luxury brand, a notable pioneer of the chunky dad shoe trend that spanned the globe, has now switched it up with the release of its Zen Collection. The shoe? Slimmer. The material? Non-leather. The design? Football. Golf. Bowling. Or Lonsdale. Depending on who you ask.

Whatever they are, it might just be luxury's next big takeover.

"Dad shoes" were all the rage

In the latter half of the 2010s, luxury streetwear hit the market and became a global phenomenon. In the midst of all the puffer jackets and logo mania, there were also the "dad shoes" - clunky sneakers made by the likes of Dior, Lanvin, and perhaps most notably, Balenciaga.

Sneakers in general, as noted by Business of Fashion in 2017, were peaking on the runways by 2014; the trend effectively launched the year prior, when designer Raf Simons released his $300 Ozweego shoe with Adidas. By 2017, the clunky sneaker look was in full force, with French house Vetements' collection with Reebok recognized as one of the key turning points.

In 2017, the luxury house and the athletic apparel company teamed up for a $650 graffiti shoe, inspired by Reebok's nearly 25-year-old Instapump Fury shoe. Suddenly, it was the summer of 2018, and USA Today was reporting that the search for "dad sneakers" and "dad shoes" had peaked on Google, in addition to seeing a 730% increase in searches on Pinterest. Gucci released its Rhyton sneaker, which currently goes for $890 (R12,000), while Louis Vuitton released its Archlight sneaker, which costs as much as $1,090 (more than R14,000). USA Today also reported that Balenciaga 's Triple S Trainers, which retail for $895 (R12,500), became one of the brand's best-selling items.

"These designer sneakers are like the male version of the it-bag," Damien Paul, head of menswear at MatchesFashion, told Business of Fashion. "Raf Simons' Ozweego sold out within five minutes."

But that all seems to be changing. In an interview with Dazed magazine, Off-White founder and Louis Vuitton Menswear Creative Director Virgil Abloh said that streetwear was facing imminent death - and dying with that, presumably, would be the clunky shoes that helped define the trend.

"In my mind, how many more T-shirts can we own," he told Dazed, as previously reported by Business Insider. "How many more hoodies, how many sneakers?"

But now, "athletic shoes " are here to play

It seems Balenciaga, once preeminent among the dad shoe enthusiasts, is on the cusp of a new trend. With the launch of their Zen collection, the luxe brand released their Zen Sneaker, now retailing for $550 (R7,700). The sneaker is reminiscent of many things- golf shoes, bowling shoes, and even Lonsdale Benn Men's Trainers. Whatever they are, we know what they are not - chunky sneakers. So what gives?

It could be, as Business Insider previously reported, that the brand is looking to capitalize on the sportswear market, which is estimated to reach $231.7 billion in sales by 2024. In fact, other luxury brands already seem to be hanging up their puffy jackets and taking out their tennis rackets.

For example, Puma recently teamed up with Balmain for a boxing-inspired collection, while dad shoe pioneer Simons announced earlier this month the release of a new shoe called (RUNNER) which, as the brand shared on Instagram, was conceived as "an investigation of form and function and an exploration of shape, [where] the typical silhouettes of sports sneakers are challenged and re-purposed."

Puma x Balmain collection, with model Cara Delevingne.

Here, Balenciaga seems to be following suit. Known as "BALENCIAGA ZEN," their latest spring collection is, as reported by Jessica Heron-Langton for Dazed, "athletic tech." It is "inspired by athletes, most notably martial artists and footballers," Heron-Langton wrote. "With a subtler shape, smooth edges, and hidden laces, the trainer will be available in monochrome and a variety of classic color combinations."

Is this the sneaker poised to take over as the popularity of the chunky shoe declines? Perhaps the real question is whether sneakers will even be cool at all anymore this decade.

There is no doubt that millennials made sneakers the "it" item of the 2010s. But as they are overtaken in the consumer market by Gen Z in the coming years, will the TikTok generation let the sneaker trend stay - or has the time come for a new "it" trend in footwear to be born?

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