So wrong, they're right? The mighty comeback of chunky trainers

Photo: Getty Images

Laura Craik considers the somewhat ugly, but no less ubiquitous, trainer style of the season

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By Laura Craik on

No one’s day isn’t improved by a compliment, so, when my hairdresser told me he liked my trainers, I was chuffed. Not least because they look like battered old slippers, and are the opposite of the “dad trainers” everyone else seems to be wearing. Original grey Nike Air Mocs from The Actual Nineties, they were the trainer du jour back in 1994, when simplicity was key, and lo-fi was the only way to wear things. Back then, superfluous details of any kind were frowned upon. “Over-designed,” we’d scoff, because we worshipped at the altar of Steve Jobs. Had we set eyes on the Balenciaga Triple S, we would have gone blind – with rage, with laughter and with scorn.

Can it only be a year ago that Balenciaga’s game-changing trainers were released? Why, yes, it can. Described by designer Demna Gvasalia as a “visual composite”, the Triple S took moulds from three different sports – running, basketball, and track and field – and stacked them on top of one another to create that now-famous (or infamous, depending on how you look at it) bulky sole. Neither its ugliness nor its £615 price tag deterred customers from buying, in their droves, and the trainer quickly became a cult classic, reissued in umpteen different colourways (there are currently 11 versions selling on alone). “They’re not even comfy,” one of my friends confessed recently. “Basically, I paid £615 for a pair of trainers that make my feet hurt.”

If you want to know why trainers are currently so chunky, blame the Triple S, and the myriad celebrities and influencers (even Jeff Goldblum was spotted at the Paris shows wearing a pair) currently wearing them. And, if you want to know when trainers are going to go back to being all lo-fi and minimal again, try “never”. At the recent round of shows (Paris Fashion Week has just finished, bringing to an end a solid month of fashion), not only was the FROW overwhelmingly wearing them, new iterations for spring/summer 2019 were spotted frequently on the catwalk, too – not least at Comme des Garçons. When Rei Kawakubo decides to integrate chunky, necklace-adorned Nike Shox into her fashion shows, you had better believe the chunky trainer ain’t goin’ nowhere. Off-White’s Virgil Abloh also swore allegiance to the look, in a show modelled by athletes including Dina Asher-Smith and co-branded by Nike.  

'They’re not even comfy,' one of my friends confessed recently. 'Basically, I paid £615 for a pair of trainers that make my feet hurt.'

Even if you argue that Comme and Off-White were only showing chunky trainers because of their relationships with Nike, and that, actually, the look was slightly in remission for spring/summer 2019, this doesn’t solve the problem of how to get through the current autumn season clad in two lumps of rubber that look like they’ve been held too close to a flame. I’ve worn some strange things on my feet, but even I would balk at slipping on some of the mahoosive, overblown clodhoppers currently doing the rounds this autumn. And, yet, while my eyes say “no” (or rather: “NOOOOO!!!!”), a part of me is weirdly tempted. It’s almost as though the 10465833618 people I’ve seen wearing them can’t possibly be wrong, ergo, it must be me.  

For anyone else tempted to throw good taste and minimalism to the wind, here are a few tips. Unless you are an oligarch or have 100 thousand followers on the ‘gram, perhaps avoid laying out £615 on the Triple S’s. One of the benefits of their blockbusting popularity is that it has inspired the high street to spawn plenty of homages. At £39, Topshop’s Ciara’s will give you a similar look at a fraction of the price, as will Zara’s “contrasting mesh sneakers” (£39.99). Or, if homages aren’t your thing, you could try Skechers’ D’Lites (from £59), which, while no less butt-ugly than any of the other models, at least have the bonus of authenticity, given the US brand has been peddling chunky soles and overblown, plastic-y details since its 1992 inception. Me, I’m going to dig out an old pair of Air Max – chunky, yes, but not so chunky as to prompt small children to point and laugh at me in the street. My days of channelling Baby Spice in her platform Buffalos are over. In fact, they never began.


5 chunky trainers to buy






Photo: Getty Images
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Laura Craik

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