Right now there is no bigger trend in men's style than luxury sneakers. And with many versions crossing dress code lines, plenty of men are ditching the dress shoes for them.
While events like last week's camp-outs to buy a pair of Adidas Yeezys designed by rapper Kanye West don't do much to quell the cynicism that surround the world of designer sneakers, on the catwalks of Europe high-end kicks have never been more prominent.
The recent Paris Fashion Week was no exception. French luxury giant Hermès led the way by presenting half of all looks for its 2016 fall men's wear collection in sneakers. Combined predominantly with a tailored look, the sought-after effect is known as 'high-low' dressing and is all about interweaving street style and high fashion, for the purpose of taking the latter down a rung or two.
Searching high and low
But the last thing luxury labels want to take down, even a single rung, are the prices, which can easily jump into four figures.
As Guy Trebay from the New York Times wrote last month about the uber luxury design houses: "A problem develops when, instead of being reasonably priced kicks with a great heritage back story, the sneakers you offer also cost a million bucks. Irony is essential to high-low dressing: It works only when something exclusive and costly is taken down a notch by something cheap enough for the hoi polloi."
Regardless of Trebay's assessment of those who choose not to stump up for a pair of luxury-priced kicks, the reality is that the widespread adoption of high-low dressing has been a boon for sneaker manufacturers, especially those producing refreshing minimalist designs at more palatable prices.
Notable examples are Common Projects and Buttero, whose Italian handmade sneakers (retailing between $400 and $600) have both taken on a cult following. And illustrating that megabrands aren't trailing hopelessly behind the times there is Adidas, which in recent years has wiped the floor with its ode to simplicity, the Stan Smith sneaker ($120).First introduced in 1963 as a humble tennis shoe, it certainly ticks the heritage box.
But such is the way in sneaker-world, a new interpretation must always be released each season. Rob Ferris, head buyer at luxury department store Harrolds, says the collaboration between Belgian designer Raf Simmons and Adidas on the iconic Stan Smith (which sell for upwards of three times the price of the base model) has been especially popular for igniting high-low dressing.
"A lot of people are wearing them with a cotton suit with a t-shirt underneath their jacket, or they're wearing a smart pair of trousers with a shirt and a knit or a blazer," says Ferris.
Lovers of pared-back style will be pleased to know that the sleek, minimalist aesthetic doesn't appear to be going away any time soon.
After attending the influential Micam shoe fair in Milan last week, Anthony Barbieri of Sydney and Melbourne-based luxury shoe retailer 124 Shoes says minimalism remains very much in vogue.
"Signature colour palettes are black, white and blue, with tan also being prominent," Barbieri told 51698009 from Italy.
"Many designers are also deriving their styles from the large sporting brands like Nike and Adidas, but the materials and fabrics used are of the highest quality and give a greater edge to the shoe."
With the quality of sneakers coming out Italy, France, Spain and Portugal, many Australian sneaker lovers have had their attention diverted from major US sportswear manufactures.
Watching this switch take place has been British-born, Melbourne designer Christian Kimber. After arriving in Australia in 2011, Kimber saw a gap in the luxury sneaker market and designed his own eponymously named range that are handmade in Italy.
It has only been eight months since he launched his often richly coloured sneakers, but already they are being carried by major New York department stores Barneys and Bloomingdale's. He has also designed a select range for the emerging and widely popular tailoring label Eidos Napoli.
"I met them at a trade show in Florence and out of the blue they said can you design a collection for us? And so I've been going to New York to present a collection for the last three seasons," Kimber says. "It's been wonderful working with them."
Check out the gallery for the latest in sneaker style.