Of all the stage-stealing moments at the inauguration – the sunny Prada, the crystal-studded Miu Miu – this was a pair of Jordans that stuck with me long after the CNN stream ended. Maisy Biden, one of the president’s seven grandchildren, wore a monochrome navy suit with a pair of Jordan 1 Mid “Sisterhood” sneakers. It was a choice that seemed both contrary in the midst of a sea of classic pumps and entirely appropriate – Maisy is a teenage girl who would spend part of the day marching in a political victory parade. She even wore them later that night with a frilly evening dress.
It’s not like Jordans needs a boost in popularity. According to data from the StockX online resale market, they are the number 1 brand, with pairs selling an average of 54% above their sticker value. Another notable statistic from StockX: Usage among women increased by 100% in 2020. “We have seen sales of women’s sneakers increase by 300%,” says Deena Bahri, CMO at StockX. Bahri points out that there is a thirst for women-specific styles like Jordan and Nike, and that sales of men’s small sizes and even elementary school sizes of certain styles indicate unmet demand among women sneakerheads. “I see all kinds of people participating in the sneaker culture, whether it’s gender diversity or even age diversity, with more people over 40,” says Bahri.
In a year that has changed our consumption habits, it makes sense that the sneakers will stay. “There is something in the little luxuries,” reasoned Bahri. “We have had to give up so much and make sacrifices and change with the new normal. We are all looking for those moments of comfort, indulgence and pleasure.
It would be unfair to declare 2020 as the year when women have fully embraced the sneaker. This trend (or change, if you prefer) has been in the works for some time. I can’t help but think of old Celine Phoebe Philo curtsying after showing off the Spring 2013 collection, in a pair of white Stan Smiths. It was the bugle call to the legions of heel-wearers: it’s good to resign now. A few years later, Rihanna teamed up with Puma to create a creeper-basket hybrid that won the Footwear News shoe of the year award. Sneakers have gone from sports, music and tech to high fashion – in recent years Balenciaga, Louis Vuitton and even uppity Chanel have released their own shots – and politics, la Kamala Harris Converse becoming a campaign staple. Track.
“Why do I have to drag myself in heels when guys are walking around in much more comfortable shoes and still an acceptable part of their work attire?” “
Part of it is comfort. “I work in the NBA; on game night I wore heels and stood for six hours, ”says Shelby Weaver, one of the founders of Makeway, a new women’s sneaker retailer in Toronto. “Why do I have to drag myself around in heels when guys are walking around in much more comfortable shoes and still an acceptable part of their work attire?” Weaver says she now switches from sneakers to heels depending on her mood. “The evolution of sneakers in fashion has allowed women more freedom. We can wear them without judgment because sneakers are such a part of popular culture, ”she says.
Weaver started Makeway with Abby Albino (who works on Nike’s community engagement strategy at an agency) as a way to carve out much needed space in a male-dominated industry. “There are so many amazing women interested in sneakers, and they are an integral part of fashion and culture in general, but I’ve never really had the luxury of being in a store designed for me.” , says Albino. “Even when there was a wide range for women, it would be in a back corner,” she adds.
“We want to make sure that women feel like they can play in the space and feel comfortable. This opens them up to discover new brands and find a community ”
Makeway offers styles for women from brands like Reebok and Converse, as well as streetwear clothing. The pandemic forced it to temporarily close its doors inside the Stackt Marketplace, but the store is living online. “It’s okay if you don’t know who Nike collaborated with in 2011; you don’t have to be a total nerd, ”says Albino. “We want to make sure that women feel like they can play in the space and feel comfortable. This opens them up to discover new brands and find a community.
Brands big and small see women as a growing consumer base. “Most of the big names identified women as their source of growth over the next five to ten years,” says Albino. This is why we are seeing major collaborations between Adidas and Ivy Park, Reebok and Cardi B and Jordan and Melody Ehsani. “These amazing women have such specific stories and such specific perspectives on the things they stand for,” says Albino, who particularly appreciates Cardi B’s take on Club C at Reebok. “It’s made of patent leather, so it’s really versatile; you can dress it up or down.
What’s remarkable is not that more and more women are wearing sneakers (in a world of athleisure, this is hardly shocking), but that women are finally actively participating in – and benefiting from – the sport. billionaire sneaker industry. Albino says you have to start with the product itself. “Sneaker culture in general is a boys’ club, but once you see the change in inventory and accessibility, that’s when you’ll have more women in the space.”
Sarah Soulié is just a person who works to move this inventory. She launched her sneaker brand, Vobyo, in Montreal in 2019. The line is inspired by high-top boxing shoes, and everything is made in a small factory in Portugal from premium, antimicrobial materials. “I was personally going through a moment; I had just become a mother of two children and I felt like I had lost my mojo a little, ”says Soulié, who is a runner and who loves boxing. “I love to dig deep and find the courage in myself, and I felt like I lost some of that.” She started Vobyo to create the kind of shoes that can go “from the studio to the street” that are practical for a light workout or dance class and stylish enough for everyday wear. “We have so many different sides, I wanted to represent the badassery, the resilience and the daring of women.”
Ironically, Soulié asked men to ask her if she made her sneakers in sizes large enough for them. “They are welcome at home if they can fit in! But I don’t think it’s dangerous to have a brand only for women, ”she says.
We women are inconstant clients. “Women are complex. You can’t just roll out something and say, “This is for women,” says Weaver. “You have to connect with them and inspire them. A woman isn’t going to wake up to what you say is cool, she’s going to make her own decisions and it’s up to us as retailers and brands to listen.
Unsurprisingly, women want it all: dedicated lines as well as equal access to this limited edition Yeezy drop. We want comfort and style, functionality and flash, patent leather, shock absorbing soles, bright colors and cool neutrals. After all, we have a lot of catching up to do.