Are Dad Sneaks the New Heels?

By Amanda Haroutunian
Photos by Lauren Walsh
Modeled by Sam Krot

If you’ve been following trends at all recently, or even taken a look around at the latest in street style, chances are you’ve spotted a wide variety of the chunky, eye-catching, and confusing blocks on people’s feet, better known as “Dad Sneakers”. As a sneaker enthusiast, I was intrigued by the bizarre new trend, and excited to begin my journey in discovering how to rock them best. My first thought was to try to wear them as I would my normal sneakers, with some mom jeans or high-waisted shorts. But apparently I wasn’t thinking creatively enough, because with these unique shoes also came a revolutionary concept – wearing dad sneakers with formal attire like dresses and blazers. This emphasis on contrasts has been very popular in the fashion community, and it is a look that I’ve come to love. Whether it be contrasts in patterns, styles, fabrics, etc., it’s an idea that is flexible, accessible, and easily executed regardless of the size of your bank account. This isn’t the first time someone has attempted this bold style, though; remember when Demi Lovato poetically questioned, “Who says, I can’t wear my converse with my dress?” in her song “La La Land”? But that particular trend never really surpassed Disney Channel stars, and it definitely didn’t blow up like the pairing of dad sneakers with formalwear is doing now.

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Dad sneakers and dresses isn’t just a cute look that I intend on shamelessly copying though, it’s a total game changer. It’s safe to say I, along with many millennials, have completely re-evaluated my fashion decisions when going out up to this point. Why have I been destroying my feet and cramming them into narrow stilettos, only to be on my feet all night, when I could’ve been bouncing in Filas? Dancing at a party in four-inch heels? Eh. Dancing at a party in my dad sneakers? Clear the floor.

Aside from the practicalities and convenience that come with this iconic new trend, I’ve discovered another underlying quality that these shoes have provided for me, and that is confidence. I would take a pair of sneakers over heels any day—I’m sure many women can relate — but the social pressure to have to wear heels when going out has always been fairly prominent. This trend totally demolishes that by not only making it acceptable to wear sneakers out, but making it a bold, trendy statement. Another attribute that they provide is comfort — and no, I’m not talking about physical comfort in my feet, although that is also notable — but comfort as in feeling good in my own skin. I feel more myself in a pair of chunky dad sneakers than I do in stilettos, so to be able to rock them on a Friday night when I’m dressed up and trying to feel my best is all I could ask for.

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It’s also worth taking a step back and noting that this is a small stride for feminism in the fashion community. Fashion designers are no longer concerned with reflecting traditional, feminine looks, and it is clear that we’re moving into a new era where fashion isn’t constrained by gender. Womenswear is no longer confined to projecting a “girly” style; instead it’s expanding to include a variety of looks that used to only be acceptable if worn by men. With the rise of pant suits and blazers, tracksuits, baggy cargo pants or sweatpants, and joggers, the line that divides men’s and women’s fashion is quickly diminishing. The evolution of these trends directly correlates with the progress of feminism in society, and it not only says something about the change in which society views women, but in which women view themselves. The similar quality that brings all these trends together is that they’re all bold, statement pieces. In the past, designers wouldn’t think of these strong trends for women because they weren’t concerned with making women look powerful, but rather with reflecting qualities like sex appeal, fragility, and femininity. Now, a lot of women strive to project strength and confidence, and designers are hearing them and creating these bold fashion statements.

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There are many ways that you can rock this new trend, and the look can vary from a simple outfit to an overall statement look. You can wear jeans and a top that allows the emphasis to stay on the dad sneakers. Or, you can take to the trend of contrasts and wear them with more dressy attire. Whether you wear them during the day with a sundress and jacket, or at night with a cocktail dress and blazer, you’re bound to turn heads Another unique option is to wear them with either a matching pantsuit, or possibly a multi-color blazer and pant set.

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It’s evident that designers and society together are making a bold statement that confidence in fashion and feeling good in your clothes is not limited to feminine styles like heels, but it extends to bulky sneakers that your Dad would totally rock. This journey of redefining fashion to create gender fluid trends and strong statements to empower women is an exciting beginning for not only designers, but also for women who have previously felt disconnected to women’s fashion.