Sneakerheads - the enduring popularity of trainers

David Hellqvist
Getty Images

They say investing in bricks and mortar is the safest way to generate money: buy a house and watch it increase in value year by year. That’s true, I’m sure, but not everyone can afford to buy houses left, right and centre. There must be other, less costly ways to safeguard and grow your life savings.

If you’re a sneakerhead with an eye for limited edition kicks, your hobby might just be the solution. Today, with male trainer obsession easily matching the famous female fascination with heels, buying and selling footwear is big business.

Trainer culture took shape in the late Eighties, early Nineties when music, fashion and art came together to create a way of life: streetwear. Since then, in one way or another, trainers have infiltrated society on every level. And even if it’s still frowned upon to wear them in formal settings, there are now brands specialising in “trainer shoes”, such as Common Projects.

But the foundation for trainers is still sportswear and that’s why no trainer forum is spot on without Nike and Adidas at the top. No other brands have dominated trainer culture as the American and German trainer giants.

VaporMax Flyknit Platinum, £160, Nike

Nike and Adidas lead the way because they not only have the legacy but also the technology to push trainers forward, whether it’s Nike’s Flyknit or Adidas’ Boost. And it’s that forward-thinking ethos that keeps pulling in the crowds. Quite literally. It’s not unusual for queues to stretch a few streets if a particularly popular style is dropping or a hyped collaboration is launching.

Orange NMD_R1, £109.95, Adidas

The trainer brands work with countless streetwear brands, such as Supreme and Palace, as well as high-end fashion designers such as Riccardo Tisci from Givenchy, Yohji Yamamoto, Comme des Garçons and Vetements on sartorial partnerships. The result is a cross-genre appeal as the trainer transcends fashion with its cultural currency.

Therein lies the appeal for men: the trainer is built on groundbreaking technology; it’s connected to sports heroes and perhaps individual moments of athletic achievement. Its cultural heritage means it can be traced to specific music trends or movements, such as that with the Adidas Superstar and Run-DMC for example.

Achillies low-top leather, £250, Common Projects

Most clothing, be it garments or footwear, achieve iconic status because of that connection. That’s where the huge fascination with re-releases comes in. Some brands even launch entire lines and sub-brands to highlight its historical importance.

Adidas Spezial is a great example of a brand looking back at its own history and picking out styles with an obsessive following and modernising them for the 21st century. The trick, for Adidas, Nike et al, is to get that balance between history and future right.

Suede and leather sneakers, £290, Lanvin

Trainers matter because they, quite literally, are the foundation on which an outfit is built, and often it’s the second thing about a person that one notices, after the face. No wonder people are prepared to queue overnight on a cold street corner to get hold of the style they desire, or cough up for inflated resale prices on eBay.

Bricks and mortar will never go out of fashion, but neither it seems will a good trainer.

With more than 250 stores, Westfield is the perfect place to update your trainer collection. For more information and to see a full list of stores, visit