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For the love of sneakers

Valerie McPhail

(7/6) The Fourth of July is the one and only holiday that truly ignites the summer season in my soul. Before moving to New York, my parents, twin sister and I would take the evening to drive down to Washington, DC for dinner together and then walk to the National Mall for fireworks. The evening out always inspired an opportunity to dress up. An embroidered slip dress, suede tasseled boots, cropped tops, skinny jeans and sneakers: all fashioned in the similar vein to how you would find the glamorous and unapologetically trendy parade in Soho. We wore clothes for other reasons: To offer self-expression, utter personality and to partake in the art of dressing, and all efforts served in the spirit of celebration. This consciousness always ensued a photo series of myself cheesing for the camera as the sun begins to set and the Washington Monument stood behind me, later posted on social mediaís favorite app, Instagram.

The moment of silence falls in anticipation for the sparkles that light up the nightís sky, there is a peace that blankets the journey home. As we drove north, passing the National Zoo, along the brick stone and forest green tresses that guide our path through Potomac, my momís Buick navigated among convertible Mercedes with their tops down and various other luxury cars, blasting music in order to enjoy their evening as much as one can when stuck in traffic.

As I consoled the exhilaration that thrived around me, the swiftness of these fast cars reflected against the sleek style of a short-sleeved, crisped white cropped button down, American Eagle jeans and black and grey New Balances: my outfit for the day. As the sound of my favorite songs on the radio lifted the ambience, I sank in my seat and relaxed to enjoy the moment. I was comfortable in my own space, in my own shoes. These in fact were my favorite part of the ensemble. A call to arms for simple statements and need for comfort within the clothes I wear; Sneakers were the best way to relate.

With over-interest in Nike Air Jordans, and Adidas Stan Smiths, a sneaker obsession has raged societyís interest in fashion. In the past three years, sneakers have become immeasurably trendy; a piece ladies can pair with their evening dresses and guys with their suits and ties. Among the designer sneakers that reinstate a sporty flare to fashion: Tory Burch, Coach and Michael Kors. My favorite pairs remain loyal to the brands with a heritage of rough and tough appeal. Comme de Garcon x Converse, Superga x Rodarte and a new curiosity for vintage high tops and skater culture has brought my attention to Vans. In the end, the fruits of this interest are significant to fashionís namesake in society. Designer brands have formed a market out from the practicality of a sneaker. As a result, fashion is becoming more relevant and accessible in our world. The shoe has changed the way I approach fashion.

Sneakerhead is defined as one who obsesses over sneakers. Typically spoken to portray a man, yet never used to discriminate, for a female can unashamedly account, the term describes a person who collects sneakers. This person is a connoisseur; they will advise others on knowledge and news involving the latest fashion and advancements in the sneaker world. Those who camp out in front of storefronts before newly released collaborations, say for instance, a pair of limited edition Kanye Westís Yeezus shoes, the dedicated and determined can relate. This is a culture that has developed within the fellowship of the fashion industry. They crave sneakers to make a point: they will compromise their time and spend their money on a piece of fashion. In response, brands are listening. Is it inspiration, catering to the customer, the sneaker is the best taste of fashion on the market right now.

A lot can be said about a fashion brand by how they design their shoes. Here in New York, shoes run our world. In this fashion kingdom, what sets footwear apart from other pieces of fashion is how vital they are a part of lifestyle. New Yorkers walk everywhere, and so, the right pair shoes are a necessity. Call it an investment. The fact that life in New York depends on a well-made pair of shoes must give a hint the future of fashionís relevance. Fashion is, and can develop into a cultural phenomenon. With footwear leading the way, a new perspective on fashion can arise. We can start to see the role of fashion in our world, how it is understood as an industry and a product in our lives.

Footwear was my first introduction into the business of fashion. My first retail job was working in sales at the womenís shoes department at my local Lord & Taylor. Typical for the fashion industry, the work was difficult in nature. I literally had to chase my paycheck: the job was commissioned based. As I work and live in New York, it feels that not much has changed, or maybe I was conditioned for competition. From my introduction to footwear sales, I have learned how crucial this piece of your outfit is before stepping out the door. A pair of shoes is like the last corner piece of your puzzle. It completes the final look.

That summer I spent a good portion of my paycheck on shoes. And not just on my first pair of Superga sneakers, but on wedges, combat boots, and ballet flats as well. I found every reason to buy shoes. They complemented every situation in my life: beach bum days in Miami, pub-crawls in Dublin and late night library sessions at the Mount. My new shoes would set the tone for every outfit I wore and every statement I made.

Now that I am in New York, I stick to a strict regimen loafers, ankle boots and sneakers. One could hardly ever see me wear flip flops óor at least I hope, for in a city where dogs use the sidewalk as their bathroom and trash circulates as the wind blows, I cringe at that sightó so then when I feel an urge, I wear wedges. They serve as an alternative to boots during the summertime and add an extra height for more dressier days to nights. In the city that never sleeps, there is a dire need for a shoe that will allow you to stay on the run. Practicality is a prerequisite.

For men with a more traditional flare:

Sneakers for men are a summer favorite. It is a style I discovered while aimlessly perusing on Instagram, only to find that one of my favorite socialites in the fashion industry had snapped a picture of the shoes while out at sea. The image has yet to cease inspiration on how I imagine gentlemen to dress. These shoes, decorated with tassels, leather tough as concrete and a rubber sole will deem appropriate where flip-flops and fisherman sandals cannot venture. This style launched in the 1930s, is model sent from Norwegian sensibility. Now a style embraced by men and women, the loafer is a design of refined style and high class.

Despite the lack of variety in shoe styles for men, they should consider the different kinds. Runway appearances of this fancy footwear appeared in Etroís Menís Spring 2016 Collection with shining colors as Gucciís Menís Spring 2016 Show recreated its classic style with fun prints of intricate design.

A new type of tennis shoe for women

With celestial grace and minimalist liberty, the silver slip-on shoe fashioned with Calvin Kleinís Spring 2016 Collection is without a doubt a summer staple. Tommy Hilfiger offered the same design but with more of a festive attention to color. This design has jet set into a variety of styles including leather, canvas and suede. In the end, these choices do not need to disrupt its purpose: the slip on shoe is effortless, uncomplicated and easy-to-wear.

Perhaps I am shoe obsessed. I have affinity for my New Balances, a fondness for Superga and past for racking up on shoes. Forget the flip-flops, summer can be just as comfortable and stylish in sneakers. However, the progression between high-fashion and luxury collides, there will always be the classic loafer for men and straightforward styles for women. These styles will remain a standard even when footwear trends encourage a little firecracker in your step.

Read other articles by Valerie McPhail