If there’s one shoe that never lost its luster over the past year, it’s sneakers. Yes, thick socks, cozy slippers, and shearling-lined slip-ons had a solid place in the rotation. But sneakers remained a functional favorite, whether for errands, a sanity walk, or a socially-distanced stroll with a friend. Now, with a new season at your footsteps, it’s time to take stock of spring 2021’s biggest sneaker trends.
“Sneakers have had a really interesting evolution over time,” Celenie Seidel, senior womenswear editor at Farfetch, tells TZR. “Today, the sneaker category functions within its own microclimate, with a high turnover of trends that warrants a huge amount of hype and demand from fans.” While sneakerheads are one reason brands continue to churn out new iterations more rapidly, the global pandemic intensified the spotlight. Even those who wouldn’t have considered the sporty shoe before have become interested, if not a convert. Siedel says, “Naturally, during a year of lockdown, customers have turned to flats more than ever before, becoming part of an interesting new, functional wardrobe hybrid that combines ready-to-wear with sportswear.”
Echoing Seidel, Will Cooper, senior vice president and GMM of women’s shoes at Saks Fifth Avenue, says sneakers have evolved into a staple of everyday fashion, now serving as one of the key pillars of building a wardrobe and expressing personal style. “We continue to see a ton of sneakers on the runway and on social media, styled creatively with suits, dresses, and everything in between,” he tells TZR. With many options on the market, including chunky, sport, clean, retro, logo, and pastel styles, Cooper says customers, celebrities, and influencers are building massive sneaker collections and treating sneakers as somewhat of a status symbol. “It’s no longer enough to only have one pair of sneakers in your closet, and we are seeing our clients buying multiple styles to have a sneaker for every occasion,” he says.
Wherever you lie on the sneaker spectrum, keep reading to discover the six biggest sneaker trends of the moment and shop the edit, ranging from cult-design collabs to under-$100 options.
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2021 Sneaker Trend: Pastel Sneakers
“Pastel sneakers will be big for spring and summer,” Cooper tells TZR. “Think après-picnic! Pretty pastel styles from Off-White and Givenchy pair perfectly with summer dresses and denim.”
2021 Sneaker Trend: Chunky Sneakers
“Chunky sneakers will continue to be a major trend this season,” Cooper says. “Gucci, Balenciaga, Givenchy, and Fendi have been leaders in this category and continue to deliver sporty silhouettes that can be styled effortlessly with knitwear this spring.”
2021 Sneaker Trend: Low-Profile Retro Sneakers
Though chunky sneakers remain, Seidel says slimmer retro styles are the next wave and perhaps the antidote for those uninterested in heft. “After years of the chunky tech trainer, we’re seeing a shift toward much more streamlined, ‘70s-inspired sneakers,” Seidel says. “With a much more refined, grown-up feel, these are almost a reaction to the widely celebrated ‘ugliness’ of the tech trainer.” To fully lean into this trend, the Farfetch editor suggests pairing a low-profile sneaker with a retro-inspired tracksuit.
2021 Sneaker Trend: Hype Collabs
Produced in limited runs and, in some cases, released via raffle, sneaker collaborations like Wales Bonner x Adidas, Maison Margiela x Reebok, and Ambush x Nike Dunk High, always garner hype. It’s a trend Seidel says will continue due to the rarity of the design, and as Cooper said, a status symbol. “Sneakers produced in collaboration between celebrated brands and trusted sportswear companies are filling an important space in the sneaker world,” Seidel explains.
2021 Sneaker Trend: Clean & Simple Sneakers
“Clean and simple sneakers by Veja, Prada, and Alexander McQueen are warm-weather wardrobe staples,” Cooper says of the continuing minimalist sneaker trend. “Try styling them with summer suits and cotton poplin pieces for an elevated and classic look.”
2021 Sneaker Trend: Designer Sneakers
What can satiate the growing appetite for sneakers, particularly among luxury lovers? New designer releases — another prominent trend, according to Seidel. “On one end of the scale, you have brands with established streetwear customers such as Off-White with their new, hotly anticipated Out of Office sneaker balanced out by brands such as Miu Miu, who for Spring/Summer 2021 delivered a polarizing, kitten-heeled, square-toed lace-up sneaker for their bold and adventurous audience,” the Farfetch editor says.