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Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty

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The Holy Grail of Sneakers Is One Beloved by Father and Son

Why dad shoes are everywhere right now

Ask your dad why stylish people around the world are wearing his shoes and he might tell you that’s impossible — he’s only got the one pair, after all. But ever since the normcore trend gripped the old-feeling-hearts of New York City youths, dad’s have been a constant source of sartorial inspiration. Suddenly, there was nothing hotter than a ratty old sweater and some New Balance shoes. But eventually, we moved on, our bodies exorcising anything and everything #normcore. Only dad caps, the cockroaches of the movement, survived. A recent run of sneaker releases, though, have our feet appropriating daddy culture again.


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While normcore was more about dredging up what was in the back of your, your dad, or your nearby vintage store’s proverbial closet, brands like Under Armour, Nike, and even Supreme are making sneakers you give as an appropriate Father’s Day gift. Under Armour’s Steph Curry shoes were roasted over an open flame, or one of those outdoor grills your dad desperately wants, for their dadliness. Jimmy Kimmel even created a sketch mocking the kicks for its paternal qualities. Highsnobiety described a recent Supreme x Timberland release as "dadcore." When Andrew Wiggins’ Crazy Explosives were leaked onto the internet, Uproxx’s basketball magazine Dime joked the sneakers would be "available at REI nationwide" — which is perfect since your dad is probably headed that direction anyway.

adidas Crazy Explosive Primeknit "Andrew Wiggins" Home PE

A photo posted by @aaronknowss on

The middle section in a Venn diagram comparing dads and sneakerheads is presumably small, but if brands can capture both individually they’ll inevitably have a hit on their hands. Brands are chasing the sneakerhead bump and the dad longevity at the same time. "You don't want to be two steps behind, but I think sometimes you have to be realistic with your products, too," Complex’s sneaker editor Matt Welty says. "Not everything Nike makes is a NikeLab [which produces the brand’s most cutting-edge shoes] release. If they did that the brand I don't think would be as successful as it is." It’s possible that what these brands are trying to do is thread the needle and create a shoe that has crossover appeal. As Welty and owner of KicksUnderCost and special projects manager at Concepts Tyler Blake pointed out, the dad shoe of choice, the Nike Air Monarch, is the best-selling shoe in the brand’s history.

And while Steph Curry’s shoe embodies dad style, do they meet Bank of Dad’s low-ceiling loan requirements? The Air Monarchs cost a very friendly $55 while the Steph Curry 2s clock in at $120. Does that make all the difference for a Real Dad? We asked a few and were surprised to find that this was well within the price range of a very limited sample of dads. "If I go to Runners World they are around $100-125," one said. Another, in true dad fashion, knew his limits: $116.95 for "every day" shoes. They also understood the value of a performance shoe versus a more lifestyle-leaning basketball sneaker. "Running shoes: $75 - $125; Basketball shoes: $125+" one dad said.

Photo: Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty

None of these dad shoes have been able to land in the middle ground between the hype of Yeezys and the physical-therapist-recommended support of the Monarchs, though. "I would imagine designers are taking risks on new colorways or designs to make a sneaker silhouette or colorway that stands out and often missing the mark," Blake says. This is, of course, according to internet commenters who have taken advantage of the sneaker’s jolie laide qualities to garner retweets on Twitter.

Objective numbers argue otherwise. Steph Curry’s much-maligned shoes have sold well and the MVP’s line of Under Armour sneakers have driven a massive revenue increase for the brand. Blake adds that the Curry shoes sold "extremely well" at his site. At what point are dollars not good enough for these brands? "Does Under Armour sell? Yes. Is Under Armour cool? I don't know. The jury's still out," Welty says. It’s an interesting dichotomy in a world where Adidas is betting on the other side of the business. While sales of performance gear make up the bulk for any brand, Under Armour appears to be skewing one way while brands like Adidas throw money at celebrities who might not directly make a massive impression in terms of revenue but bring an intangible cool — something that Under Armour is still searching for. Although having reigning MVPs from two major sports leagues — Curry in the NBA and Cam Newton in the NFL — like Under Armour does is a boon, but Curry and Netown can’t go two-on-everyone and compete against Adidas’ roster, which boasts Kanye, Pharrell, Pusha T, Nigo, Raf Simons, Rick Owens, and Y-3 among others.

Under Armour is known for their performance apparel and shoes — although they’ve made inroads into the Fashion world by creating a line with Belgian designer Tim Coppens — so it’s worth a shot to see if it can combine function and fashion. "Footwear brands can get away with making things that look more dad-like than a lot of people would believe that they could, and it sells," Welty says.

The sky high sales of the Air Monarch are proof that shoes like this can be a tentpole for brands and NPD Group retail analyst Matt Powell suggested to The Baltimore Sun that Under Armour is looking for its own Air Monarch with its Steph Curry shoes. Like the Air Monarch, the Steph Curry shoe is all-white, a big seller in the sneaker world. "I worked in sneaker stores for seven years, and all white shoes are just an easy sell," Welty explains. "It's summertime, it's all white shoe. I think that Under Armour just thought that that was kind of like a layup, literally." Welty even wrote an article for Complex earlier this year about efforts to make the Monarch cool. The shoe is frequently mentioned on lists of top-selling shoes among trendier styles with shorter shelf lives.

Like the Currys, each of the new crop of fatherly shoes has a reason — or excuse — for its dadiness. Wiggins, a member of the Minnesota Timberwolves, is promoting a shoe that is done up in his team’s colors, and its hiker boot qualities are perfect for stomping around in the woods (part of the team’s logo, no less). Welty imagines that Supreme is catering its shoe to a hip-hop community that has always co-opted brands that dads love: Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger, Nautica.

The through-line for all of them though is that it’s worth it for brands to chase this holy grail of shoes — one that appeals to sneakerheads and dads alike. Because you know what’s cooler than a hyped drop that sells out in one day? A pair of shoes that just sells a fuckton all the time.


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