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Uneven steps: the female demand for ‘sneakers’ that only finds male supply | Present

The first time that sneakers were called sneakers, at least officially, was at the end of the 19th century, specifically in 1887, when the Boston Journal referred to “the way the boys nickname his tennis shoes. Sneak up, in English, is an expression that refers to walking stealthily, without being heard. The rubber sole of these shoes, as opposed to the wooden sole of the rest, made them popularly called that. But it was they, not them, who could take those silent steps: in a social context, the turn of the century, where women reflected with their uncomfortable and profuse clothing the social position of their husbands and men, however, the culture of effort and rigor through almost uniformed suits. Innovations in men’s fashion entered through sports. This is how the point, derby shoes or, later, sneakers were “little by little revolutionizing the men’s wardrobe”, says historian Elizabeth Wilson in the book Adorned in Dreams: Fashion and Modernity (Bloomsbury, 2020), in which also alludes to the only great exception: “Coco Chanel’s genius is due to having been able to adapt elements of men’s sportswear for women in their day-to-day life.” More than a century later, when the media began to talk about the boom in the menswear market, back in 2015, luxury brands began to hit the catwalk with three and even four-figure sneakers, tracksuits and sweatshirts. That the rise of sports or urban fashion coincided precisely with the need to introduce men into the spiral of sales was no coincidence. Women’s demand, men’s supply One only needs to look at the ground to see that women also wear sneakers, and for reasons that go far beyond comfort. As detailed by StockX, the largest platform for the sale of collector’s sneakers, “the number of buyers has doubled in the last six years. Every four hours we sell the same number of women’s models as we did in 2016 every six months.” The best-selling women’s model is the Jordan 1 Retro High, that is, the white, black and red sneakers that Michael Jordan made fashionable in 1984 when he broke the ban on playing with them for violating the regulation color regulations. Despite being a global success, it took 14 years to produce it in women’s sizes. “One of the reasons why the sneaker culture has been the exclusive province of men is the traditional idea that women are the “weaker sex” and attempts to maintain this fallacy have meant that during the 20th century the sport is associated with the rhetoric of virility”, says Elizabeth Semmelhack, director of the Bata Show Museum in Toronto and author of Sneakers x Culture (Rizzoli, 219), who states: “Storytelling to sell sneakers has historically been related to constructions of classical masculinity. Like luxury bags, sneakers is a sector whose most emblematic models have been associated with stories with their own name. But if the Kelly (Hermès), the Jackie (Gucci) or the Lady Dior are named for the beauty and social notoriety of their muses, the Chuck Taylors, the Stan Smiths or the Jordans do so for heroic deeds, using the war rhetoric, which in many cases is similar to sports, of those who made them fashionable. They inspire for their beauty, they for their capabilities. Nothing new, if it weren’t for the fact that the first model of women’s sneakers was created in 1982, a Reebok Freestyle, and it wasn’t exactly to be associated with female athletes. “Until the 1976 Boston Marathon, women couldn’t compete in this sport,” explains Raquel Vieira, a sneaker expert. “Today there is still a lot of male presence in the design sector and that influences the product,” she adds. In the collective imagination, the union of women and sneakers also has its own name, that of Melanie Griffith in Women’s Weapons arriving at the office and changing them for heels. The tape portrayed the transport strike that took place in New York in 1980, when women put on their shoes to walk to their jobs. Two years later, Reebok takes advantage of the emerging market. But it was not until 1995 that the Nike company launched the Air Swoopes model, in collaboration with (and in tribute to) the basketball player Sheryl Swoopes. “I didn’t care if they were pretty or ugly, comfortable or uncomfortable, the fact that I could wear them in honor of a woman and not a man, as I used to do, was more than enough,” said Elena delle, also a basketball player. Donne in a 2016 Rolling Stone interview. Rihanna became Puma’s first female creative director in 2014. In the image, one of her designs, pink and with bows. Collecting and sorority Last March, Jordan, the brand owned by Nike, launched its Women’s Global Collective Program, a pioneering project made up of 33 women from all disciplines to ‘reinvent’ the legacy of the famous sneakers and make it more accessible to women not only in terms of the product, but also in their way of communicating it. “It is not only that many shoe models still do not have women’s sizes, it is that all the dynamics that surround this market, such as drops (the fast and exclusive sales that are made in certain physical stores or through brand applications) are aimed at them”, explains Jourdan Ash, a member of this initiative and creator of True to Us, a platform dedicated to making visible and connecting the women behind this industry. Because there are, there are. In fact, in the last decade three women have designed different styles of Jordan: the filmmaker Vashtie Kola in 2010, the stylist Aleali May in 2017 or, more recently, the designer Melody Ehsani, whose latest unisex model earned her being named creative director of Foot Locker, since it holds today. “There are many women designing for big brands, and more importantly, also designing men’s shoes. The problem is that they rarely communicate”, says Elizabeth Semmelhack. In the last five years, successful sneaker firms created by women have been born, such as the Danish Naked (which has just launched its sixth Adidas collaboration) or the North American Moolah Kicks, focused on women’s basketball. Accounts such as the aforementioned True to Us, Sneakers by Women or If I Can’t Wear Sneakers (which only accepts women) are responsible for giving them visibility, as well as stores run by them or female sneakerheads, the term used to talk about collectors of historical models. The website Sole Savy, an information platform for drops, releases and reissues, created a private Slack chat for its female members last year as a rehearsal for the launch of a platform, also under registration, just for them. “Given the harassment and problems they encounter on the platform, we have decided to create a safe space where they can access information while feeling comfortable. You cannot create a community if you are not welcome”, wrote Anna Bediones, director of strategy at Sole Savy, in the press release announcing the launch. On Reddit, the forum that contains almost everything, there are several threads in which users post, thankfully with critical intent, videos of male sneaker buffs making fun of women. “The girls wear Air Force 1 (a fairly common model) and they think they are specialists,” says, for example, one of them. “It is hard to find women in this culture. Now perhaps less, but at first I surrounded myself with men”, says Raquel Vieira, press officer for Lacoste in Spain and former editor of the Spanish edition of Sneaker Freaker, one of the most influential magazines in the sector. “The problem is that many experts feel insecure when it comes to entering collectors’ circles, because they see them as newbies, although that is not true at all,” explains Jourdan Ash. “There is an unwritten rule that has been applied to the women’s sneaker market by the big brands: ‘Shrink ’em and paint ’em pink.’ Obviously, it doesn’t work,” says Elizabeth Semmelhack. So much so, that last year, in the field of women’s athletic shoes, Brooks, an American brand specializing in this market niche (and which was born making ballet shoes), outperformed Nike and Adidas by offering , precisely, footwear adapted to women’s sports and not merely a translation into smaller sizes of existing models. This has led to brands such as Lululemon or Under Armor in recent weeks launching specific models designed with women’s anatomy in mind. But there is a long way to go. “The rise of great female athletes is not translating into long-term collaborations, as it is happening with men,” says Semmelhack. Or as happened in the case of Simone Biles, women prefer to associate with more related brands. In fact, the gymnast left Nike to go with Athleta. Question of checkbook, but also of values.

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– Article Written By @Leticia García from https://smoda.elpais.com/moda/actualidad/pasos-desiguales-la-demanda-femenina-de-sneakers-que-solo-encuentra-oferta-masculina/

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