Can Stan Smith trainers survive the attentions of Matt Hancock?

The former health secretary wore a pair of the Adidas classics as he left the jungle after under-fire Balenciaga launched their own tie-in. Is there any coming back?

In 2022, the swiftest way to kill a trend is to see it championed by a Tory, a royal or Balenciaga.

This week, Adidas’s Stan Smith shoes managed to complete this triptych after they were worn by the former health secretary Matt Hancock and the royal-by-marriage Mike Tindall as they left the I’m A Celebrity jungle as losers. In November, the disgraced fashion label, Balenciaga, released its own battered pair of the tennis shoe for almost £700.

Released in 1963, briefly discontinued in 2011, and resurrected in 2014, for the past decade Stan Smiths have been to Gen X what Converse were to the NBA. Adidas’s most profitable shoe, by 2020 they had sold more than 100m pairs. They remain the most affordable item to infiltrate high fashion – seemingly untouched by inflation, a pair still costs about £45 – becoming the sweet spot between streetwear, fashion and tradition, beloved by Jay Z and Pharrell Williams as much as Kate Moss, Hugh Grant and Sienna Miller.

For Daniel-Yaw Miller, the editorial associate and streetwear expert at Business of Fashion, it is surprising they are still making headlines. “In 2022, Stan Smiths are everywhere and nowhere,” he says. “Their big appeal has always been that they are trend-avoidant – that’s why people loved them.”

Barack Obama wearing a pair of Stan Smiths Obama Foundation in Kuala Lumpur in December 2019.
Barack Obama wearing a pair of Stan Smiths Obama Foundation in Kuala Lumpur in December 2019. Photograph: Mohd Rasfan/AFP/Getty Images

Constructed from white leather and accented by a green heel tab, they are deliberately minimal, bordering on bland. According to Stan Smith himself, the tennis player and shoe’s namesake, this is what makes them remarkable. “It’s very comfortable. It’s very plain. There are no bells and whistles,” he told GQ in 2019. But they are also the footwear of the everyman. “They’re consistent and timeless, and very inoffensive – that’s the point, if you wear them, you blend in,” agrees Miller. Helpful, perhaps, if like Hancock you’re trying to rehabilitate yourself as an ordinary guy.

Global politics has always been more consumed with footwear than it would care to admit. From Italophile Rishi Sunak’s £450 Prada loafers, the down-to-earth New Balances preferred by Volodymyr Zelenskiy and Emmanuel Macron, John Fetterman’s Margiela workwear boots and the many pairs of Converse, worn by Kamala Harris and Theresa May.

The last great Stan Smith moment was Barack Obama who marked his post-presidential phase by wearing a pair to visit a foundation in Malaysia in 2019. Not since 2015, when then-Celine designer Phoebe Philo appeared from backstage wearing a pair after her show, had a pair of trainers gone viral before such a thing happened.

Stan Smiths may have fallen into fashion purgatory but they are alive and well in tech circles. In one of the “lavish” party videos posted by attendees on TikTok at a time, attendees were allegedly given a pair among other gifts. The videos leaked just as the social media giant was making huge layoffs.

They are also something Adidas will be banking on, after the fallout with Kanye West, whose Yeezy line accounted for as much as 8% of their bottom line. “It’s not a great time for Adidas is it,” agrees Miller.

British fashion designer Phoebe Philo in her Stan Smiths at the end of the Celine 2015 Spring/Summer ready-to-wear collection fashion show, in Paris, September 2015.
British fashion designer Phoebe Philo in her Stan Smiths at the end of the Celine 2015 Spring/Summer ready-to-wear collection fashion show, in Paris, September 2015. Photograph: François Guillot/AFP/Getty Images

So what should we be wearing? This past week good eggs, like David Hockney and Stormzy, wore a pair of Crocs. The glamerati – Jennifer Lopez, Kate Hudson and Jenna Coleman – are fans of Hoka Ones. Nostalgic trainers, such as Adidas Gazelles, are a favourite of Brad Pitt.

Luxury e-commerce site Yoox, say New Balance 327 and Nike Air Force are the biggest sellers of 2022, while Daniel-Yaw Miller prefers Asics – “they’re affordable, have a lovely shape”, and feel “relevant” because of their association with some of the more disenfranchised subcultures (they’re popular, he says, in Marseille, which sends an important message). Or you could simply look at Hancock’s girlfriend, Gina Coladangelo, who greeted Hancock in a pair of vegan Vejas.


Morwenna Ferrier

The GuardianTramp

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