White sneakers are the euro tart of fashion.
This is the best metaphor I have ever thought of. It is such a good metaphor, in fact, that it surpasses metaphorical status. It’s synonymical.
Think about it.
Well, first of all, they are both clean and pure enough to be sung about by Madonna, touched (by sprinkles or perhaps a muddy sidewalk puddle) for the very first time. They are staples within their respective homes; a wardrobe and a frozen yogurt store. Skinny girls seem to love them. They are not for everyone, though. They are plain objects that with proper accessorizing/through bringing in the biggest guns can be the perfect statement. Most importantly, however, they smudge the boundary between classic and basic in a way that drives me mad.
Today, the white sneaker masks itself as a new phenomenon by embodying the Stan Smith (this is where euro tart and white sneakers diverge paths – euro tart knows it is the original, as it is often even referred to as “original,” and never pretends to be reinvented; however, one could argue that the Stan Smith sneaker is technically an “Adidas Original,” thus the white sneaker is labeling itself old school/original as well, which I may not disagree with – so then the paths might not diverge – so I should probably just let myself continue outside of the parenthetical to get to that point, so very sorry for this diverged path in itself, v v sorry).
Let’s turn this into a PBS documentary and trace the original sneaker back to its, um, origins. About three months before the Stan Smith, the white sneaker of choice was the high top Superga, and three months before that it was the low top Superga, and two years before that it was the classic white low top Converse (high top if you were feeling edgy but the low top was always more abundant). Before that, I’d like to say maybe white slip-on Vans? Lace up Vans? But that is completely dependent upon where you grew up, where you went to school, and how readily your style adapted to the cool girls vs. the Fall Out Boy phenomenon or maybe you always had a unique sense of style and skipped all of those phases completely, and so on and so forth.
Wanna know the funny thing? Even if you don’t, I’m going to tell you:
The low top white Superga, which is seemingly the most popular at the moment (the Stan Smiths are the “trendiest” but not the most accessible, leading to the rise of the Great White Superga – it is practically impossible to purchase a pair of Stan Smiths on any retail website until mid- to late-July at the absolute earliest), appears to be the OG euro tart, if that phrasing wasn’t too redundant for you.
And I know this because when I bought my first pair of white Supergas exactly one year ago, my mom went into her closet and came out wearing shoes identical to mine. “1989, baby,” she said with the same evil grin that took over her face when I recently bought a platform pair of Birkenstock-like sandals to match the ones she forced me to wear as a child (hers are also from the 80s) or when she refused to throw away her 80s pair of Uggs because she was loud and proud about being the first one to own a pair. Yes, some could call my mother a trendsetter, but because she hits the trends 10 to 20 years before they’re popular, she is rarely deemed fashionable (by me).
There is another funny thing about the Legacy of the Great White to point out: the difference between the dirty white sneaker and the clean white sneaker. I have some friends who insist upon having a pair of each. When they want the aesthetic of the white sneaker but know they are entering a dangerously dirty environment, they go for the already worn, scuffed, muddied white shoe. When they are going out to dinner, or are trying to look as fleek as fleek shall be, they wear the clean white sneaker.
My once-starchy Supergas finally succumbed to a weekend of day drinking and have entered the dark side. Even after a good run in the laundry, they’re weathered and aged, but in a Meryl Streep sort of way. I wanted to get the Stan Smiths, but they were sold out so I settled on what I perceive to be an equally as cool pair of black suede Originals, which I see as a serious adult-y upgrade from high school’s bar-laced black Supergas.
But who am I kidding? I’ve never really loved euro tart that much anyway.
“You look so cute! Are you going to the gym later?” I asked my good friend Allie after running into her in the street. In a non-offensive way, I was pleasantly surprised to see her so put-together in workout clothes (I know her writing well, which often pokes fun at her history with dieting and reluctance to work out, so no I wasn’t being a total asshole).
“Nope! Nope! Not really!” she smiled. And this is why I love Allie.
So I told her, “Jesus, I fucking love you,” and we continued walking in opposite directions down the street, me to get coffee and her, to do something that didn’t involve cardio.
Rewind a bit. I was “pleasantly surprised to see her so put-together in workout clothes,” which I said because it was true and not so I could properly set up the point I’m about to make.
Now, zoom: “so put-together in workout clothes.”
Since when is that a thing? A thing that’s such a thing that it’s already engrained in my subconscious, like I don’t even have to deliberate whether or not Allie looked put together and consider her Lulu Lemon a part of that, but I sight-read the situation and BAM, it was automatic love, Allie looked good.
Usually, when I put on workout clothes in the morning, it’s to push myself to make it to the gym at some point later. This is a method we like to call “No Excuses.” Rarely do I go to the trouble of putting on full workout attire, sports bra included, with zero intention of going to the gym. Sports bras are just hard to put on sometimes, and smush the boobs, so I generally opt for the “complete slob” look which is yoga leggings and a sweater and sneakers and regular/no bra.
But the funny thing is that if I were to wear head-to-toe workout clothes–and real fancy workout clothes, not an old college t-shirt–I would look way chicer than I do in the “complete slob” look though an equally minimal effort was put into both outfits.
I understand the phenomenon, but it still entertains me. It’s like my theory of the Green Juice Effect (you can read about it here), which was discovered after I walked around Madison Square Park, green juice in hand. There, something magical happened, and the strangers around me ignored my resting bitch face for once. They smiled at me, they looked at me, and that’s greater than any Hanukkah miracle I’ve ever experienced. I realized that green juice was the newest accessory, and carrying it was an easy way of saying “I care about my body,” “I am fit,” “I suffer via blended greens for the sake of that healthy glow, hell yeah I do,” and even “I have the extra cash to buy overpriced green juice instead of something from the office cafeteria.”
Over the last year-ish, workout clothing has done the same thing. It’s a twofer–your body is covered in clothing, and the clothing accessorizes your personality even better than that monogrammed necklace you got for graduation.
As for when working out became a status symbol? I really don’t know. Maybe it was the rise of the $35, 45 minute SoulCycle class, which I can’t imagine paying for six days a week, or when Net-a-Porter started selling $900 Fendi stretch jersey stirrup leggings. A body is the one thing everyone has. Obviously there was a time in the early 80s when not all of America could afford Jane Fonda workout videos, so I suppose physical fitness has always somehow been divided by socioeconomic status. But still, working out now isn’t nearly as cool unless you look good doing it, which is particularly annoying when you aren’t seeing #results and god should just throw you a bone and give you a good pair of mesh cutout spandex (that rarely sell for below $80, by the way).
The new intersection between what you wear to the courts and what you wear to dinner is a whole different story. I never thought I would wear Nike Frees with jeans but hey, shit happens. Normcore happens. Ugh, normcore.
I wouldn’t say I come from a family of monograms. Or monogrammers. It wasn’t something I grew up with. But now that I’ve grown up, or am a good ways there, monograms are sprouting up like tiny molten lava islands. Especially on my Instagram feed.
So not only are people obsessed with monogramming, but they are obsessed with Instagramming their newly monogrammed objects. These people, it seems, tend to be in their mid to late twenties and are often in a self-proclaimed quarter-life crisis. If you have your shit together enough to be monogramming, then I don’t see where the crisis lies, but that’s beside the point.
One who enjoys monograms, in my mind, is also preppy. And if the monogrammer is not preppy, then she is a grandma. Monograms are the kinds of things that look good on my grandma’s sterling cutlery and on the towels in her powder room. The best way to describe the type of woman my grandma was is sort of through her cutlery. She had monogrammed forks, knives, spoons, but then also napkin rings, soup spoons, dessert forks–the whole nine yards. When we’d set the table together for a big holiday dinner, we’d give certain relatives certain cutlery because of how the letters corresponded with their names. The silverware, for the most part, was monogrammed with “S” for Sauer. The napkin rings, though? I eventually found out that my grandma was able to have different ones that correlated to the most important people in her life not because she custom ordered them or had them engraved, but because she founds ones close enough to our initials on eBay. She always loved eBay.
A few college kids will still carry monogrammed L.L. Bean backpacks. These are the same people who carried those backpacks at camp when we were eight, so I don’t consider those monograms as much as I consider them actual ways for people to keep track of their stuff.
The other monogrammed thing that’s big right now is the teenaged girl version of a “chain”–the $700 necklaces high school girls are wearing, with monogram charms the size of my palm. I like these, actually, even though they’re really large in size and in-the-face. I don’t hate them at all. They are just a token sign of being a tribe member, one of the chosen ones.
I only own one monogrammed item so far in my relatively short life: a green leather mini-tote my mom bought for me when we went to Florence together. It isn’t a big monogram. It’s not one of those intricately designed cursive ones, either. It’s just my two initials stamped toward the top of one side of the bag. They didn’t engrave it or anything fancy like that. The most genuinely, simply, and naturally boho chic Italian woman who worked at the leather store imprinted it with these stamps that were oddly similar, perhaps identical, to the ones I used in the silversmithing art shop at sleepaway camp. In other words, if I could do that when I was 13, it must not be very legit monogramming, or at least very intense monogramming. It’s so small that I usually forget it’s even there.
What I understand and appreciate most about the monogram is how it adds a timelessness to your things, or it at least proves their timelessness. Those pieces are not ephemeral trends but heirlooms. They are things that will be yours, forever, like a husband. And they’re not just material pieces, but they are the pieces that you consider to be a part of you. You share initials, anyway.
I asked my mom why she thinks people monogram their shit, and this is what she said: “It looks more formal and fancy, and it’s a way to stamp ownership on it.”
My real question is why, in my mind, the monogram is so intertwined with such a specific group of people, a specific culture, a way of dressing, and even with a period of life?
Well, that question is surprisingly answerable. Monogramming costs money. Any piece–a little towel or a napkin ring or a tote bag–can be invaluable to a family without being monogrammed, too. That’s just a luxury, albeit unnecessary, that some people can afford. Buying something monogrammed, having something monogrammed, is like getting a new charm for your charm bracelet, or another link for your Nomination bracelet. Tee-bee-tee. You don’t need that extra little thing for the bracelet to be wearable or to exist, but it apparently makes all the difference in the world.
That all aside, there’s no way all people are obsessed with monograms because of the individuality it gives to an otherwise unoriginal object. There’s no way 20-somethings are concerned with the longevity of their objects. We just don’t think that far ahead.
But then again, maybe the people getting the monograms are the ones that do.