Kamala Harris on Her Viral Converse Sneaker Moment: 'People Don't Expect It'

Hanna Flanagan
·4 min read

Sen. Kamala Harris made history as the first African American and the first Asian American to run for vice president on a major party ticket, and she made another first while campaigning for the 2020 presidential election too, by embracing a casual sneaker style.

In a new interview for Complex's Sneaker Shopping series, Harris, 56, opened up about her love of Converse Chuck Taylors and reflected on the viral moment her shoes created.

Earlier this month, Harris sent the Internet into a frenzy when she stepped off a plane in Milwaukee, Wisconsin wearing a blazer, dark wash jeans, a face mask and her comfy Chuck Taylors on Monday, Sept. 7 (by Tuesday morning, videos of her arrival had been viewed nearly 8 million times on Twitter, according to the Washington Post).

Complex/YouTube

"I love my Chucks … you know, I think it's maybe people don't expect it, but also it's a statement about who we really are. Everybody has their inner kind of Chuck look," she said with a laugh. "I also think it has to do with the fact we all want to go back to some basic stuff about who we are as a country. Chucks—whatever your background is, whatever language your grandmother spoke—you know, we all at some point or another had our Chucks."

Complex's Joe La Puma asked what Joe Biden had to say over the social media moment. "When the shoes went viral, did Joe notice? Are we stepping the former vice president’s sneaker game up maybe?" La Puma asked. Harris laughed, then replied: "You know, Joe’s got his aviators. Joe’s got a really good look."

Harris also hinted that the strict White House dress code might be more lax if she and Biden win the election, adding, "Here’s the thing: it’s not about loosening up [the dress code] — it’s about lacing up!”

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While she's known for her cool and casual footwear choices on the campaign trail today, back in her college days at Howard University in the early 1980s she was rarely in sneakers at all.

"[Howard University Classmate] Sonya Lockett said that there were no sweatpants going to 8 a.m. class. You guy always made sure that the style was on point," La Puma said in the clip. "What were the footwear choices back then?"

"Let’s see. A lot of heels. I mean, very rarely were we wearing tennis shoes," Harris replied. "We never dressed down."

Complex/YouTube

After the interview, the senator went sneaker shopping and almost immediately decided on a pair of vote-themed high-top Converse Chuck Taylors that support Historically Black Colleges. The collaboration between Social Status and Nina Chanel (inspired by none other than Harris herself!) features political pins and is emblazoned with the year 2020.

"Listen, everything is on the line in 2020," I love how [Chanel] has a heart here. Let's just understand that, motivated by love, we can actually be active and change what needs to get done...I always say we need to be joyful warriors in our fight for equality; in our fight for fairness."

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The Complex interview comes after Harris sat down with CBS's 60 Minutes, during which she answered questions about her voting records and laughed when host Norah O’Donnell asked if she has a "socialist or progressive perspective."

"No. No," she said. "It is the perspective of-- of a woman who grew up-- a Black child in America, who was also a prosecutor, who also has a mother who arrived here at the age of 19 from India. Who also, you know, l-- likes hip hop."

"What I will do, and I promise you this, and this is what Joe wants me to do, this was part of our deal, I will always share with him my lived experience as it relates to any issue that we confront," she said.

O’Donnell also raised criticism from Republicans that Harris is actually too liberal to be vice president, given some of the policies she has supported. But Harris pushed back.

“I am not going to be confined to Donald Trump's definition of who I or anybody else is. And I think America has learned that that would be a mistake,” she said.