Nowadays, the footwear signature you're likely to spot more often while shoe-stalking Fashion Week doesn't involve a Christian Louboutin red sole or Chloé scalloped leather. (Although, those still pop up quite often.) It's actually the Nike swoosh. Even before athleisure became the trend no one could stop talking about, editors, models, and influencers opened themselves out to wearing shoes that were — gasp! — actually comfortable. But Olivia Kim, vice president of creative projects at Nordstrom and mastermind behind the department store's upcoming in-store installations celebrating the Nike Air Max's 50th anniversary, makes something about the resurgence of Nike among the fashion set expressly clear. It's not so much that sneakers caught up with the street-style crowd, but rather that the street-style crowd finally caught up with sneakers (and, more broadly, comfortable footwear).
"Some of my earliest pop culture memories are of basketball players or hip-hop musicians and rappers wearing these [shoes]," Kim told Refinery29, noting that in the late '80s and early '90s we saw more athletes wearing their Nikes off the court — not as a way of promoting a design, but simply because they liked them, and that trend eventually seeped into the music industry. "It's always been part of the street scene." And, as we're well aware, the '90s are very zeitgeist-y right now, and many of the fashion pieces we associate with that era came back with it: "the basketball star, the girl groups like TLC and Salt-N-Pepa, Aaliyah — you look at how they were always incorporating sneakers into their style," Kim said. "At its core, Nike is a performance brand — and these sneakers are a performance sneaker — but through culture it’s become a bigger part of fashion; it's found its way back in."
Kim herself has been wearing Nikes since she was around five years old. As far as this childhood favorite making its way into her professional realm, she said it partly came out of necessity for editors and bloggers "literally running around from showroom to showroom to showroom — it’s vital not to destroy your feet in the process." While sneakers and a dress were once a quirky fashion faux-pas, now it's become cool. "There's probably a little bit of irony there, but a fashion statement, too."
Sneakers can usher in a more creative approach to styling, like, say, pairing some Nike kicks with seemingly incongruent pieces like a tulle dress or a sculptural skirt. That's what Kim had in mind when conceiving the Nordstrom x Nike boutique and in-store pop-ups in honor of Air Max Day on March 26th: "It’s not a fitness-only shop, but it's a fashion boutique with product for how women are really dressing today — it's a big Simone Rocha skirt with a Nike performance T-shirt, a cool leather jacket and a designer handbag, topped off with a pair of Air Max."
Maybe we're more aware of the Nike swoosh when it crops up in street-style shots each season, but there's been long been plenty fashion-fitness crossover inspiration. "I love Farrah Fawcett in her Nike Cortez, Andre Agassi, Serena and Venus Williams: These amazing style icons and athletes represent different types of people, different types of bodies," Kim said. "Nike still feels like it's a very easy common denominator for everyone, from athletes to musicians to style icons to normal teenagers."
Whether you're new to the fashion-sneaker trend or are frankly shocked that it took so long for everyone else to get with it (we know, we know), we figured there's no one quite as qualified to sing the praises of a good Nike-fied outfit as Kim. So, ahead, check out her commentary on seven of our favorite swoosh'ed-out looks from Fashion Month and speak to why it worked (and how you can recreate it at home). If that doesn't have you running out for a fresh pair, we don't know what will.
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