Why You Should Embrace Trainers With Suits

Pairing soft tailoring with sportswear is officially à la mode. But how did this strange combination come to pass, and should you ignore it or get on board? Here Esquire's Style Director argues in defence of menswear's latest obsession.

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The world's fashion designers are having a laid back moment. The runways of London, Paris and Milan are awash with sports-inspired tailoring (think suit trousers with elasticated cuffs and two pieces made out of tracksuit jersey), high fashion cycling tops and beautifully crafted sneakers, invariably worn with suits.

The influence of sport on fashion is nothing new. There was a point in the late nineties when every bad boy musician, footballer or film star worth his obscenely bloated paycheck started wearing big baggy suits with T-shirts and trainers - namely those chunky shell toe Adidas Superstars, which Run D.M.C first championed in the early eighties.

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The thing to remember is, that look was intentionally sloppy. Brit pop, grunge, the rise of hip-hop and grime, all these movements encouraged a common departure from sartorial elegance and a move toward sports-inspired, comfort-focused dressing. To look smart was to look – as the yout' of the time would have put it – 'negative dope''.

Closer to home, grown men (read: Robbie Williams and Liam Gallagher) started wearing tracksuits out in public and hoodies replaced blazers as the outerwear of choice for, well, everyone under the age of 50. The first rash of the sports fashion (let's not call it spashion) revolution, as much inspired by the football terraces of the UK as it was by the cultural shift across the pond, was not about luxury or comfort – it was about non-conformity. The movement marked as much a statement of style as it did a two fingers up to the power structures of the time.

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Over the following years we flirted briefly with classic dressing. Daniel Craig wore structured Tom Ford suits in 2006's Casino Royale; while David Beckham sported a full three-piece Prince of Wales suit with correspondent shoes on Jonathan Ross' last BBC show in 2010, and HBO's Mad Men took over the world in 2007, albeit briefly.

Now, over the past year or so, we've seen a seismic shift back towards sports-inspired dressing. We realised, pretty quickly, that in this age of the internet -when we interact more with a screen than we do face-to-face – looking traditionally smart comes second to feeling comfortable. Designers across the board have started producing tailored suits out of fabrics like cashmere jersey and chino cotton. Traditional canvasing (a process of lining the panels of a suit with stiff camel hair to give it structure) has been thrown out in favour of insouciant slouch.

One of the most prevalent and – to my mind - appealing shifts in this move towards sports-inspired style is the aforementioned resurgence of suits worn with trainers.

These days, though, the motives are different to what they were in the nineties and early noughties. We're less desperate to swerve conformity now than we were a few decades ago. Right now we're all about looking approachable – just like the dotcom billionaires who are shaping society do, in their open neck shirts and comfort-fit jeans.

The internet has not only increased our desire for ease, its helped to break down traditional style barriers - particularly those relating to the work place and notions of class. Today, so long as your clothes are cut to fit, the fabrics looks good and they're clean, you can pretty much wear whatever you like on your feet.

It's not just a socio-political thing either; sneakers worn with suits can actually look very stylish. A pair of sparkling white Adidas Stan Smiths worn with a beautifully cut midnight blue hopsack two-piece, for instance, will look elegant and like you care – but not too much. Likewise, a pair of high-top cream Converse All Stars worn with a cuffed suit trouser and a contrasting blazer will look chic and understated instead of stuffy – and who doesn't want that?

It goes without saying that this fluid approach to dressing stops short of justifying poorly-cut Teflon-coated suits worn with neon running trainers – a look being championed daily by a certain facet of the commuter community, but the sneaker and suit trend, with all its opportunity for comfort and understatement, is – to my mind – a very welcome one indeed.