As politicians and CEOs kick off their shoes, are sneakers now the smart choice? | Fashion



Heels or flats? It’s a typical dress question and one that British Prime Minister Liz Truss faced last week. During an early morning visit to the Conservative Party’s annual conference, followed by an interview on Sky News at lunchtime on Tuesday, Truss swapped his usual heels for white trainers.

Boris Johnson may have worn ruffled suits with his shirttails dangling in power, but few expected to see the Prime Minister on duty in a pair of £138 trainers from British retailer Reiss.

Truss is not the first politician to wear them in public. Presidents Volodymyr Zelenskiy and Emmanuel Macron were photographed in New Balance, while former President Barack Obama regularly sported Stan Smiths. However, context is key. Zelenskiy is in a war zone, but Macron and Obama were photographed technically “off duty” in public spaces.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy wears sneakers. Photo: Valentin Ogirenko/Reuters

During a by-election campaign in 2016, Theresa May was photographed in leopard-print sneakers and in 2021, while preparing the budget, Rishi Sunak tapped into the favorite trend of Gen Z socks and sliders.

This begs the question in 2022, is there a place now where sneakers can’t be worn?

While Harrods may have ditched its infamous dress code, sneakers are still banned at the Ritz. A Lloyds Banking Group spokesperson said that since spring 2019 they have had a ‘dress for your day’ policy in place. For face-to-face customer meetings, evening dress is required, while for a “desk day”, many traders leave their sneakers after a gym session at noon.

A graduate employee of a major bank in the city, who did not want to be named, explained that after the lockdown, her company’s dress code was updated. Trainers are now allowed in the office but have been barred from seeing clients unless they are ‘smart and smart’. (She points out that a simple trainer from Common Projects or Axel Arigato might fit the brief.)

Mark Zuckerberg in his signature sneakers and hoodie.
Mark Zuckerberg in his signature sneakers and hoodie. Photography: Arnaldo Magnani/Getty Images

We’re used to seeing Silicon Valley “tech brothers” like Meta’s Mark Zuckerberg in Nike hoodies and sneakers, but obviously that style doesn’t translate so easily to the real world. The hit BBC Industry show grasps the dilemma. While American hedge fund manager Jesse Bloom (Jay Duplass) bounces around in New Balance sneakers, his British counterparts wear Oxford brogues.

Even nightclubs that have had “no sneakers, no ripped jeans” policies for years are giving in to the inevitable. Annabel’s, the smart members’ club in Mayfair, allows ‘fashion trainers’, but ‘trainers which appear to be worn for exercise are not suitable for wear in the club’, reads Annabel’s dress code . The rules were updated in 2017 by American journalist and socialite Derek Blasberg.

That means Truss could potentially step into his white kicks, but Mark Zuckerberg, in his Nike sneakers, could be in trouble at the gate.

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