Sunday, April 02, 2006

Sneak chic

The shoes-and-jeans combo that can make or break your rap chic

By Wendy Donahue
Chicago Tribune staff reporter

CHICAGO - Not long ago, these shoes were made for mocking.

Any man or woman who tried to pass off tennis shoes with jeans for an outing to a movie, restaurant, pub or club was called any of the below:

a. Mom

b. Dad

c. A Glamour/GQ don't.

Now, jeans have become the hottest property for nightlife, and the once-lowly sneaker has picked up some of their steam. But those who dare to wear these shoes with jeans, particularly after dark, had better know what they're getting themselves into. There are rules governing the right kind of sneakers as well as the right jeans to wear with them--rules laced with irony:

"Our whole rule is the shoe can have no gym dual purpose. Anything that has an athletic sole or cross-trainer look, that's a disaster," said Lance Lawson, co-owner with Jim Wetzel of the Jake men's and women's boutiques. "It has to be low and sleek like a Puma or an Adidas or Converse."

Yet, white sneakers--the '80s badge of Jazzercisers and commuters--have been reincarnated as one of the most cutting-edge looks for guys these days. Even if a man avoids that attention-grabbing color, he's not out of the woods. The belt choice can ruin him.

"I hate anyone who wears a dress belt with jeans," Lawson said, suggesting a cool canvas web belt or wide leather one with jeans and sneakers.

For women, the perils multiply. The revival of skinny jeans poses a fresh pitfall for all but the most advanced sneaker chick. "Anything that looks too boyish, too record-store, too Ducky from 'Pretty in Pink,' is a definite don't."

Safer: classic bootcut jeans. For a dressier look, darker-wash jeans with metallic sneakers score trendy points.

Lawson and Wetzel wear sneakers out at night habitually. But, in another irony, Lawson doesn't advocate that nightclubs lift the sneaker ban, often the norm at upscale venues such as Moda, the way that they have eased the jeans ban.

"The jean thing is being abused enough already that they don't need to layer the sneaker thing on top of it. It takes a pretty chic person to carry it off at night."

- - -


The sneaker habit of Amanda Nosal, 29, started as an occupational necessity. She's always on the go as Chicago event manager for Gen Art. She wears blue retro Nikes, hot pink Golas and Chuck Taylor Converses, including this green pair, with everything from jeans to miniskirts. Her secrets:

- Avoid matching too much. "I wouldn't wear my pink Golas with a pink shirt."


Sturdy hiking shoes are comfortable and might be good for your feet, but they can send your fashion image on a walk to oblivion.


The sneaker habit of Michael Marks, 30, is an occupational antidote. He wears a suit every day as a commercial real estate broker. So if he is to go home and go back out, his destination must accept his sneakered self.

"My kicks are old-school Rod Laver Adidas, several styles of Pumas [including this red and navy pair], and black-and-red G-Unit sneakers."

His secrets:

- Sneakers must be broken in but clean.

- He turns them up with blazers or down with hoodie sweat shirts.

- Track jacket + sneakers = nirvana. "The jacket is something I can hold my phone in--a guy's jacket becomes like your purse."


Gym shoes belong in the gym. Yes, you may wear them to and from the health club if you promise to change before your next non-fitness activity.

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