Cheap Chic and the Enduring Appeal of the Sneaker

Though it was published forty years ago, the timing of the reissue couldn’t be more appropriate, given the current state of fashion, which takes inspiration from every era. Today, for example, you can find a skirt of any length, from micro-mini to floor-sweeping maxi. When this book was originally published, fashion had a fairly narrowly defined aesthetic swath. Little did we know that the diverse Cheap Chic would be a barometric gauge of where fashion would go. No longer is fashion about one story—“camel” or “wrap skirts” or “pastels.” Now there are few if any commonalities among collections. It’s every man and woman for him- or herself. And that is the spirit of this wonderful book, which offers such diversity of style and taste. The reasonable, often quite funny authors encourage us to ask ourselves the most important of all fashion questions: “Who am I, and how do I want the world to perceive me?” (So much more useful than considering what may be in or out this year.)

 —Tim Gunn, February 2015



Astonishingly uncanny in its ability to predict lasting trends, CHEAP CHIC touches on the appeal of  “the sneaker”



Cheap Chic Collage border



Sneakers are basic Cheap Chic footwear. It used to be that fashion started at the top and worked its way down; the feet were just an afterthought. But here we are in an era of tight money, and we don’t have that much to spend on body coverings. To save money, we can displace our fascination with the minutiae of style and status to the foot­ a foot dressed in a very expensive permuta­tion of what was once a cheap shoe, the sneaker. Sneaker demand is up almost 25 percent this year.  Of course, the sneaker is not only stylish, it’s Good for You, like chicken soup on a cold day. Sneakers bring you back to childhood, high spirits, and magically high leaps.


In the haute monde of sneakerdom there is a competition of status symbols which easily rivals the Fifth Avenue battles of Gucci, Hermes, and Mark Cross. Sneakers don’t have designers’ names, they have signs: stripes, wedges, chevrons, and stars of status. And they have endorsements by the new media stars, athletes like Billie Jean King and Walt “Clyde” Frazier.


It started with the war between Adidas and Puma, companies owned by feuding German brothers. Sports Illustrated did an expose on their buy-out of the athletes at the Mexico City Olympics, and for the first time, Cheap Chic students were exposed to the full stylistic possibilities of $30 leather­ and-suede athletic shoes.  Wrestling shoes, boxing shoes, high-tops, training shoes, track shoes, football shoes, soccer shoes, officiating shoes, tennis shoes, handball shoes! It was a mere hop, skip, and a jump from track and basketball shoes in to tennis shoes and out onto the streets. Now you can choose from the Converse star, Pony chev­ron, Adidas triple stripe, and the Puma flying wedge.  Somehow, those $11.98 Levi’s feel a lot livelier when a pair of $30 wear­ forever leather sneakers is peeking out under the cuff! If you want a man’s sneaker, buy them 11/2 sizes smaller than women’s sizes.


Google Images 1970s Sneakers with credit


About the Authors:

Caterine Milinaire is a journalist and photographer who has been an editor at Vogue; worked with Andy Warhol, Richard Avedon, and Diana Vreeland; and was at New York magazine and Interview at their starts. Carol Troy is a photojournalist who first observed 1970s style at Rags magazine, with a house account at Max’s Kansas City. As a Vassar grad, reporting led to fashion, rock, music and design with Newsday, the New York Times Magazine group, Conde Nast Traveler, and the New York Times “CyberTimes” on a new fashion called the Internet. Her favorite photographer she’s worked with was Helmut Newton, and she lives in the Napa Valley.


This article was originally posted on Books for Better Living.



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