Sneakers are officially the new handbags, at least according to the fashion search platform Lyst. In 2017, the platform saw more searches for sneakers than handbags, with over three million users looking up their next must-have creps on the site. In March alone, someone searched for Rihanna's Fenty x PUMA bow sneakers every seven seconds.
Given the hype-driven sneaker landscape, where celebrities like Justin Bieber, A$AP Rocky and Bella Hadid are photographed weekly wearing the latest sneaker collaborations, it seems fair to say that sneakers have replaced handbags as the biggest status symbols in fashion.
In recent years, the hype around handbags has been intrinsically tied to celebrities. From Mulberry naming bags after Cara Delevingne to Chanel tapping Pharrell for its Gabrielle handbag campaign, brands understand the importance of drawing connections and support from high-profile figures.
But it’s impossible to discuss handbags as status symbols without mentioning the Hermès Birkin bag. Named after Jane Birkin, the designer bag, which costs anywhere from $10,000 to more than $300,000 has become the status symbol for wealthy consumers.
But even if you happen to have the money, buying a Birkin isn’t as simple as walking into an Hermès store and throwing down the cash. Instead, the bag has an extremely competitive — and long — waiting list to ensure it remains exclusive.
Drake, who recently performed at the opening of Toronto’s flagship Hermès store, made headlines this year after revealing that he has been collecting Birkin bags for his hypothetical future wife, while Kanye West gifted Kim Kardashian a hand-painted George Condo Birkin for her 34th birthday.
But even with co-signs from Kanye West, Cara Delevingne, Pharrell, and Drake, many women simply aren't interested in it bags — and it's not just the Birkin that’s lost its cultural cachet.
A lot of this comes down to changing trends and the influence of streetwear on our consumer habits. Instead of a Louis Vuitton monogram bag, I would rather have sneakers that send a message about my taste in music, where I hang out, and who my friends are — and I’m not alone.
While it may be tempting to chalk the change up to price - many sneakers certainly are cheaper than $1,000 bags - some hype sneakers aren't always the most economical choice. When we break down the cost of designer handbags and how they compare to luxury sneakers, some models fetch close to or just as much as a handbag by the same designer. A pair of Balenciaga Speed Trainers retails for $795.00 while the brand’s Classic City nano bag will run you approximately $1,097, a price difference that is staggeringly close for an item that is likely to wear out much faster than a leather handbag.
Obviously, not all sought-after sneakers are retailing at Chanel x Pharrell x adidas NMD Hu or Gucci Ace prices, however, it’s clear that whatever the cost, copping an “it” pair of sneakers typically matters more to most women than buying a handbag that their mom might own.
If you consider the wider fashion landscape, this isn’t exactly surprising. Must-have kicks aren’t just overtaking handbags as the new status symbol, sneakers in general have been gaining sartorial dominance in recent years. The widespread popularity of streetwear means that that the days of having to dress up an outfit with a pair of heels (RIP to my red bottoms) is over. While some women would still opt for a sleek bootie or statement handbag, the option of wearing a rare pair of sneakers when dressing up for a night out is a growing trend that makes a bigger outfit statement.
While sneaker options in women's sizes are still lacking, it seems like brands are finally taking notice of what styles women want. Some of sneaker culture’s most influential women made a huge impact in the realm of access, option, and versatility by joining forces with some of the world's leading brands to design new sneakers and promote retro re-releases. In 2017 alone, Bella Hadid fronted the Nike Cortez campaign, Kylie Jenner and Selena Gomez became PUMA ambassadors, Nike released a host of retro kicks in women's sizing, and Rihanna continued to put out must-cop sneakers with her FENTY x PUMA collab.
However, the highlight of the year was definitely Aleali May’s Air Jordan 1. When May’s collaboration released in November, there was no doubt the sneaker would resonate with both men and women. For both genders, the sneaker made a statement, and May became the first female Air Jordan collaborator — In the sneaker world, that’s the equivalent of Halle Berry winning the Oscar.
It's clear that consumers have spoken — and it looks like brands have listened. Sneakers are more versatile than they have ever been and they definitely made a statement far louder than any handbag was able to in 2017.
Next up, why is everyone from Our Legacy to OFF-WHITE using this Vibram sole?