Style & Grooming

How to Wear Trainers, According to Grace Wales Bonner

As Virgil Abloh enlists the designer for a Nike project, she gives us five tips for styling trainers

  • TextTed Stansfield

Grace Wales Bonner is one of the most important menswear designers today. Interested in the meeting of European and African cultures, she combines beautiful tailoring with poetic narratives, winning the prestigious LVMH Prize in 2016 as a result. She’s also one of 12 creatives selected by Off-White designer Virgil Abloh as part of his collaboration with Nike. She, along with Kim Jones, graphic designer Peter Saville, fellow London designer Martine Rose and rapper JME, were enlisted by Abloh to lead workshops where guests were invited to “remix and reconstruct” the iconic Nike Air Force 1 trainer with materials and techniques handpicked by them. Another Man went to her workshop (and spent the morning embellishing a trainer with Wales Bonner-esque crystals) and asked her to give us five tips for styling trainers.

1. Stay classic

Nowadays, there are a million and one models to choose from but, if in doubt, just stay classic. “[I recommend] going classic,” says Wales Bonner. “And be consistent with your trainer choice. It’s about knowing your style and sticking with it. Just get a new pair when they wear out.”

2. Dress them up

Gone are the days when trainers were the preserve of casual wear, it’s now perfectly acceptable to wear them with more formal attire. “I probably wear [trainers] more with smart clothes,” says the designer. “I like wearing tailoring, so I like to wear them to disrupt the formality.”

3. Trouser length

Whether you like it or not, menswear in the early to mid-2010s will probably be defined by the ankle-swinger; trouser hems that are rolled up or shorn off altogether. Wales Bonner recommends a longer hem though – “I like puddling trousers,” she says. “I think that’s a good length.”

4. Socks

While some people wear socks with their trainers (of the same brand as the shoe if you abide by The Streetwear Code), others forego them altogether – a chilly option during the winter months. But what does Wales Bonner think? “I recommend wearing socks, maybe some silk socks.”

5. Keep them clean

Trainer wearers are divided into two camps: those who like them to look worn, and those who avoid this at all costs (and in extreme cases, carry a pack of wet wipes around in case of emergencies). Wales Bonner belongs to the latter – “I recommend keeping them quite clean,” she advises.

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