Upon first glance, the dress style of the March 5 Spring Formal dance seems very formal. I look around and see suits, dresses, ties, flowers. But as I look down, I seldom see high heels and dress shoes. Nikes, Jordans, New Balances, and the like support people’s feet – even my own. So what prompted this rise of sneakers as a form of dress wear at dances?
Since the early 2000s, sneaker culture has been becoming more mainstream. Complex reported on the recent surge in shoe popularity, saying that just 20 years ago “things weren’t like they are today. There were no mainstream sneaker blogs and the only time magazines showed love to sneakers were a few pages in SLAM or a fashion feature in your favorite hip-hop mag. Or maybe you got a peep of them in a music video or from a commercial, but that's it.” Now, many associate the names Goat, Grailed, and Stock X with sneakers – these well-known shoe reselling websites were all founded in 2013 or later. And Footlocker, a major shoe store, has seen their stock price grow consistently since 2009, from about $6.5 then to about $31 today. These companies provide evidence of a growing market that continues to expand from a niche group to a much larger part of society, including the dance floors at schools.
If you were to visit the Converse website, you would find a tab titled “Prom Shoes.” This page includes 15 of Converse’s most exquisite pairs of sneakers, ready for a formal dance or the finest bowling alley. That’s part of the appeal of purchasing sneakers for dances – after the dance, they don’t have to be shoved to the corner of the closet; they can be worn on a regular, non-formal day. Rowland Hall junior Maile Fukushima said that at the last dance, she didn’t even need to purchase shoes; she just wore sneakers she already owned and had worn, saving her time and money from having to go to a store or search around online looking for formal shoes. Wearing sneakers as dance shoes has a practical side to it.
But for many students, the youthful styles provide the major appeal for wearing sneakers. Junior Jack Vitek, who wore his Nike Blazers to the Spring Formal, said that when he wears sneakers as opposed to dress shoes, he “doesn’t feel like an old man at a funeral.” For him, it serves as a way to express himself in a fresh, new way.
School dances can last two or three hours. It’s a sort of workout – jumping up and down for hours on end. Accordingly, just as any athlete wears comfortable, responsive shoes to play their sport, Rowland Hall dance attendees must do the same to keep themselves doing the YMCA all night long. Fukushima said that compared to heels, sneakers at dances are “definitely more mobile and easier to walk around and have fun in.” They also prevent possible injuries from wearing shoes that are unknown to your feet and have different pressure points. Just as a runner breaks in their shoes before the race, having a sneaker that has been softened from wear is important for dances.
There’s comfort, practicality, and the desire to fit in with the majority. But regardless of the “new style,” personal expression is vital in creating a community that isn’t monotonous. Wear what makes you comfortable. For now, though, Jack will continue to chase the “higher steeze factor” that comes with wearing sneakers to dances.