Giles Coren’s kicks get a kicking.
My wife posted a picture on Instagram yesterday of me sitting in my front room surrounded by balloons and party food ahead of my daughter’s imminent fourth birthday party, looking a bit tired and grumpy from opening 7 million packets of Hula Hoops, with the sarcastic tagline: ‘My husband knows how to party.’
‘But not how to buy shoes,’ came the immediate reply from the notorious style fascist AA Gill, who follows my wife – on Instagram and everywhere else – for reasons so potentially sinister I try not to think about it.
‘What the hell is the old queen talking about?’ I roared. ‘I’m wearing my black Converse.’
‘Yes,’ said my wife quietly. ‘You are.’
‘Don’t tell me you’re on his side?’ I said.
‘No, of course not, dear. But even you couldn’t call them fashionable.’
‘Fashionable? These are classic All Star hi-tops. It is not a question of fashion. They are a timeless piece.’
‘Not any more.’
‘Not any more? What about Rocky? What about Clem Burke out of Blondie? What about everybody else out of Blondie? What about the bloody Ramones? Not any more since when?’
‘Since a couple of months ago,’ she said. ‘Now, those orange Nikes you bought last week, they’re fashionable. Why don’t you wear those?’
‘Because they’re plug-ugly neon shoes for running.’
‘Nope, they’re not. They are cool. Your Converse just make you look your age. Nothing says “over 40” quite like them. You’d look younger in a brown overcoat, smoking a pipe.’
Well, I wasn’t going to stand for this in my own home, so I called an instant meeting with fashion princess Polly Vernon, the Alexa Chung of Archway, at her local Junction Road coffee shop.
‘Your wife’s right,’ said Polly, sucking on a latte that I had paid for with my own money. ‘Converse fell off the radar the other day. Don’t know why. Possibly a calamitous celebrity association. I think David Cameron has a pair, which is always bad news.’
‘So because of that I’m supposed to walk around in a pair of weightless orange Nikes?’
‘Are they Flyknits?’
‘Fuck knows. Does it make a difference? They’re Seinfeld shoes. How can they possibly be cooler than my Converse?’
Polly sighed the indulgent sigh of Julie Andrews just before she tells the Von Trapp children ‘Let’s start at the very beginning…’
‘Listen, two and a half years ago the trainer was dead. Then Phoebe Philo wore a pair of Nike Air Max in Vogue and fashion people went wild for them. Then Isabel Marant brought out her trainers with a wedge heel but those quickly went over to trashy/Milf-y, and it looked like trainers might go back where they came from. But now sport is in. If you’re in fashion you are supposed to do exercise, so even if the Flyknit is objectively an ugly thing it says “I do sport”. Which means you’re fashionable. It is a high-performing sport shoe and therefore a high-performing fashion shoe.’
‘But Stan Smiths are back in fashion and they’re not a high-performing sport shoe.’
‘That’s different, Giles. Big white Adidas make fat calves look thinner.’
‘But they’re Happy Mondays shoes. They’re skanky 1990s Mancwear!’
‘I don’t make the rules,’ said Polly. ‘I just know what they are. Which means I can wear Converse, of course.’
‘There are some things that are so convenient, fashion people will keep doing them, even though they know they are officially over, such as skinny jeans or the Chiltern Firehouse. Converse are a bit like that. And they’re also cheap. Cheap is always cool. The truth is, the rules only exist for insecure people who have no fashion confidence.’
‘So that means my Converse are okay after all?’
‘No,’ said Polly. ‘It means mine are.’