Ugly Trainers... Here to stay?

Ugly Trainers... Here to stay?

Trainers have long been a differentiator between fashion tribes - the quickest (I won’t say easiest as it requires constant updating) way to show your fashion credentials is to wear the right trainers!

Now trainers are big business with big price tags and trainer retailers more than any other retail category need the ability to predict and stay ahead of trends and really know their customer target market.

There is a trainer trend currently re-defining the market right now and it is deliberately ugly…

For a long time ‘fashion’ trainers have been sleek Stan Smith types that could be relied on for comfort and style. But over the last 18 months there has been a growing trend for what has been commonly dubbed the ugly trainer (also labelled the Dad trainer or chunky trainer).

Trendy trainers now have fat lolling tongues, thick orthopaedic soles and are ridiculously oversized. In designer fashion, “ugly” trainers retail for anywhere up to £780. And this is more than a niche trend.

Thanks to the sellout hype around Balenciaga’s Triple S trainers, as well as versions by Louis Vuitton, Prada and Gucci, they have become the defining footwear of now. Their influence is all over the high street and they are beloved of celebrities and fashion influencers wearing them with everything from floaty dresses to city shorts. Whilst writing this I’ve actually been wearing a pair of Adidas Prophere Greys - whilst not purely fashion they are definitely on the chunky side!

The theory behind ugly chic is that you have to get it to get it, Miuccia Prada summed it up: “Ugly is attractive, ugly is exciting. The investigation of ugliness is, to me, more interesting than the bourgeois idea of beauty.”

So we know that the fashion crowd have embraced the ugly trainer but are UK consumers adopting the trend? We have analysed that data over the last 18 months and it’s fair to say the chunky trainer has made the switch from the catwalk to the pub!

Graph 1

Since January 2017 there has been a gradual increase in the availability of this type of trainers on the high street reflected by the volume of these products in the Mallzee app - Graph 1 shows that this really surged from Jan 2018 highlighted by the orange solid line.

Graph 2

In terms of how UK consumers have been reacting to these styles we can see by the Mallzee Performance Score - the solid blue line in Graph 2 - the number of people liking these products as they swipe through the Mallzee app. We can see that the Mallzee Performance Score around 18 months ago was high - this correlates to typical trend behaviour when a trend is new and filtering down from aspirational designer brands we generally see a high like ratio. With the chunky trainers trend the ratio has remained consistently high indicating a trend that is taking hold and is here to stay.

The dip that we see in November 2017 corresponds with a number of the biggest fashion retailers (including Ash, Misspap and PrettyLittleThing) all introducing their own versions of the styles and effectively flooding the market so that consumers become blasé about the styles and we start to see the market crash on these products.

It looks like the ‘ugly’ trainer trend is here to stay but, as I said at the beginning, trainer trends are one of the fastest changing categories and a wee word to the wise: if you really want to impress the fashionistas your next pair should be a collaboration between as many parties as possible.

Understanding how a trend develops and when you should be launching products linked to it is vital in the fashion industry, that’s why we work with our partners to test new products before they bring them to market and help to understand which products will work for their customers unique brand and which ones won’t!

Catriona Rist


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