Sneakers are the new status symbol at work — and they’re killing an office staple

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Brian Chesky, CEO of Airbnb, and Hollywood producer Brian Grazer wear Gucci sneakers on stage at an Airbnb branded conference.
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Frazer Harrison/Getty

Sneakers are more popular than ever, and they’re starting to supplant once was once the keystone of ever man’s professional wardrobe.

As sneakers rise in both prominence – and price – men are spending the hundreds of dollars they would typically spend on dress shoes. These aren’t your typical athletic sneakers however – instead of the latest release, they’re often luxury versions with soft leathers and designer logos.

Neiman Marcus CEO Karen Katz told analysts that sneakers now account for 50% of the men’s shoe business at the department store chain, according to the New York Post.

Execs in Silicon Valley almost exclusively wear high-priced sneakers, like Lanvin and Common Projects, that Neiman’s sells. Silicon Valley is the birthplace of the casual work wardrobe, so it’s no surprise that its leaders are dressing down and sneakers have become a cornerstone of that. In the San Francisco area, the top selling style on luxury consignment platform TheRealReal is a Louis Vuitton high top sneaker.

As the casualization of the workplace continues, it’s not surprising to see sneakers gain a foothold. These more expensive sneakers usually look the part, with minimal branding that can fly under the radar unlike your yellow and orange Nike shoes. The idea of what a sneaker can be – understated, clean, and luxury – has changed, and it matches the new casual American workplace. Sneakers go a lot better with denim, after all.

Looking up and down Manhattan’s 5th Ave, you see a lot more office drones wearing sneakers than anything else – especially in warmer, more casual sneakers. As time goes on, it’ll probably be more useful in identifying the office hierarchy if you can pick out a Lanvin sneaker than a Gucci Bit Loafer.

It seems the “debate” over whether men can wear sneakers has been settled. It’s a resounding “yes” – as long as the sneakers are subtle, leather, and luxurious.