Matt Bennett is chief creative officer at London-based studio ZAK, which is the global creative agency for New Balance’s Lifestyle business. Here, he explains what he views as society’s “egalitarian trainer-wearing culture.”
We may be a creative agency which fosters individualism and whatever style our team may prefer, but we have somehow developed an office uniform in the last year, a uniform in a non-uniform way.
Footwear and style is in our blood, but the entire team, from finance to front desk have embraced the sneaker as their footwear of choice. Whether that’s wholesale, “won’t wear anything else New Balance partisanism,” or only sporting sneakers a couple of days a week, we’re definitely harbouring an obsession. Yes, we’re committed to supporting our clients through more than just work, yes we understand the NB story and history more than many but, it’s more than that. In this case, it is a sartorial choice that unifies us as a team, whilst allowing us to be individuals through our own sense of style. For us, sneakers have been the new “black specs” for the last few years.
Sneaker culture is on the rise across the board, so that has to have at least some effect on our team. From the top of the budget tree to the bottom, sneaker design permeates our world. High end designer sneakers made by Lanvin, Chloe and the like continue to be seen in the press in increasing numbers, (by the way, buying “designer sneakers” is like buying a designer watch, it’s all wrong – I’m firmly in the camp of buying watches from people that have always made timepieces, whatever your budget, and buy sneakers from people that have always made footwear). Mid-range “celeb designer sneakers” are everywhere with heavy hitters Kanye and Rihanna financially contracted with brands.
Sneakers, unlike traditionally gendered articles of clothing like neckties or skirts, can be worn by anyone and everyone. They cross the boundaries of gender, budget and personal style. They are a great leveller. The old agency model of suits versus creative is dead and with that has gone the inherent dress codes of brogues and blazers versus Converse and skinnies. Most of our team have never worked anywhere that had any sense of ‘propriety’ when it came to dress. We don’t care what you wear or when you work as long as we as a team deliver great, effective work. Which takes a sense of team effort, a bonding, a togetherness. And somehow for us, sneakers are part of that.
From some of our more classic dressers to those with a more individual taste there is a sneaker to go with every outfit. Future Luxe, you’re covered. Retro Americana, you’re covered. Terrace Casual, you’re covered. Everyone is included. Everyone is part of the team.
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