"> "> Sneakers with Style | Cigar Aficionado

Cigar Aficionado

Sneakers with Style

A resounding fashion statement that fairly shouted that sneaker style may finally trump everything came this February at the annual slam-dunk contest held during NBA All-Star weekend. A David-and-Goliath showdown was developing between 5-foot-9-inch Nate Robinson of the New York Knicks and the Orlando Magic's 6-foot-11-inch Dwight Howard, who had won the previous year while sporting a Superman cape. Reasoning that the Man of Steel could only be undone by kryptonite, the shorter man finished his performance by bounding over the back of his giant foe, wearing iridescent green shoes that he dubbed KryptoNate. The feat stole the show, as well as the crown, and made instant must-haves of the sneakers, made by Nike. Don't think for a moment that enthusiasts are clamoring for the shoes just so they can leap tall structures as Robinson did Howard. Fashion, not function, drives this sole-ful trend. And more recognized purveyors of style are taking up where the "Just Do It" company left off. The shoes of former tattoo artist Don Ed Hardy (donedhardyshoes.com, center and foreground right) and his French designing associate Christian Audigier (christianaudigiershoes.com) bring not only color, but delightful patterns, to the mix. The look is not just for upstarts either. Fashion stronghold Louis Vuitton has leapt in with its line designed with the rapper Kanye West (louisvuitton.com, the two top shoes pictured).

You might assume that this sneaker trend came from the fad a few years ago for wearing plain-old Converse sneakers in contexts that weren't athletic. But that was more of a ploy along the lines of what Stephen Potter called the "bent-pin outfit" in The Practical Theory of Gamesmanship ("the little boy with the bent pin always catches more than the professional angler"). First, prices that stretch into the several-hundred-dollar stratosphere—a plotline on "Entourage" (see cover story) has Vince buying a collector's pair for Turtle at $20,000—refute that conceit. Second, the rage emanates from the NBA and Japan, not from retromania.

If you're not yet comfortable with stepping out with such exuberant kicks, you can taper into it with such more sober examples as the Coach sneaker (coach.com, at left) with its subtle green strip that probably won't be mistaken for kryptonite. Or consider the mannered leather textures of Geox (geox.com, background right) with its breathable soles. The point is to get some zing into your kicks.