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I was told the other day that in some of the top London departmental stores more than half the footwear sold are trainers, or more precisely, sneakers. Toffler was right when he said that the “future happens faster than you expect, and in the wrong order” as it feels only yesterday when we had leather shoes and we had plimsolls with a green flash, and little else beyond Wellington boots and work boots.
The Hi-Tec squash shoe came out in 1974 after the company was founded by Frank van Wezel in Shoeburyness, England. Before long, we were overwhelmed by different categories from the likes of Nike and Reebok.
Even then, one thing remained standard, at least in our family: the required footwear for school children remained leather. Parents knew that for proper foot support, correct fit, breathability and comfort, good leather shoes were a standard requirement for schoolchildren. It was a cost worth accepting, despite the fact that the children kept growing out of them.
When leather makers worry about losing market share in footwear to alternate materials we should ask ourselves how we let this happen. When did we start to let so many of our children go to school in inappropriate footwear?
We now have a global generation of millennials (born between 1980 and 2000) who are the biggest purchasing group in the world. This is a group that does not start from the position that buying leather footwear is the norm and other types are the exception; quite the reverse. This group is for whom leather footwear is for special occasions or for office work. In fact, at many “special events” some guests appear to feel there is nothing wrong in turning up in sneakers.
Often, they have paid more for them than ‘regular’ shoes. Many at the upper price bracket do have leather uppers and most luxury goods brands appear to have sneaker lines. For those lucky enough to have been able to get a pair of the newest Balenciaga trainers, they will have paid close to US$810. Plimsolls were a bargain.
If we seriously believe that traditional leather shoes are better for schoolchildren then we should make it clearer to all what are the key features and benefits. We heard in at APLF in Hong Kong that the industry should promote all leather, not only a notional idea of “premium” leather. School footwear is a perfect segment if tanners are going to achieve the promise we are making of being the best way to handle the abattoirs by-product, but to make a success of it the leather and the footwear from it must offer the expected perfection of affordability and performance.
Dr Mike Redwood
May 9, 2018
Follow Dr Mike Redwood on twitter: @michaelredwood
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