My friend Lora came over for coffee the other day and enlightened me about a fashion faux pas, which has apparently left a not-so-great impression of us Americans in places abroad like Australia and New Zealand. It is the wearing of sneans. If you haven’t heard of it yet, don’t feel bad; the autocorrect on my computer didn’t recognize it either.
Now before you get up in arms, let me qualify what I believe is the stereotypical lazy American-with-no-sense-of-decorum look. It includes a pair of athletic sneakers – running shoes are the worst offenders! – worn with extra light denim, loose-fitting (read here: baggy) jeans.
Surely you have seen this sneaks look! Think “dad jeans”…
or “mom jeans.”
I hate to say it, but proud moments are when in Europe, I am mistakenly thought to be French, Swiss, or Norwegian for this very reason! I mean, why do we Americans wear yoga pants to the café? Why do we dress as though we are going on a twenty-mile hike with extra arch support, a fanny pack, a backpack, and jeans just to hit up a few shops on a Saturday afternoon?
I have to say that even athletic sneakers with skinny jeans cause me to cringe much of the time. I mean, what would it hurt to put on a pair of loafers, dudes? Or ballerina flats for the women? Flip flops are a slight improvement.
With curvier ladies, I believe a skinny sneak look is an especially bad move. Boxiness at the feet does nothing to flatter the figure. I strongly suggest a platform heel to help balance the “weight” of the look or perhaps boots. Footwear with something of a heel visually lengthens and slenderizes the lower half of the body. Or pointy-toed flats have a somewhat similar effect.
For slim women, all kinds of flats work well, but I cannot endorse the Keds above and to the right. While wearing something awesomely on point like high-waisted jeans, you don’t want to look as if you simply exited a time capsule from the 1980’s. (It is a good idea to update the look in some little way or another.)
The dudes below are just a half step up from the 100% sneans look. Their footwear isn’t the kind worn at a gym, but there is definite room for improvement: loafers or even stylish sneakers like those modeled just below them by a couple of San Francisco girls.
Sometimes the skinny jean/snean look, however, is a big improvement, especially when the color of the sneakers coordinates with the rest of the outfit.
This is especially true with a classic sneaker like Converse as demonstrated below (at center). As Liliya suggests in her post about fashionable travels, Saucony also makes unusually stylish sneakers.
Brightly colored sneakers can occasionally work when cleverly combined with an outfit – by the extra savvy (see example below). For those who don’t consider themselves as well-versed in exactly what constitutes a well-orchestrated “pop” of color or how to echo color without entering matchy-matchy territory, please do not try this (on) at home!
In order to improve your style quotient with jeans, however, the best method is to go for a non-sneaker.
Alternatives are plentiful. For those who do a fair amount of walking, it might be a good idea to evaluate whether running shoes are seriously warranted (hightop basketball shoes have absolutely no justification!),…
whether you could easily get by with a more stylish shoe,…
or if you could at least switch to a nicer class of sneaker.