BIG POPPA

In the age of the high-fashion “dad sneaker,” Skechers wants credit as the originator

D’Lites on d’splay.
D’Lites on d’splay.
Image: Courtesy of Skechers
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Hulking, clunky, faintly orthopedic in some cases, the “dad sneaker” has become an improbable star in fashion, part of a growing taste for 1990s-inspired and sometimes just plain ugly athletic shoes that’s been flourishing for over a year.

The recognized leaders of this trend have been luxury brands like Balenciaga, with its successful Triple S sneaker, and shoe giants such as Nike and Adidas. But mom-approved, comfort-focused Skechers wants to make sure it gets its credit too.

“The resurgence of the chunky shoe trend around the world is resulting in new interest from fashion-minded consumers and pacemakers as Skechers D’Lites gains broad acceptance as the originator of the trend,” Skechers chief operating officer David Weinberg told investors on a call to discuss the company’s recent earnings yesterday (Oct. 18).

In September, Skechers happily announced that seven brands had used the D’Lites on the runway during the recent New York Fashion Week. “Skechers is the original chunky sneaker dating back nearly two decades, and we love that so many designers are choosing to coordinate Skechers D’Lites with their new collections,” said chief executive officer Robert Greenberg in a statement,

The D’Lites have allowed Skechers—not typically recognized as a style trendsetter in 2018—to appear in the pages of fashion magazines such as Elle and Marie Claire, the company says, while streetwear-centric site Hypebae predicted they would be the “it” shoes of 2018. They’ve connected Skechers with a younger, more fashionable audience, and have been one of the key styles helping Skechers to continue its growth in the US and overseas.

Other brands might quibble at claims that D’Lites are the original chunky sneaker. Fila’s Disruptor II, which has seen a huge resurgence of late, is an update of the jumbo sneaker it released in 1996. Fashionable sorts have also adopted Nike’s Air Monarch, a sneaker with a mega midsole introduced around the early 2000s that for years was a dad favorite. “If Father’s Day were a shoe, it would be the Nike Air Monarch,” the company said in a history of it.

But Skechers, which started by appealing to the grunge tastes of the 1990s, was undoubtedly among that decade’s chunky-shoe pioneers. The D’Lites launched in 2007 as a light-weight evolution of especially bulky 1990s Skechers styles such as the Energy and the Stamina.

According to Skechers, the D’Lites have always had a fan base, but their popularity really took off in the last two years, starting in Asia, where Skechers enlisted K-Pop groups for its regional marketing. Now demand for the D’Lites is rising in North America and Europe, and the company believes it’s set to grow in South America, India, and the Middle East too.

It’s quite possible the D’Lites even influenced the design of Balenciaga’s Triple S. Highsnobiety’s footwear editor, Chris Danforth, compared the two shoes last year. “It’s hard to refute the clear similarities between Balenciaga’s Triple S and Skechers’s D-Lite silhouette,” he wrote, noting the toe caps, midsole arches, and most strikingly, the tongue branding and typography on both.

Whether Skechers is exactly the chunky-sneaker originator or not, it’s due a share of the credit. Either way, it’s definitely getting a share of the sales.