Is fitness more fashionable than “fashion”?
They have dominated the shoe closet for years, but it seems that the high heel may now be out of step with women’s footwear demands. Indeed, new research from Mintel reveals that 37% of UK women who have bought footwear in the last year bought trainers, compared to 33% who bought shoes with a heel. Previously, trainers and high heels were toe to toe, as in 2015 35% of women bought trainers and 35% of women bought high heels equally.
Driving this trend are women aged 35 to 44. 48% of women in this age group bought trainers in the past year, compared to 30% of the same group who bought heels. Overall, flat shoes are still the most popular type of shoes purchased at 51%, with women’s flat boots (30%) and flat sandals (25%) following in fourth and fifth place after trainers and heels.
And it seems that the popularity of heels is falling flat in general as 59% of female footwear buyers prefer to wear flat shoes, compared to just 12% who prefer to wear high-heeled shoes.
Tamara Sender, Senior Fashion Analyst at Mintel, said:
“The UK sportswear market has seen strong growth in the last year and there has been a trend for consumers to integrate sports clothing into their daily wardrobes, meaning trainers have also become more popular among women, overtaking heels to become the second favourite item of footwear after flat shoes. Athletic footwear is increasingly being used for everyday non-sporting activities showing that trainers are now more likely to be used for non-sports use. Women aged 35 to 44 have become the main trainer buyers proving the trend is no longer limited to younger consumers.”
Does the step down for fashion signify a significant cultural shift?
Fashion tracks what we as a society aspire for our lifestyles to be. But could this subtle shift in footwear tell us more?
London’s nightclub scene has seen many significant closures of late and new research has revealed that annual admissions for the UK nightclubs industry has fallen by 23% in the past five years from 149 million in 2010 to just 115 million in 2015. Today, just 8% of Brits describe themselves as regular clubbers, while 15% consider themselves occasional clubbers and 12% describe themselves as infrequent clubbers with the main factors turning people off being price, crowding, aesthetics and crucially only around half finding music that they actually like.
As UK nightclubs appear to be in decline, its gyms and fitness industry is on a steady rise. Does this shift indicate that we now view attending gyms and involvement in fitness as more aspirational and therefore more “fashionable” than clubbing? The two experiences are certainly comparable in that they can both be expensive and there is a high chance of being exposed to corny dance music that nobody seems to like. Where they differ is that our view of the club experience is often tinged with a sense of cynicism, sneering at drug and alcohol abuse as juvenile or reckless, whilst the fitness or gym selfie captured doing the latest workout trend in premium workout gear is the very token of modern aspiration.
It is therefore understandable that we may be starting view gym wear in higher regard than we do traditional fashions? Sports brands like Nike, Adidas, Lululemon and Under Armour, not to mention their high fashion spin-offs like Y3 are back at the core of fashion across the board, as those held in the highest esteem are no longer the reckless rockstars of the MTV generation, but rather fit and successful go-getters of the “fit-spiration” generation. And let’s face it – who wouldn’t take sore thighs and a protein shack over a hangover and a hole in your wallet?