Here's How To Wear Your Nike Sneakers Like A Street Style Star

Nowadays, the footwear signature you're likely to spot more often while shoe-stalking Fashion Week doesn't involve a Christian Louboutin red sole or Chloé scalloped leather. (Although, those still pop up quite often.) It's actually the Nike swoosh. Even before athleisure became the trend no one could stop talking about, editors, models, and influencers opened themselves out to wearing shoes that were — gasp! — actually comfortable. But Olivia Kim, vice president of creative projects at Nordstrom and mastermind behind the department store's upcoming in-store installations celebrating the Nike Air Max's 30th anniversary, makes something about the resurgence of Nike among the fashion set expressly clear. It's not so much that sneakers caught up with the street-style crowd, but rather that the street-style crowd finally caught up with sneakers (and, more broadly, comfortable footwear).
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"Some of my earliest pop culture memories are of basketball players or hip-hop musicians and rappers wearing these [shoes]," Kim told Refinery29, noting that in the late '80s and early '90s we saw more athletes wearing their Nikes off the court — not as a way of promoting a design, but simply because they liked them, and that trend eventually seeped into the music industry. "It's always been part of the street scene." And, as we're well aware, the '90s are very zeitgeist-y right now, and many of the fashion pieces we associate with that era came back with it: "the basketball star, the girl groups like TLC and Salt-N-Pepa, Aaliyah — you look at how they were always incorporating sneakers into their style," Kim said. "At its core, Nike is a performance brand — and these sneakers are a performance sneaker — but through culture it’s become a bigger part of fashion; it's found its way back in."
Kim herself has been wearing Nikes since she was around five years old. As far as this childhood favorite making its way into her professional realm, she said it partly came out of necessity for editors and bloggers "literally running around from showroom to showroom to showroom — it’s vital not to destroy your feet in the process." While sneakers and a dress were once a quirky fashion faux-pas, now it's become cool. "There's probably a little bit of irony there, but a fashion statement, too."
Sneakers can usher in a more creative approach to styling, like, say, pairing some Nike kicks with seemingly incongruent pieces like a tulle dress or a sculptural skirt. That's what Kim had in mind when conceiving the Nordstrom x Nike boutique and in-store pop-ups in honor of Air Max Day on March 26th: "It’s not a fitness-only shop, but it's a fashion boutique with product for how women are really dressing today — it's a big Simone Rocha skirt with a Nike performance T-shirt, a cool leather jacket and a designer handbag, topped off with a pair of Air Max."
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Maybe we're more aware of the Nike swoosh when it crops up in street-style shots each season, but there's been long been plenty fashion-fitness crossover inspiration. "I love Farrah Fawcett in her Nike Cortez, Andre Agassi, Serena and Venus Williams: These amazing style icons and athletes represent different types of people, different types of bodies," Kim said. "Nike still feels like it's a very easy common denominator for everyone, from athletes to musicians to style icons to normal teenagers."
Whether you're new to the fashion-sneaker trend or are frankly shocked that it took so long for everyone else to get with it (we know, we know), we figured there's no one quite as qualified to sing the praises of a good Nike-fied outfit as Kim. So, ahead, check out her commentary on seven of our favorite swoosh'ed-out looks from Fashion Month and speak to why it worked (and how you can recreate it at home). If that doesn't have you running out for a fresh pair, we don't know what will.
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Photo: Courtesy of Nordstrom.
First, we had Kim commentate on one of her own Air Max'ed outfits: "My look goes back to that casual contrast of mixing a super-feminine piece with sneakers and a burst of color. I like the unexpected pairing of it: I think that that skirt with the feather feels very Great Gatsby, very 1920s, and then you've got this sneaker that's for the 2020-era. That Air VaporMax has been in the making for eight years, and is the most modern and technologically-advanced shoe that Nike has come out with. I think there is something ironic about mixing the two: Fashion is ironic anyway, but I like the idea that you wear things that are very, very, dressed up, very fashion, or very fashion-forward statement pieces, but then your footwear is just a sneaker. It means you can't take yourself that seriously."
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Photographed by Cris Fragkou.
Onto Fashion Month street-style stars like Naomi Shimada. "I like this girl," Kim said. "I love how colorful she is up top, and [then] paired it down to a simple Air Max 95. She's rocking it."
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Photographed by Cris Fragkou.
"Look at her little measuring tape belt and her mismatched Dunks: It's like 'tomboy, but I'm a fashion design student' thing. She has a kind of rugged look with her outdoor parka and, again, her white T-shirt, jeans, and sneakers," Kim said.
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Photo: Olivier Degoulange/REX/Shutterstock.
"I love those Air Max 97s," Kim remarked. "I had those in the original blue color. I like the way she paired them with a simple white outfit, a great shearling jacket, and no accessories — her only accessory is a red lip, nothing more needed. Clean and simple; it looks great."
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Photo: Melodie Jeng/Getty Images.
"This is my favorite: white T-shirt, jeans, sneakers — perfect," said Kim of this Air Uptempo outfit. "I love these shoes. I'm seeing a huge resurgence of these coming back in — it was all over Seoul, a lot of couples were wearing them. I love [couples] mixing and matching, and it was so cute to see these couples in their matching sneakers."
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Photo: Marie Simonova/Getty Images.
"Oh, I like this girl in the Cortez, with the metallic swoosh and her big furry jacket," she explained. "My favorite thing is when you take a super-frilly skirt and an awesome coat, and [you] pair that with a very simple sneaker. It's the ultimate dress up/dress down."
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Photo: Edward Berthelot/Getty Images.
"The thing I love most about sneakers with any outfit is how comfortable and easy the styling can be," Kim said of how these Nike Courts were integrated into a more suited-up look. "You can play with your color or with your handbag, but I love it when it just goes back to a pair of jeans. Or, on the opposite side, I also love when a look goes to a frilly place, with a fancy skirt mixed with casual sneakers."
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