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Originating at the end of the 19th century from an intuition of Charles Goodyear, these rubber-soled shoes gained immediate popularity among tennis and croquet enthusiasts because of their guaranteed practicality and a light, noiseless step. They allowed one to move furtively, to "sneak", which is where the style's name comes from.

They were soon the athletic shoe of choice for so many that various athletes began to lend their names to the most iconic brands. Basketball player Chuck Taylor chose to wear Converse All Stars, which now feature his name on the upper, and the Adidas Stan Smith was named after the eponymous American tennis player who wore them in 1971. Or the famous Nike Air Jordan 1, named after basketball champion Michael Jordan. They were banned from the NBA because they were red and not white, as called for by the traditional uniform, resulting in fines of thousands of dollars every time they were worn on the court.
Sneakers began to perform better and better thanks to technological innovations. As was the case with the Nike Air Max 1, launched in 1987.Renowned for its revolutionary visible air cushioning in the sole, it was inspired by certain Parisian architecture that revealed the interior of the building. Many others have followed over the years, and they are now veritable collection pieces.
Over the decades, sneakers have won over more than just the sporty crowd, establishing their status as style icons. All Stars, for example, were a symbol of youthful rebellion as worn by James Dean and Kurt Cobain. Mick Jagger wore them at his wedding to Bianca Jagger. Bob Marley's favorites were Adidas Sambas while Steve Jobs only wore New Balance.  

From athletic shoes to cult phenomenon, sneakers have become a symbol of the modern-day urban aesthetic and a nonchalant attitude typical of the unconventional crowd. We talk about them in a conversation with Guido Genicco, a former professional runner and ardent fan of the style. Genicco won the Rome marathon in 1989 and is currently International Product Director at Nike. He has worked there for 26 years and the thing he is most proud of is having a sneaker named after him: the Nike Genicco.

Do you like collecting sneakers?
I own about 140 pairs of Nike - all chosen with care and each with great personal value. The most special of all, though, are my Night Track Discos, one of the first by Nike, released in 1978.

You achieved some great things as an athlete. How important is it to have the right shoe when working out?
Having the right shoes on when working out is fundamental because they allow you to train without any problems. Cushioning, stability and a personalized ride are the features I most value. In addition, they have to visually reflect the personality of the wearer. To find the right shoe, you have to be aware of the defects we have all, such as over-pronation or supination, and then find a shoe designed to counter that. They should be chosen based on our weight and eventual use, whether for training or a race.
Part of your work is about finding new trends: what are your main sources of inspiration?
I often travel between London, Paris, Milan, Berlin, Stockholm, Tokyo, L.A. - these are the cities where new trends are born and where I gather inspiration even simply by watching people walking past on the street. I also work with a group of consumers between 18 and 25 years of age who live in four European cities, all of whom are very attentive to new developments.

If you were a sneaker, which one would you be?
I'd be the Nike Mags that Marty McFly wore in 'Back to the Future' - the best sneaker ever made. It was way ahead of its time in terms of construction and silhouette, and, by the way, it is turning 30 this autumn.