From Vetements x Reebok trainers covered with the not to beat about the bushes “I’m bored” to Margiela’s “Leave a message”-scrawled kicks, graffiti-covered sneakers are near. What’s the secret message?



‘I’m bored’ … Vetements x Reebok Instapump Angers.
Photograph: vetements

Teenage kicks: what’s behind the vogue for scribbled-on trainers?

From Vetements x Reebok trainers spread over with the words “I’m bored” to Margiela’s “Leave a message”-scrawled recoils, graffiti-covered sneakers are everywhere. What’s the secret message?

There was a metre when etching your current squeeze’s name, or maybe at best an acid house smiley face, onto your Kickers in Tippex was the apex of cool. This season, the fashion industry has taken note(s) and has been scribbling on its sneakers with it’s 1997.

Kim and Kanye’s customisable Yeezy Boost 350 V2s for kids, with “unwarlike”, “love” and the names of their children written on them, deal ined out almost instantly when they went on sale at length week – they have already been restocked. (It can’t take hurt that one-child Truman Show North West corroded a pair of her own customised Yeezy kicks for a trip to New York’s Unstudied History Museum about a week before the drop.)

The new mellow Adidas Stan Smiths, complete with scrawled word choices such as “yes I’m crazy” and “nobody is perfect”, are currently on sale for $335 (£257). While the Vetements x Reebok Instapump Beldams, featuring such choice phrases as: “I’m bored”, “uncut on life” and “so good”, as well as that old classic the CND sign, traded out in no time earlier this year, despite a £586 bonus tag. They came about a year after head Vetements creator and industry pied piper Demna Gvasalia was spotted drain a pair of done-in Converse he had apparently scribbled on himself. Saying passions such as “our alter & our hearts”, as well as the name of the Russian choir member Zemfira written in Cyrillic, they looked like a outstandingly high-brow desk in any secondary school across the country.

Kanye West collaborator Virgil Abloh’s Off Immaculate label has recently collaborated with Nike on various written-on variations of their trainers. Bella Hadid last week stepped out in a pair yet to be officially released – “Virgil was here” was scribbled on their side. And Dolce and Gabbana kept the form industry on its toes with its studded autumn/winter whip-round sneakers embellished with phrases apparently designed to weigh millennial style, from: “I’m thin & gorgeous” to: “Sorry I’m the tucker”. Cue a collective facepalm at their misjudged attempts to mimic millennials.


Adidas Yeezy Leg up 350 V2. Photograph: Adidas

Fiona Firth, buying concert-master at MRPORTER.COM, where the Vetements x Reebok trainers “flew off the spot”, describes how “what was once a school pastime to blow off some artistic steam” has now become “a recognised artform”. We might not be talking Titian here, but there is a Keith Haring-esque impulse at stall for time.

The links back to the DIY philosophy of the punk era are obvious. Denim jackets blemished with biros were an integral part of the punk regalia. Tony Glenville, creative director at the London College of Trend, cites the fashion of this era in general as a touchstone: “Graffiti on clobbering is very 80s – from Stephen Sprouse through Castelbajac, it was a international thing.” The fact that scribblings are having a moment is, for him, akin to “the pinched jeans of Bros now reappearing, it’s part of realising how long ago the 80s was! With an increment of of course,” he says, “fashion has no memory”.


Gucci autumn/winter 2017. Photograph: WWD/REX/Shutterstock

Now, as then, it’s not a bias reserved for footwear – Glenville points to the cut-out letters on tops and jumpers at Valentino’s Fall 2017 menswear show. Look to the kinds of the It-T-shirt of 2016 that appeared on the Gucci Fall 2017 runway, reimagined with cuts and scrawls – the work of Spanish artist Coco Capitán, who, along with original director Alessandro Michele, came up with the phrases such as “What are we contemporary to do with all this future?” and “I want to go back to beliving in a white” – spelling mistake for no extra charge.

“Slogan and logo disruption including graffiti and personalisation is always with us,” says Glenville. It’s round “rebellion and revolution” – the same heady mix that inclination likely make the latest Vetements trainers sell disposed to hot cakes when they land on Mr Porter soon. This tandem look your former goth self got creative on them, not gloaming bothering with words, and leaving no space untouched by a dastardly marker pen.


Maison Margiela’s inviting trainers. Photograph: Maison Margiela

But the graffitied tags of Kim and Kanye’s offspring on the Yeezy Boosts are no Castelbajac painting-dresses, and they’re not customary to win many fans in the anarchic world of mohawks and safety coerces. The devil-may-care aesthetic of scribbled-on trainers might scream insurgence, but embellishing the current crop is a very safe kind of scribble – one that continues firmly between the lines.

But then maybe that’s the place – this is a sixth-form kind of insurrection; the slogans are often naff, fair-minded like the kind of thing you would have written elderly 17 on your lever arch file. This is insurgence for those who still want to get good grades in their A-levels, albeit not at pocket-money costs. And it’s their price that makes them, in all their grubby circlet, a kind of sartorial humblebrag.

So, at the risk of upsetting Kanye, if you superior dipping a toe into this trend, maybe just lodge b deceive a Sharpie to your old plimsolls instead. Or go for Maison Margiela’s informed iteration, which have plenty of blank space on which you can complete their invitation to “Leave A Message” – with a readily provided branded marker pen, of course.