Rishi Sunak, Keir Starmer and Nigel Farage are the new trainer-trashing hooligans – Aidan Smith

Trendy trainers are getting an image problem as high-profile politicians keep wearing them

I’ve bought a new pair of trainers and they’ll be arriving soon. Choosing a pair this time was an ordeal. I still wanted them to say something about me, and perhaps slightly more than what they would actually be needed for: dog walk, occasional cycle, the odd football match, pub catch-up with mates.

Is this vanity, ego? Or both? Hopefully not. The advertisements towards the back of newspapers make me shiver. Men in 50 shades of beige. Men clutching cruise-ship stern rails or bathroom grab rails. Men in heated recliner armchairs with 27 – 27! – different massage settings. Most unnerving of all: men striding out in chunky, multi-purpose, bracken-blended, sure-grip, comfi-fit, padded-ankle, waterproof, bunion-kind, easy-of-arch, sturdy-of-eyelet, lightweight leisure shoes.

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I am not yet at this stage of life (or death). I do not need my wife buying my footwear for me (though the twofer price, his-and-hers, is attractive). But trainers have suddenly got tricky and it’s all the fault of the politicians.

Farage in Gazelles

It’s the kids I feel sorry for. When the Prime Minister and the man destined to boot him from his job are photographed within days of each other rocking their alleged favourite brands, you wonder which Gen Z-ers would ever be seen dead in them. Not just these ones, all trainers.

And this news just in: Nigel Farage has been snapped all trainered-up. He’s sombre-suited with a formal shirt and tie. Probably the collar has stiffeners in it. There’s the suspicion of cufflinks, perhaps monogrammed or bearing a family crest with a Latin inscription of pomposity and defiance. He’s manspreading with a rode-up trouser leg revealing a pale, hairless, unathletic calf. I can’t believe I’m being this forensic, but the situation is grave. And terminal. Trainers – in this case Adidas Gazelles – have never looked more incongruous, more ludicrous, more like it’s absolutely all over for them.

Rishi Sunak's Sambas fiasco has been followed by more politicos sporting trainers in a way that threatens the brands' coolRishi Sunak's Sambas fiasco has been followed by more politicos sporting trainers in a way that threatens the brands' cool
Rishi Sunak's Sambas fiasco has been followed by more politicos sporting trainers in a way that threatens the brands' cool

What the hell are the politicians playing at? Aren’t they supposed to be buttering up the youth vote? Instead they’re spoiling kids’ fun. Gallivanting across Europe isn’t so easy any more and neither is lying in bed all day, not working. “You’re now on a war footing,” those most likely to be conscripted have been warned. “Oh and by the way, your footing generally will be less sure – we’re nicking your trainers.”

Samba envy

Rishi Sunak started it with a video on tax policy in which he was shod in another Adidas classic, the Samba. My heart sank when I saw this. Growing up, the emergence of brutalist, breeze-block community centres thrust the football-daft like me into a dream-like state. Here were marked-out, five-a-side pitches with small goal-frames and the all-important roof, meaning we didn’t always have to always play in quagmires. But what would we wear? All of us in ordinary gutties were deeply envious of boys whose parents could afford to kit them out in Sambas.

These were indoor football shoes which the professionals would use on icebound parks; no one wore them anywhere else, but recently they’ve been the height of street-fashion and so style bible GQ has led the condemnation of Sunak for ruining the Samba’s cool.

The PM has previous on footwear. Those cost-of-living-crisis-bucking £350 Common Projects sneakers and the £425 Prada loafers, the latter worn on a building-site visit. Even when he sported Timberland boots – a snip at £150 – there was teasing about their clompiness making him appear even shorter. Sunak can’t help putting his foot in it.

Football-themed photo-ops

For the sake of balance – or rather, for the right-wing press, for the sake of finding another Beergate to match up to Partygate so as not to leave their man enduring Trainergate by himself – Keir Starmer was quizzed about his Gazelles when they were spotted on the campaign trail.

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He’d worn them before, for a football-themed photo-op, and his reasoning that day seemed justified. “You see no end of politicians in suit and tie walking onto a football pitch and trying to play with ordinary shoes – that doesn’t work,” he said. But donning them again so soon after the Sambas fiasco which enveloped his rival seemed like a riposte and a tedious one, although here I am writing about it all.

I have some sympathy with Sunak. Immediately after his trainers were weaponised, he said: “I offer a fulsome apology to the Samba community.” That’s amusing, up to point. For how many times have this government been reluctant to say sorry for far more serious errors of judgment? A Samba is still a Samba, of course, and superior to the Converse All Stars with velcro straps favoured by David Cameron, a man surely destined before too long to be checking out the newspaper ads for slip-on options.

A much-loved look

The PM went on to insist he’d liked Sambas for “many, many years”, adding he remained “intrigued by the amount of focus on what I’m wearing”. It’s a lot, for sure, and his PR team really should be mindful of that, and not send him out in anything that’s going to attract comment. Someone in that department needs a kick up the backside – his dresser, or as he or she probably prefers now, “image architect”.

A while back Burberry was a classy label, the bold checks seen on many stylish women. Then the brand overreached and got the wrong kind of big with football yobs adopting the look to bash in each other’s heads. However frivolous fashion can appear as a subject for debate, these trainer-clad politicos are the new hooligans, trashing a much-loved look.

At Adidas HQ, the lines on the foreheads of distraught execs will be triple-stacked, like the famous stripes. Can the shoe giant come back from this? I don’t know, not having worn their trainers for years. By the way, my new ones have just been delivered. What type? I’m not saying. You’ll all just copy me...



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