Since making its runway debut a year ago, and going on sale, and selling out, for the first time last autumn, the Balenciaga Triple S sneaker has been called “ugly,” in The Wall Street Journal, “a chunky, bulky, overdone take on a dad sneaker” by GQ and “homely clompers” by The New York Times. It’s all perfect praise for the label’s creative director Mr Demna Gvasalia, who told once Vogue he considers it a complement when people throw shade. Pushing boundaries, he feels, is part of his job; ugliness may be the righteous path.
The first time I saw the Triple S in the flesh, however, compelled me to evaluate it in a different context than whether its beautiful or not. I was at an awards ceremony in November for WSJ. Magazine. Mr Marc Jacobs had a pair on his feet, the green-yellow-black colourway. Above the ankles, he wore a black suit with a black tie. More importantly than the cred he conferred with his footwear choice, was our location. We were all at the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan, which put the obsessed-over-yet-derided shoe in the same building with so many other works that polarise.
While a line can be drawn between the Triple S and other sneakers with swollen soles and exaggerated geometry out around the toe and beneath the heel – the New Balance 991, the Nike Air Max 90, the Asics Gel Lyte 3, Reebok’s InstaPump Fury, Raf Simons’ adidas Ozweego and nearly every piece of sneaker-esque footwear ever designed by Messrs Yohji Yamamoto and Rick Owens – the Triple S also makes sense amid the art; sculpture, in particular.