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BW Businessworld

Sneaker To Become An Office Wear Essential?

Someone recently said “why not? It will increase productivity. If your employees are comfortable they will be more productive.”

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On David Letterman’s Netflix show, ‘My Next Guest Needs No Introduction’, Kanye West styled him in Yeezy clothes and the Yeezy 700 sneakers. Letterman was quite happy with the makeover and said he would actually go to the store and buy the outfit. 

Yeezy is a collaboration between Adidas and the American rapper, Kanye West. Their latest Yeezy 350 v2 sneaker, which released this June, had buyers queuing outside the shops overnight and shopping websites crashing because they couldn’t cope with the demand. The fact that only limited stock is released at specific locations, and celebrity endorsement of the sneakers are in part responsible for the frenzy. 

The history of the sneaker is quite interesting - as per Nicholas Smith’s book, ‘Kicks: The Great American Story of Sneakers’, we wouldn’t have the modern-day sneaker without Charles Goodyear’s invention of vulcanized rubber in 1839. According to him, it was in 1860’s that the first rubber-sole sneaker was made for croquet, there was need for a durable shoe with a flexible sole so as to limit the damage to the lawn. This extended to tennis, and the elite men and women adopted the functional rubber sole and made it fashionable. What further helped the popularity was the fact that playing sports became an activity that a number of people took up. 

According to a report by Grandview Research, the global athletic footwear market will be Worth $95.14 Billion By 2025 

It is not just sneakers, but the athleisure market is pegged to be a $350 billion market by 2020 (Morgan Stanley). In fact, as per Technavio, the global athleisure market size will grow by $122.66 billion at a CAGR of nearly 7%. The report also puts forth the growing popularity of athleisure wear among corporates in the United States and the United Kingdom. Corporates in these countries help their employees indulge in various fitness activities, which has encouraged them to wear athleisure wear to work. It has been found that companies that have incorporated fitness programs in the work schedule have reported reduced use of sick days. The increasing focus on fitness among the working population will drive the growth of the global athleisure market. 

“The athleisure space has grown exponentially over the past few years. The category has enabled brands to capitalize on the niche between the traditional sportswear category and the casual wear category. A growing acceptance by consumers for athleisure products, brands like Puma, Adidas, Nike etc have created specific SKU's to cater to this space. Athleisure is also become increasingly acceptable office wear by most companies which increases the usability of the products. Brands which have pivoted to adapt to this trend have already begun to see substantial results, with the rest now playing catch-up. It will be interesting to see how, over time, brands will prevent cannibalizing their traditional categories with the introduction of athleisure.” Ritesh Nath, Vice President, Cornerstone Sport (Cornerstone Sport exclusively manages cricketer Virat Kohli)

 At a social gathering recently, the topic of discussion was if sneakers can become office wear essentials, and most people were of the opinion that being comfortable would boost productivity. However, there were others who believed that sneakers would take away from the serious business look unless dark in colour and conservative in design. It all comes down to how tastemakers define the sneaker – is it too casual, or can it be seen in the boardroom?

“Why not? Steve Jobs wore sneakers! At most startups, technology companies and in a company like ours it is already happening. Today's young, millennial workforce in technology companies believe in functionality and comfort, which is reflected in what they wear to work too.” Vineet Sehgal, Chief Marketing Officer, Quikr India.

Women have from time to time protested against wearing high heels to work. For example, the recent KuToo campaign, launched by actor and freelance writer Yumi Ishikawa in Japan, to protest against the requirement of women wearing high heels to work. Also, as you might recall, in 2015, women wearing flat shoes were turned away by the Cannes film festival and denied entry to a film screening. A year later Hollywood star Julia Roberts walked barefoot on the Cannes red carpet as a protest against the festival’s dress code. Maybe it is time we adopt sneakers as work wear. 

Remember Carrie Bradshaw’s shoe closet in Sex and the City? If enough people believe in and adopt the sneakers, we will soon be seeing shoe closets full of colourful sneakers.   

Would you be happy to see your employees wearing sneakers to work?

Would you like to see your colleagues wearing sneakers to work? 

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