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Our favourite sneakers-on-screen moments

Our favourite sneakers-on-screen moments

Remember the ending of “Space Jam”? No, us neither. But what we do remember is that we absolutely had to have those Air Jordan 11s. It didn’t matter that we couldn’t shoot a hoop like Jordan. Those kicks were as iconic on the big screen as they were on the basketball court.

It was long before that though that trainers stopped being shoes simply for sport. After all, once athletes started gaining celebrity status in the early 20th century, it was only natural that their kits (and their kicks) would earn a fanbase all of their own – just look at Chuck Taylor in the 1920s. But it wasn’t until the ‘80s that trainers really became the cultural status symbol they are today. Nike had gone public and was expanding in a big way; the sneakerhead was born, making these onetime training shoes a collector’s item; and, crucially, Hollywood Blockbusters were spotlighting the casual shoe like never before. That on-screen tradition hasn’t let up since – because the truth is, there really is no sartorial scene stealer quite like a sneaker.

With that in mind, we thought we’d put our hours of lockdown movie marathoning to good use, and with the help of Thread stylist (and resident movie buff) Toby Standing, we’ve pulled together some of our favourite kicks from flicks. And, because we think you’ll love them too, we’ve thrown in some ideas about how to style them yourself. You’re welcome.

The look

Leonardo Dicaprio in “The Basketball Diaries”

Why it worked

The movie may not have won awards, but the kicks definitely won our attention. Chuck Taylors have been a wardrobe mainstay for years. And especially with the skater culture revival right now, there’s never been a better time to lace up à la Leo.

I struggle to think of a shoe that’s more iconic than the Chuck Taylor,” Toby says. “It’s been cool for forever, and it will continue being cool.”

How to wear it

“I would wear pretty much every outfit Dicaprio wears in this film. We’re talking washed denim and a cool graphic sweatshirt – even better if it’s a ‘90s-era vintage one you’ve found hiding in the back of your wardrobe. If you want my advice, get the Chuck 70s. They’ll last longer and are super comfortable.”

The look

Ewan McGregor in “Trainspotting”

Why it worked

What could be more iconic than Renton’s punk-meets-’90s-Brit-pop style in “Trainspotting”? How about those three stripes? Adidas sneakers are the eternal cool shoe. If you want to score style points without even thinking, you really can’t go wrong with these – yup, even in red.

“This is such a great example of a cool statement shoe,” Toby says. “People may shy away from brighter colours. But, if you pair them with the right things, they can actually have quite a subtle effect.”

How to wear it

“The closest thing to Renton’s kicks today would be the Gazelle – they’ve got those same famous three stripes and contrast back tabs. To keep your look as wearable as possible, I’d let the colour of your sneakers pop against neutral tones everywhere else.” (The skinhead haircut is an optional extra.)

Photographed: Vans UA OG Classic Slip-On LX (£59)

The look

Sean Penn in “Fast Times at Ridgemont High”

Why it worked

Surely everyone went through an ‘80s high school movies phase? Well this is one of the ultimates, featuring all the quintessential stereotypes: nerds, jocks, and a totally rad surfer dude. But the outfits in “Ridgemont High” aren't all about Varsity jackets. 

“Sean Penn’s character has such great style in this film,” Toby says, “and his looks still feel perfectly of the moment right now. As for his footwear, the bold print on these Vans is immediately recognisable, and just the epitome of laid-back cool.”

How to wear it

“The great thing about Vans is that they’re skate shoes, which means they’re hardwearing and will last a long time. Personally, I’d team these with other timeless off-duty pieces like cotton shorts and a relaxed tee.”

Photographed: Adidas Indoor Comp (£85)

The look

Bill Murray in “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou”

Why it worked

You just have to look at one scene – any scene – from a Wes Anderson film to realise that the guy has a distinct eye for style. So, if he’s chosen Adidas sneakers to feature in his cult movie about an oceanographer determined to exact revenge on a mythical shark, we reckon these are a pair worth our attention.

“The low-key element of the sneakers in this film juxtaposes so well with that quintessential Wes Anderson quirkiness,” Toby says. “It’s just weird enough that it’s cool.”

How to wear it

“These are ideal if you prefer a more subtle shoe, because they’ll still bring the cool factor without overpowering the rest of your outfit. By all means, try the red beanie and blue boiler suit look if you like (it worked for Bill Murray). But otherwise, keep things simple in cotton shorts or denim.”

The look

The cast of “Do the Right Thing”

Why it worked

It’s hard to find a photo of Spike Lee not wearing a pair of kick-ass trainers. Yup, he even rocked a pair to the Oscars. So it’s really no surprise that his films have a through line of impeccable sneaker style.

“Spike Lee is famously into his trainers,” Toby tells us, “And this film is the ultimate ode to sporty footwear. It’s every pair of Nike shoes you could ever imagine on screen at one time – and I love that.”

How to wear it

“The sneakers from this era will overpower more subtle silhouettes, so go bold and lean into the sportswear element of the shoe. Think statement athleisure pieces, like a big logo tee.”

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Words: Victoria Ferguson
Styling: Toby Standing