From Cornish Pasty shops to the deep-fried Mars bars of Glasgow, British cuisine, in all its regional forms, is one of the country’s most distinctive features. While the populace may be divided over whether cream or jam goes first on their scones, or whether their sandwich is called a bap, barm or roll, there is one unifying force that every Briton can get behind: shoes.
What the world knows as sneakers, Britons call ‘trainers’ – and the variety of what is worn, respected and adopted by different locations and regions makes the UK’s sneaker community one of the most diverse in the world.
Before grime made its mark on the UK airwaves, football played a huge part in influencing sneaker choice. Football firms spread style movements across the country, and movies like Green street inspired a generation of athletic shoes, with adidas Spezials becoming patio wear staples alongside ‘pumps’ from the likes of PUMA and Diadora.
Soon the country’s rock music and britpop culture began to co-opt styles seen on the terraces in the 1980s, with the adidas Samba and Gazelle becoming extremely popular. Running shoes also became popular in the rave culture of the 1990s, with Reebok and Nike often shuffling across the country on foot.
Shoe choice comes down to where you grew up and the dedication you show for your beloved city. Whether you’re walking the redbrick roads of Salford in your Three Stripes, or making your way down Buchanan Street in Glasgow in New Balance, sneaker choice in cities across Britain plays a key role in shaping regional identity.
With this in mind, Hypebeast has taken a deep dive into some of the UK’s biggest cities and explored the sneakers that are synonymous with their history and culture. Get to know five major British cities and their favorite kicks below.
In 1979 adidas released the Spezial as an elite level handball shoe. Designed by the legendary Gary Aspden, the sneaker became the favorite choice of some of the world’s best players and, as the 1980s came, the shoe became a fashion statement for men across the UK, especially in Manchester.
Soon Oasis arrived in the early ’90s. Led by Liam and Noel Gallagher, the rock band quickly shot to the forefront of music popularity around the world, firmly establishing Manchester as a trend leader in dress shoe selection. Oasis frontman Liam Gallagher became a household name for fashion inspiration in the rainy city; bucket hat, parka, baggy jeans, can of Stella, adidas Spezial.
Liam Gallagher’s Mancunian roots are still as inspiring as ever, so much so that earlier this year the now solo artist presented his latest adidas collaboration in the form of the LG2 SPZL – the logical successor to his 2019 edition.
Now the sneaker can be seen all over the city of Manchester and continues to fuse the red and blue lines of City and United Mancunian. the estate and seeing Gazelles in many different colorways. Real Manc from the 90’s!
Liverpool – Air Max ‘110’
You can usually see Scousers navigating Liverpool in shorts all year round. And while On Running has made great strides in becoming an unofficial Scouse uniform of late, the Air Max 95 is undoubtedly the trainer with the deepest connection to the city.
Known locally as “110s” – because they used to cost £110 – it’s a joke in Liverpool that Nike sends more 95s here than anywhere else in the world. More specifically, Scousers has a huge connection to the Nike Air Max 95 “Neon OG”, which first hit the streets of Liverpool in 1995, creating a sea of neon that has become part of the city’s make-up.
Liverpool based sneaker stores such as Kersh Kicks have also played a huge part in keeping the 110 at the forefront of sneaker popularity in Liverpool. The brothers recently opened a new flagship store in their hometown, giving away 20 pairs of AM 95s for free.
According to the Liverpool echothe Kersh brothers said: “We know that Liverpool have always had a special relationship with 110s”, so we thought there was a better way to celebrate the new opening of our store than by giving away 20 pairs of the latest Air Max 95 for free to give.”
And while the “Neon OG” is still a fan favorite around town, the consistent rollout of new colorways – like the recently dropped “Beetroot” – has left Scousers happy and excited for what’s to come for their latest pair of 95 sneakers, or in Liverpudlian terms, ‘boss webs’.
London – Nike Air Max 90
The Air max 90 – designed by Tinker Hatfield – is still a firm favorite 32 years after its initial release – and its love is strongest in London.
Globally, the AM 90 became one of Nike’s most popular silhouettes and led to the start of Beaverton brand footwear sales with dramatic growth. So much so that it led to London opening its first flagship Nike Town in the heart of the capital, with the shelves stocked with Air Max 90s.
The sneaker became part of the go-to uniform of the capital’s street culture, especially in the early 2000s when grime music became the new thing – a genre that defined an entire generation from London, with its synth-heavy beats and gritty sounds that transcend pirate radio stations to eventually reach the mainstream.
The debut of Dizzee Rascal – and winner of the Mercury Prize – Boy in the corner the album cover depicted the rapper in a pair of blacked-out AM 90s. This then set a precedent for the future of London footwear which is still seen to this day with new school collaborations like the Basement x Air Max 90 and Dizzee Rascal’s “Tongue N Cheek” Air Max 90 – pairs that are still caught on the feet of ravers and grime-heads alike today.
Newcastle – adidas Originals Gazelle
For Newcastle, football comes first. As a city with only one major club, it has created a rare togetherness across the city that cannot be seen anywhere else in most of the UK.
And as fans walk down James’ Boulevard and Barrack Road to make their way to their beloved St. James’ Park, most Geordies will be caught with a pair of adidas Originals Gazelle’s as they hope to secure European football this season.
The Gazelle became a status symbol under brands such as Lacoste, Fred Perry and Lyle and Scott, forming an unwritten code for grandstand access. Even to this day, the sneaker remains synonymous with football culture and it can be thought almost impossible not to spot a pair of brightly colored suede sneakers on match day that team up with Newcastle United’s classic white and black stripe.
Glasgow – New balance 574
While Scotland doesn’t seem to get as much attention when it comes to sneaker affiliation compared to other major UK cities, Glasgow does have a longstanding relationship with New Balance – specifically the 574 silohuette.
While the silhouettes of Nike and adidas are still steadfast in Glasgow, the relationship between the city and New Balance is becoming more prominent, springing from NB’s “Made in UK” umbrella in Flimby. While the factory isn’t technically in Scotland, you can see the Scottish border from most points – and many of the city’s sneakerheads will be decked out in a slew of New Balance models.
New Balance’s 574 model has a close relationship with Glasgow’s green and white half: Celtic fans. The brand became Celtic’s official kit sponsor in 2015 and since then The Hoops have teamed up with NB to create their very own sneaker – the “Treble Treble” 997H silhouette which celebrated the club’s historic third season in a row which saw it win three major accolades in waited.