Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 19 August 2019

In defence of sneakers: what was so wrong with Brigitte Macron’s casual shoe choice?

Moral of the story: women will get judged, no matter what they wear

Brigitte Macron visits the temple of Abu Simbel in Egypt on January 27, 2019. AFP
Brigitte Macron visits the temple of Abu Simbel in Egypt on January 27, 2019. AFP

According to the Daily Mail they “raised eyebrows”. If you listen to tabloid The Daily Express (because where else would you go for your in-depth sartorial analysis?), it was a “shocking fashion faux pas”.

After reading such provocative headlines, you’d expect the outfit worn by Brigitte Macron this week – that sparked such indignant critiques – to be equally as provocative. A daring hemline to a sombre occasion, perhaps? But the offending item was merely… a pair of trainers. A designer set of kicks, admittedly, but still a seemingly inoffensive shoe to wear on the rocky, sandy terrain of Abu Simbel.

The French first lady sported the Louis Vuitton sneakers – representing a label from her home nation – for a visit to the ancient Egyptian temple on Sunday. Joined by her husband, President Emmanuel Macron, the 65-year-old toured the 3,000-year-old archaeological site, built during the reign of Rameses II.

French President Emmauel Macron and his wife Brigitte during their visit to the temple of Abu Simbel. AFP
French President Emmauel Macron and his wife Brigitte during their visit to the temple of Abu Simbel. AFP

“What does she Sphinx she's wearing?” screamed the Mail’s pun-laden headline in response to Macron’s £635 (Dh3,066) kicks. Was it the price tag that offended the article’s author? Given the anti-government yellow vests movement still raging on in France, it could have been a social commentary on the first lady’s wardrobe habits as the nation protests high costs of living and rising fuel prices.

But alas, no – the British paper’s view wasn’t quantified with political grounding. Indeed, it was Macron’s audacity of pairing casual shoes with a more formal ensemble that invoked ire. “Brigitte Macron, 65, raises eyebrows after teaming a pair of £635 Louis Vuitton trainers with a business suit,” continued the headline.

There are few occasions too formal for box-fresh sneakers

But of course, how dare the former schoolteacher degrade her tailoring with a comfy shoe? She’s hardly pioneering the look, with Kate Moss, Alexa Chung, Bella Hadid and Cara Delevingne stepping out in the high-low combo before her. Indeed, Glamour, Elle, Harper’s Bazaar and many more fashion magazines have proclaimed trouser suits and trainers a bona fide trend. And before the ageists try to argue that it’s a style better suited to a woman of a certain age, please refer to the always-sharp Emma Thompson, who wore white sneakers and a navy two-piece to receive her damehood last November. Yes, the 59-year-old wore trainers to accept the prestigious title from Prince William at Buckingham Palace, no less, proving there are few occasions too formal for box-fresh sneakers.

There’s little doubt that Macron would have likely spurred equally judgemental headlines if she had worn impractical towering heels to the ancient temple. Case in point: remember the memes that swept the internet after Bryce Dallas Howard wore stilettos throughout Jurassic World, as she ran for her life from prehistoric beast?

Surrounded by a group of men wearing sensible flat shoes, there’s no reason that Macron should have worn anything else. And why should she be sartorially shamed for choosing comfort – whether or not it complements her outfit (which is entirely subjective, anyhow).

Do we expect our female leaders and first ladies to be front-row ready at any engagement? (And it’s not just the women under the microscope when it comes to footwear, mind you – a photo of a hole in Prince Harry’s shoe was blown up and published across hundreds of media websites last August). Take Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge for example – after stepping out on the steps of the Lindo Wing after the delivery of each of her three children, she’s both praised and reprimanded.

On one hand she’s lauded for her immaculate appearance, with blow-dried hair and a designer dress, on the other she’s derided for presenting an unrealistic view of post-partum mothers. For women in the public eye nowadays, it seems largely a case of damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

With that in mind, keep putting your best foot forward Brigitte – whether it’s in heels, trainers, or a pair of paper bags, for all it really matters.

Updated: January 29, 2019 04:29 PM