The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

Unpacking the white sneaker trend

Why are white sneakers so popular? Vanderbilt students weigh in.
Lexie Perez
Graphic depicting students in front of a school building wearing white sneakers. (Hustler Multimedia/Lexie Perez)

A few days ago, I set out to count the number of people I saw on campus wearing white sneakers. I stopped counting after around four hours when I reached 200.

The white sneaker is arguably one of the oldest fashion trends that’s still in style. Unlike scrunchies, flare jeans and claw clips which were popular a few decades ago and are now making a comeback, white sneakers have been an undeniable closet essential since they first hit the shelves in the early 1900s.

The designer of the original white sneaker and the time of its first sale is still up for debate. Some say the sensible yet dependable Keds were the first pair, considering they were released in 1916. Others counter that the classic 1970 Adidas Superstars deserve the leading title. Regardless of who started the white sneaker craze, it’s indisputably become contagious. Countless clothing brands that range in specialty from athletic wear (such as Nike and New Balance) to luxury fashion (like Gucci and Louis Vuitton) all have produced their own spins on the timeless closet staple.

Growing up, I was never the type to choose the plainest, most adaptable articles of clothing. I vividly remember several consecutive pairs of Saucony sneakers that were varying combinations of obnoxious neons and clashing pastels. Ten-year-old me always hated white sneakers because they were part of the strict school gym uniform I wore ever since I was in kindergarten. But eventually, even I gave in and hopped on the trend — I bought my first pair of Converse Chuck Taylors and Nike Air Force Ones in eighth grade. They became two of my most well-worn shoes — I only recently replaced them both because all the walking I have done in college has rendered them virtually sole-less.

I set out to talk to the very experts of the white sneaker trend: students. I wanted to hear their takes on the trend and personal opinions on white sneakers. 

First-year Charlotte Penberthy was wearing white Nike sneakers when I asked her to reflect on the trend. 

“I like the ones that I have because they’re super versatile,” Penberthy said. “I can lift in them and work out, but I can also wear them with stylish outfits.”

First-year Kenneth Prado said he thinks the most popular white sneakers are Nike Air Force Ones and Converse. Prado believes that these brands’ popularity prolongs their rule in the white sneaker realm — he once had a pair of white Fila sneakers, but he ended up not wearing them because everyone else had Air Force Ones. 

The white shoe shows the history of everywhere you’ve been and everything you’ve done.

— Mason TeVrucht ('23)

I can confirm that Converse and Air Force Ones are a hit among Commodores — I noticed plenty of them myself when I was counting the white sneaker wearers I saw on campus one day. Prado added that it’s hard to resist wearing shoes that work with any outfit.

“I wear mine pretty often. I try not to because I don’t want to have the same shoes on every day, but they just look cool,” Prado said. 

Penberthy said she sports her white sneakers about three times a week. Many students — Prado and myself included — don ours much more frequently.

Sophomore Lexi Abrams also weighed in on the versatility of the white sneaker.

“I think they’re so popular because they’re basic, but in a good way,” Abrams said. “I can wear my white sneakers to work, and then later in the day to a concert or party. I probably wear some variation of a white sneaker at least six days a week, if not every day.” 

Many people, myself included, keep and wear tattered, deteriorating white sneakers long after their lifespan is over. When our shoes have to suffer through unexpected Nashville flash thunderstorms and the inevitable mud-covered walking paths, they can easily lose their squeaky clean white luster in a matter of days. But there’s just something about the worn, broken-down pairs that makes them so beloved to us Gen Zers. When I asked senior Mason TeVrucht for his take on the trend, he alluded to this special place that white sneakers hold for us.

“White shoes will get spilled on, stepped on and kicked, yet we choose to risk them looking dirty,” TeVrucht said. “My friends use white shoes as their ‘frat shoes’ — on rainy days and out to parties. The white shoe shows the history of everywhere you’ve been and everything you’ve done.”

We aren’t the only age group that wipes white sneakers right off the shelves. As I was keeping tally, I noticed that some of my professors were even clad in white sneakers. The trend transcends gender and generational boundaries because of the sneakers’ timelessness and adaptability. There’s a style for everyone, from low tops to high tops, platforms to no platforms and athletic to casual. Most of all, the white sneaker is a closet staple in the life of college students who need practical but fashionable footwear for the several miles they walk around campus each day. The way I see it, the white sneaker trend won’t be going away any time soon.

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About the Contributors
Isabella Bautista
Isabella Bautista, Life Copy Editor
Isabella Bautista (‘26) is double majoring in mathematics and psychology and minoring in biological sciences on the pre-medical track in the College of Arts and Science. She is from Easton, Pa. When not writing for The Hustler, she can be found spending hours alone in a piano practice room, photographing Vanderbilt squirrels with her Canon camera or poring over research papers in the lab she works in. She can be reached at [email protected]  
Lexie Perez
Lexie Perez, Graphics Editor
Lexie Perez (‘26) is from Northern Virginia and is majoring in climate studies and human and organizational development and minoring in business in the College of Arts and Science. She enjoys listening to 70s and 80s pop music, doing the daily Wordle and rooting for the Nashville Predators and Cincinnati Bengals. She can be reached at [email protected].
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