Low-tech, high-fashion shoes

July 19, 1998|By Ruth Bashinsky | Ruth Bashinsky,KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

Hush Puppies weren't the only blue suede shoes making runway appearances last fall.

Several designers were showing old-fashioned, or "low-tech," running shoes - updated with colorful and catchy features such as Velcro closings and fluorescent rubber soles. Celebrities were quick to lace them up - and soon, the general public may be, too.

These also are being called "retro" sneakers, and among the most popular are those in New Balance's European line. Until a month ago, they were available predominantly in European stores. But by August, when New Balance officially debuts the shoes here, they should be springing up everywhere.

The shoes are distinguished by pigskin leather that looks like suede in an assortment of eye-popping colors (burnt orange, red, lime green, chocolate brown and purple), in addition to the don't-step-on-me sky-blues.

Let's be clear: These are not high-tech shoes for athletes. These are fashion statements that go for $110 to $125 a pair.

"If you want something for running, you should really wear different shoes," says Will Molina, assistant manager of the New Balance store on New York's 42nd Street, of the two most popular models - Nos. 572 and 576.

Even though Nike, Puma and designers such as Donna Karan, Jil Sander and Daryl K show similar shoes, New Balance got the buzz once European pop stars like Liam Gallagher of Oasis and Jarvis Cocker of Pulp were seen wearing them.

Two stores in SoHo have jumped the gun and now stock the shoes. One, Active Wharehouse on Broadway, is selling up to 100 pairs a week, says manager Crystal Butler.

"It's the new city shoe - all ages are wearing them," she says. "They look fabulous and are super comfortable."

Pub Date: 7/19/98

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