Appropriation or Re-signification: American everyday in the global context of luxury fashion.

Activity: Talk or presentation typesConference presentation


Inherently American, it was the All Star model designed by The Converse Rubber Shoe Company in 1917 that made sneakers truly popular through their association with the new sport of basketball taking over the neighborhoods of American cities. This development brought to the instantaneous link between the sneakers and the streets, the ultimate public space shared by the millions of strangers, while their durability and comfort made them into a prominent item of ordinary wardrobes.
Sneakers proliferation into high-fashion can be traced back to the designer’s collaborations with the sportswear companies in the early-21st century (Yamamoto 2002, Mc- Queen 2006), further promoting the merge of high/low categories in fashion. At the meantime, sneakers’ brand/model, cleanliness, or dirt gained significance as important markers of value, meaning, and distinction within the streetwear culture. Hence, the scuffed and dirty looking leather sneakers, “The Screener,” introduced by the Italian luxury brand Gucci in 2019, raised anew the questions about the legitimacy of fashion borrowing from the everyday, and the meaning of the ordinary when translated from one cultural context to another.
Given the relationship to dirt in the Western, and especially American cultural dis- course, which is never private but “engages a society’s standards for health, manners, and decency,” the use of dirt as a design feature further complicates the issue. The dirt of the sneakers is simultaneously a material substance, an evidence of the everyday routines of millions of people, and a symbolic category representing “the ambiguities of proprietorship, of aesthetics, of social relations, and the political economy of everyday characterizing American cities.”
This paper analyzes the “cultural biography” of the sneakers, and the dirt they bear, examining how the decontextualization of the staple of the American everydayness by the luxury fashion impacts the meaning of the cultural codes embedded in it. Ultimately raising a question whether fashion is capable to culturally redefine our relationship to dirt and to the ordinary, or it is just another chase after seasonal novelty.
Period15 Feb 2020
Event titleAmerican Everyday: Resistance, Revolution & Transformation
Event typeConference
LocationChicago, United States, IllinoisShow on map


  • dirt, everydayness, urban space, fashion