Sporty sliders may be the shoe of choice on Love Island but outside the villa, men are smartening up.
Retailers report that men are shunning their once-loved casual sliders, and even Birkenstocks with their supportive footbed, for flat leather strappy sandals instead.
“Men are getting dressed up again,” says Tim Little, a shoe designer and owner of Grenson footwear.
“There’s a big swing away from loungewear and sportswear. Men now want to look sharp, especially younger customers.”
A spokesperson for John Lewis says sales of smart sandals are up 67%. A £70 coffee-coloured pair from Dune with double straps, and Kin’s £22.50 chestnut pair featuring crossover straps are the retailer’s bestsellers.
Elsewhere, the luxury e-tailer Mytheresa says leather sandals have overtaken sport sliders as a top performer, with bestselling brands including Gucci, Tom Ford and Brunello Cucinelli.
It coincides with a boom in sales of soft tailoring, in which some retailers are reporting triple-figure growth.
“Fashion is finally growing up again,” says Grazia’s Henrik Lischke. “We’re moving on from the Y2K trend. This look is more elegant and elevated so it needs a shoe that isn’t naff.”
Earlier this week David Beckham, who previously wore a parka with white socks and black sliders to watch a fashion show by his wife, Victoria, was pictured at the Jacquemus show in France.
However, for his front row appearance this time around he wore a beige linen suit with Loro Piana’s £795 brown leather sandals featuring straps that wrap around the foot.
It’s a look that featured on many of the spring/summer 2023 catwalks, including Paul Smith and Hermès.
Little says the Grenson men’s sandal category used to be “very small”.
“In summer, men used to wear sneakers and sometimes flip-flops. Sandals weren’t a huge business.”
He credits lockdown and the boom in Birkenstocks with giving men the confidence to widen their footwear choices.
“It opened up the idea of sandals to them. However, now they want something dressier.”
Grenson’s best performer is the Quincy, a fisher-inspired style with interlocking straps.
Due to demand Little says it is launching another version with a springy rubber sole and a third with an in-built footbed.
Lischke, who has a four-year-old strappy pair from Grenson, says they offer a polished alternative to the gorpcore trend, which champions wearing outdoorsy gear such as trekking sandals in an urban environment.
“I like to wear them instead of a closed shoe with a suit. It breaks it up,” Lischke says, comparing it to the on-screen style of The Talented Mr Ripley and 80s advertisements from Giorgio Armani.
And while Birkenstocks and other “dad” sandals, such as Tevas, may have been revered for their comfort, wearers of modern “mandals” say they are just as agreeable.
“Leather is the best material in the heat because it’s breathable,” says Little. “Shoes like sliders are usually made from plastic which make your feet sweat.”