Style News

Sneaker Series: The Legend Of Valentino

Sneaker Series: The Legend Of Valentino

From a palazzo beside Rome’s illustrious Spanish Steps, Valentino Garavani’s rule over an eponymous fashion empire spanned 100 countries and almost five decades. The man’s elegance and proclivity for flash was legendary – once dubbed the ‘sheik of chic’, the perma-tanned designer dressed movie stars and royals, splitting his time between London, Paris, New York, Gstaadt and his 152-foot super yacht. His empire is still thriving, thanks in no small part to the success of a line of now-iconic footwear and accessories. Here, we drill down into the legend of Valentino Garavani’s Rockstud and Rockrunner sneakers.

Valentino Garavani black leather Rockrunner trainers
Valentino Garavani black leather Rockrunner trainers

It may come as a surprise to some that the Valentino Rockstud wasn’t created by Valentino but by his successors. The designer’s retirement in 2008 was met with horror by the beautiful people he’d dressed over the years who lamented the loss of the man who had given them ‘rosso’ and romance. After his departure, design duo Maria Grazia Chiuri (now at Dior) and Pierpaolo Piccioli (the maison’s existent Creative Director) took up the Valentino mantel, and they had big, well-heeled shoes to fill. So they chose, in a moment of design genius that will surely go down in history, to embellish those shoes with studs. The beautiful people dried their eyes and the Rockstud was born.

Valentino Garavani blue leather Rockrunner trainers
Valentino Garavani blue leather Rockrunner trainers

Launched in 2010, the first Rockstud collection spawned a slew of derivative styles, including the Rockrunner trainer. Identifiable by the pyramidal hardware studs that deck them, they were an instant runway success and became must-haves overnight, photographed on the feet of A-listers from London to LA. The studs themselves were inspired by the nailhead details seen on Roman doors across the maison’s hometown – Chiuri and Piccioli had found a way to translate the brand’s design heritage for a modern consumer that craved a contemporary take on tradition. The shoe quite literally pays tribute to the legacy of the house – to its studded doorways and its spirit.

The sports-luxe trend arguably began with pioneering collaborations between adidas, Yohji Yamamoto and Raf Simons – from which the Rockrunner took its cues. Sneaker culture existed long before the Rockrunner dropped – but, much like Gucci with their Ace and Tennis ‘84, Valentino’s Rockrunner has been a major player in the elevation of sport and streetwear to the upper reaches of luxury fashion. Its catwalk and sell-out success opened up the space for other luxury brands to follow with their own designs, so men everywhere could get their high-end sneaker fix. Now, hindsight tells us that luxury sneakers were the obvious next step in an internet age that spawned the ‘hypebeast’ phenomenon.

Valentino leather white ROckrunner trainers and camouflage backpack
Valentino leather white ROckrunner trainers and camouflage backpack

Where once a suit or chinos and a pair of loafers were the defining features of masculine style, now trainers dominate the landscape. Men’s style is no longer beige, defined by a two piece and a tie. A man can lace himself into a pair of Rockrunners and in one easy manoeuvre identify himself as a style connoisseur. Shoes maketh the man, and Valentino trainers are Italian-made pieces of sports-luxe engineering, combining the laid-back modernity of a trainer with the high-end materials and manufacture of a luxury fashion house. Up there with the world’s most coveted sneakers for men, they are symbols of the power of contemporary hybrid fashion – of what can be achieved when designers think outside the box.

Four pairs of Valentino Rockstud trainers in blue, white and black
Four pairs of Valentino Rockstud trainers in blue, white and black

It’s a trainer that combines gentlemanly elegance with a punk attitude and a sporting silhouette – three for the price of one (ish). Whilst they definitely weren’t made for running (their sporting associations are purely aesthetic), the Rockrunner and its close relations the Rockstud, Open Band and Fly Crew have athletic silhouettes, typically sporty box toes, heel counters and lace panels that have been carefully contoured and moulded into a slick shape more suited to posing than sprinting. They’re versatile classics that transcend seasons and their place in the sneaker hall of fame is secured. The trainer, the myth, the legend.