I love this scene from Curb Your Enthusiasm, where Larry David charms a woman by admitting he’s not a cool guy. “Which is a pretty good line,” he later tells Ted Danson. “I never did that when I was dating – admit that I wasn’t a cool guy. Now I didn’t give a shit, I just said ‘I’m not a cool guy!’ Fucking worked! I’m going to use it all the time!”
That’s how I feel about retro-inspired running sneakers, which former Four Pins writer Jon Moy would probably describe as “NarcDad.” Styled after classic running shoes from the 1980s, they look like something you’d see on an NYC narcotics officer in a bad detective film. Or maybe a suburban dad in light-washed jeans. They’re utterly uncool and not at all hip, which is sort of how I feel these days seeing fashion guys in Rafdidas, Yeezys, and Hender Schemes. Cool shoes, but too cool for me, so I wear running sneakers – they’re my way of admitting I’m not a cool guy.
I do they think can look stylish though. When done right, they suggest a bit of playfulness. Not as stark as Common Projects, nor as fashion conscious as Ultra Boosts, they show you can look good without taking yourself too seriously. The key is to wear them with slim jeans, as baggy ones take these too far down the NarcDad road. It also helps have some interesting, but still reasonably classic outerwear (see Rocky Mountain Featherbed’s down coat or Niche’s military field jacket). For a slightly dressier look, you can pair them with a topcoat and a hard bop, like Jake from The Armoury.
I recently picked up two pairs. The gray ones are from Spalwart, a young Swedish brand that you can find at Barney’s and End. The others are from Victory Sportswear, which is using one of the two remaining sneaker manufacturing facilities in the US. You can find them at Kafka, Nepenthes, Up There Store, and The Bureau Belfast. I find the Victory sneakers to be better built, although I like the style of the Spalwarts a little more.
Both labels are kind of expensive, but the nice thing about NarcDad sneakers is they can be easily had at FrugalDad prices. Some of my favorite affordable options include these in Nike’s Archive 83.M series, this Nike Waffle Racer, and this inside-out collab Reebok did with Garbstore. Of course, there’s also the most NarcDad of all NarcDad options: New Balance’s 574 in tonal gray. Any of those would be perfect for the kind of guy who can admit he’s just not that cool.