From Cornish pasty shops to the deep fried Mars bars of Glasgow, U.K. cuisine, in all its regional forms, is one of the country’s most distinctive features. While the population may be divided by whether cream or jam goes first on their scones, or whether their bread roll is called a bap, barm or roll – there’s a unifying force that every Brit can get behind: footwear.
What the world knows as sneakers, Brits call “trainers” – and the variety of what is worn, respected and adopted by different locations and regions is what makes the U.K.’s sneaker community one of the most diverse on the planet.
Before grime made its mark on airwaves in the U.K., football played a huge role in influencing sneaker selection. Football firms spread style movements across the nation, and movies such as Green Street inspired a generation of sports footwear, with adidas Spezials becoming terracewear staples alongside ‘pumps’ from the likes of PUMA and Diadora.
Soon, the nation’s rock music and britpop culture in the ‘80s began to co-opt styles seen on the terraces, with the adidas Samba and Gazelle surging in popularity. ‘90s rave culture also saw running shoes sprint into popularity, with Reebok and Nike often seen shuffling on feet across the country.
Footwear selection comes down to where you’re raised and the devotion you show for your beloved city. Whether that’s walking down the red-bricked roads of Salford in your Three Stripes, or making your way through Buchanan Street in Glasgow in New Balance, sneaker selection in cities across Britain plays a key part in defining regional identity.
With this in mind, Hypebeast has taken a deep-dive into some of the U.K.’s major cities and explored the sneakers that are synonymous with their history and culture. Get to know five major U.K. cities and their go-to kicks, below.
Manchester – adidas Spezial
Back in 1979, adidas released the Spezial as an elite-level handball shoe. Designed by the legendary Gary Aspden, the sneaker became the go-to choice for some of the world’s finest players and, as the ‘80s arrived, the shoe became a fashion statement for men throughout the United Kingdom – especially in Manchester.
Soon, Oasis arrived in the early ‘90s. Led by Liam and Noel Gallagher, the rock band quickly shot to the forefront of music popularity across the globe, thus putting Manchester firmly on the map as a trend leader in garment footwear selection. Oasis front-man Liam Gallagher became a household name for fashion inspiration throughout the rainy city; bucket hat, parka jacket, baggy jeans, a can of Stella, adidas Spezial.
Liam Gallagher’s Mancunian roots are still as inspirational as ever, so much so, the now-solo artist presented his latest adidas collaboration in the form of the LG2 SPZL earlier this year – the natural successor to his 2019 edition.
Now, the sneaker is seen throughout the city of Manchester and continues to merge the red and blue lines of City and United Mancunian creative, Ste Wing said: “I’ll always remember jumping the gates at Old Trafford as a kid with the lads from the estate and seeing Gazelles in many different colorways. Proper ‘90s Manc!”
Liverpool – Air Max ‘110’
Usually, you’ll catch Scousers navigating Liverpool in shorts all year round. And while On Running has made significant strides recently in becoming unofficial Scouse uniform, the trainer with the deepest connection to the city is undoubtedly the Air Max 95.
Known locally as “110s” – because they used to cost £110 — it’s a running joke across Liverpool that Nike sends more 95s here than anywhere else in the world. More specifically, Scousers have grown a huge affiliation to the Nike Air Max 95 “Neon OG,” first hitting the Liverpudlian streets in 1995 and creating a sea of neon that has gone on to become a part of the city’s make-up.
Liverpool-based sneaker stores such as Kersh Kicks have also played a huge part in keeping the 110 at the forefront of sneaker popularity in Liverpool. The brothers recently opened a new flagship store in their hometown, and in the process, gave away 20 pairs of AM 95s for free.
As per the Liverpool Echo, the Kersh brothers said: “We know Liverpool has always had a special relationship with 110s,” so we thought what better way to celebrate our store’s new opening than by giving away 20 pairs of the latest Air Max 95 for free.”
And while the “Neon OG” still remains a fan-favorite across the city, the consistent roll-out of new colorways – such as the recently-dropped “Beetroot” – has kept Scousers happy, and excited for what’s to come next for their latest pair of 95 sneakers, or in Liverpudlian terms, “boss webs.”
London – Nike Air Max 90
The Air max 90 – designed by Tinker Hatfield – is still a heavy favorite 32 years on from its first release – and its love is strongest in London.
Globally, the AM 90 became one of Nike’s most popular silhouettes and it sparked the start of the Beaverton brand’s footwear sales seeing dramatic growth. So much so, it led to London opening its first flagship Nike Town in the heart of the capital, with the shelves stacked with Air Max 90’s.
The sneaker became a part of the go-to uniform of the capital’s street culture, especially in the early 2000s when grime music became the new thing on the block — a genre that defined an entire generation from London, with its synth-heavy beats and gritty sounds transcending pirate radio stations to eventually hit the mainstream.
Dizzee Rascal’s debut – and Mercury Prize-winning – Boy in da Corner album cover pictured the rapper wearing a pair of blacked-out AM 90s. This then went on to set a precedent for the future of London footwear that is still seen to this day with new-school collaborations such as the Basement x Air Max 90 and Dizzee Rascal’s “Tongue N Cheek” Air Max 90 – pairs that are still captured on the feet of ravers and grime-heads alike today.
Newcastle – adidas Originals Gazelle
For Newcastle, football comes first. As a city with only one major club, it has created a rare togetherness throughout the city which isn’t seen anywhere else throughout the majority of the United Kingdom.
And while fans walk across James’ Boulevard and Barrack Road to make their way to their beloved St. James’ Park, most Geordies will be caught with a pair of adidas Originals Gazelle’s as they hope to secure European football this season.
The Gazelle became a status symbol among brands such as Lacoste, Fred Perry, and Lyle and Scott, forming an unwritten code for admittance into the stands. Even to this day, the sneaker remains synonymous with football culture and it can be deemed almost impossible to not spot a pair of brightly colored suede sneakers partnered with the classic white and black strip of Newcastle United on match day.
Glasgow – New Balance 574
While Scotland doesn’t seem to receive as much of the limelight when it comes to sneaker affiliation in comparison to other Great British cities, Glasgow does have a long-running relationship with New Balance – specifically the 574 silohuette.
While Nike and adidas silhouettes are still stalwarts in Glasgow, the relationship between the city and New Balance is becoming increasingly prominent, stemming from NB’s “Made in UK” umbrella in Flimby. While the factory is technically not in Scotland, you’re able to see the Scottish border from most points at the location – and many of the city’s sneakerheads will be decked out in a slew of New Balance models.
New Balance’s 574 model has a close affiliation with the green and white half of Glasgow: Celtic fans. The brand became Celtic’s official kit sponsor in 2015 and since, The Hoops teamed up with NB to create their own sneaker — the “Treble Treble” 997H silhouette that celebrated the club’s historic third season in a row where it picked up three major honors.