By the mid-20th century, sneakers were embraced not only for their promise of enhanced sports performance but also as a means of conspicuous consumption. In 1965, the Adidas Gazelle became one of the first sneakers to make the leap from sport shoe to fashion statement: first in the UK and soon after in North America, the market for these low-profile, bright blue models expanded well beyond soccer players, and other shoes followed suit. The fitness craze of the Me Generation in the 1970s redefined running sneakers as lifestyle footwear, while basketball shoes became the status sneaker of choice in the following decade, thanks to the rising influence of urban style on mainstream fashion.

In the last decade of the 20th century, high fashion brands like Prada began to enter the men’s and women’s sneaker market, responding to the aesthetics of sneaker culture in various ways. The past two decades have seen numerous prominent collaborations between established sneaker brands and cutting-edge designers, such as Puma and Hussein Chalayan or Adidas and Jeremy Scott. Meanwhile smaller sportswear brands have gained international cult followings, thanks to their accessibility online and in some cases their association with fashion-conscious musicians, sports stars, and other pop culture figures. Multi-hyphenates such as Rihanna and Kanye West have even turned to sneaker design themselves, influencing fashion directly with their highly sought-after models.