The German Army Trainer has become a ubiquitous part of the modern menswear wardrobe. The classic European silhouette is a mainstay among fans of minimal style and low-profile sneakers alike. Its roots go back to 1936, at the Berlin Summer Olympics. Brothers Adi and Rudolf Dassler had a company called Gebrüder Dassler Schuhfabrik, which translates to “Dassler Brothers Shoe Factory.” Adi Dassler convinced American track legend Jesse Owens to wear a pair of handmade split-toe leather shoes with extra long spikes for his competing events.
Owens went on to win the gold in the 100m, 200m, long jump and 4x100m events, which translated into sales for the Dassler's shoe company as well. By 1948, the brothers had split into their own companies: Adi founded adidas, and Rudolf founded PUMA, but the classic German Army Trainer silhouette remains a cult classic. Any sneaker with a white upper and gum sole looks all the more attractive, but this particular shape set the bar, inspiring countless reinterpretations by companies beyond adidas and PUMA. By the 1970s, the fledgling German army adopted the "bundeswehr sportschuhe" as their de facto indoor training shoe.
By now, Maison Margiela's upscale take on the standard issue sneaker is pretty much part of the menswear enthusiast starter kit, along with a pristine white pair of Common Projects Achilles. It's the kind of entry-level luxury sneaker that costs more than a pair of Jordans at face value, but is eminently more wearable and surreptitiously stylish. While the BW Sport versions of the GAT are readily available at European surplus stores for 35 Euro and some change, there's something to be said about the cachet a pair of Margiela GATs holds.
So is there any quantifiable difference between springing $470 for the Margiela versions (which sell out quickly in the simple white leather/gray suede colorway) or considerably less for a pair of German surplus kicks? We compare the two sneakers side-by-side to figure that out.
Photography by Andy Hur.