You might think this is going to be straight-up invective against dad shoes, and there you’d be wrong. Against some, sure. The $850 Balenciaga Triple S looks like what would happen if you tried to put on a pair of Skechers while already wearing a pair of Skechers, only for ten times the price, and the Yeezy Wave Runner looks—at least to me, a Certified Old—like any number of late ‘90s Feet You Wear Adidas runners, only with that ever-important Kanye co-sign. But again, it’s not “dad shoes” that I have a problem with. It’s making “dad shoes” a thing.
Take the Nike Air Monarch IV, the dad-shoe archetype designed by Jason Mayden (who recently shared a sketch of one of his original 2002 designs), a refreshingly style-free model that sells literally millions of pairs a year to people who probably think Yeezy is an off-brand Febreze. They’re the sneaker for people who don’t care at all about sneakers other than the fact that they need something to mow the lawn in. So they buy a new pair whenever the old ones fall apart, making the Monarch one of the best-selling models in the history of Nike. Just know that Nike makes way more off this humble department-store model than it does off any high-tech, high-dollar signature shoes.
Back in 2013, I wrote something for this very website about how everyone should really get a pair of Monarchs. I meant it, although, I never went so far as to get a pair for myself. But other people did. Before my piece even ran, there was a “Team Monarch,” complete with #TeamMonarch hashtag, celebrating the uncelebrated. Nike eventually made a PE version of the shoe for Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, although, the retail versions remained unchanged (and readily available at your local Modells or Kohls).
It turned out that all of this was merely a preview. As sock-like shoes peaked, and the pendulum swung the other way towards chunkier designs, eyes turned to the Monarch. And it wasn’t just sneaker fans burned out by the endless hype cycle, or those looking for a readily-available shoe that wasn’t immediately sucked into the retail-resale vortex. It was honest-to-God fashion designers who put the lowly shoe on runways, or—in the case of John Elliott, got updated versions of the shoe that led none but GQ to declare, “the Monarch is now a fashion sneaker.”
Oh hell no.
Matt Powell isn’t going to want to hear it, but Kanye West had a lot to do with this swing towards dad fashion. As Kanye himself became a dad, and as he continues to steer Yeezy based on his personal likes and dislikes, he’s unwittingly—or perhaps wittingly—raised a whole generation of youths who are now willing to pay whatever it takes to dress like a 40-year-old father of two. Adidas led, other brands followed suit. And the Monarch, it seems like the Monarch has just always been there. Waiting.
From a sneaker perspective, the Nike Air Monarch IV is the equivalent of one of those tribes in the Amazon who have never had any contact with Western civilization. It’s pure, in the sense that it was a sneaker designed to serve a particular market that has been doing exactly that for years and years now. There has been no need for new colorways (at least, hardly any), and no one (at least, hardly anyone) has been clamoring for a Monarch V. The Monarch IV is what it is, and what it is, is perfection.
And now that’s not going to be good enough.
It hasn’t been ruined yet. There is still time to save the Monarch before it becomes the next Air Force 1, complete with jewel Swooshes and a Supreme collab. (Concepts actually did collaborate on a Monarch, but it has yet to release.) And that is to leave it alone. I’m not saying don’t wear it—by all means wear it if you want to—but wear it when you want a break from “sneaker culture” instead of trying so hard to make the Monarch IV a part of it. Put it on your feet, leave it off Instagram.
There’s no easy way to put this, so I’ll just say it: The Air Monarch IV doesn’t need us. It never has. Again, Nike sells them by the millions to people who think of their sneakers about as much as they think of their underwear. Wearing a pair of Monarchs is about as rebellious as listening to Drake or eating McDonalds. Literally millions of people do each of those things every single day without ever thinking about them. Wearing Air Monarchs does not make you special. If anything, it does the opposite. Embrace THAT.
Look, we all know that trends gonna trend. Things went from minimalist to maximalist, and they’ll go back again. Eventually even dad-Ye will get off the dad-fashion wave. The Triple S will die off of its own accord, like a mammoth in a tar pit. In the meantime, though, let’s try our best to leave the dad shoes to the dads. They need them more than we ever will.