Lessons From the Nike Air Monarch, the Ultimate Dad Shoe

What this perrenial best-seller can teach us.

Nike Air Monarch
Images via Tyler Glickman
Nike Air Monarch

Nike’s Air Monarch is a shoe so reviled by the sneaker community that no one bothers even flaming it anymore. The shoe isn’t even funny. Unlike the Roshe, it was never really cool, so we can’t accuse anyone who wears them of having bad taste because they’re not even on the taste continuum. The only people who wear Air Monarchs are beyond help, so why should we waste the energy? But maybe the Air Monarch is trying to teach us something.

Sitting outside the consideration of style, it’s the ultimate dad shoe. That’s why the editors at Sole Collector asked me to wear a pair of Air Monarchs and let them know how it went. These are the same people that forced me to wear fake Yeezys for a month and at this point are just exacting torture on me. (The joke’s on them: once you wear fake Yeezys for a month nothing is that bad again.)

The main problem with Air Monarchs is that they’re comfortable. That sounds like a positive, I know, but the comfort of the shoe is why it won’t just go away. For years we’ve been forced to choose between being comfortable and looking cool, and we’ve chosen to look cool. This goes all the way back to the Air Force 1 which, let’s be real, is not a comfortable shoe. (Even Air Force 1 super-collector Mayor admits to this.) If that’s a comfortable shoe to you, your foot is a literal brick. People who choose Air Monarchs are making the other choice. They choose to be comfortable over cool.

"I guess I’m supposed to tell you that wearing Air Monarchs was embarrassing or that I felt ashamed wearing them in public. That would be a lie."

I guess I’m supposed to tell you that wearing Air Monarchs was embarrassing or that I felt ashamed wearing them in public. That would be a lie. When the CEO of my company stopped me in the hallway it’s true—I wished I was wearing something that I knew he would be impressed by. It goes without saying that sneakers are communication tool for people who don’t know each other well. As sneakerheads, we’ve decided that this will be our main point of contact. “I make shoe contact before I make eye contact,” we say. Unless, of course, you’re comfortable with the coolness coming from inside yourself. If you don’t have to prove that you’re cool you may not care what you look like because you don’t have to prove anything to anyone. And isn’t that what a dad is? Someone who just doesn’t give a fuck? This dad shoe is warning us that we should do more than “shoe contact”—not for others but for ourselves.

The “dad” trend is on fire. “Dad bods” describe someone who cares more about what brewery their beer is coming from than how far away the gym is. A “dad joke” doesn’t rely on any play of intellect or current events, it’s purely a pun based on corny humor. Even “dad hats” are structureless cotton rags with barely any shape that have phrases embroidered on it like it just came off grandma’s Singer XL-400. The "dad" lifestyle is fun and confident. Something we could all use.

At a time when kids are losing their lives over pairs of shoes, maybe we could afford to care less. Even a little. Even if it stops the aggression on release day or the tight grip on a pair of Yeezys when someone else is holding a gun. Maybe if we get comfortable with valuing things above our sneakers everyone will do a little better. Maybe Air Monarchs are the lesson we need. I’m not suggesting you go out and grab a pair, but that doesn’t mean you can’t learn from them or even celebrate them.

Don’t ignore the fact that Air Monarchs sell incredibly well year after year. Nike doesn’t even have to design new colorways. They're just making the same shoes season after season, and people keep buying them by the thousand. They're comfortable, they’re supportive, and if your feet are codependent, you might actually like wearing Air Monarchs—especially if you don’t look down at your feet. You’ll be in good company. The next time you see someone’s dad rocking a pair of Air Monarchs maybe you can give the kid a nod letting him know you understand the potential shame. But let’s remember the lesson the Monarch is offering you.

And then grow the fuck up.