THE BLOG
08/20/2012 11:32 am ET Updated Oct 20, 2012

What's Your Sneaker Age?

How old is too old when it comes to wearing sneakers? I mean the casual variety, not those worn for sport. Sorry to say this, but the landscape is far bumpier for females than males. Boys can get away with more for longer sneaker-wise but let's not get hung up on that now.

Is 18 the absolute cut-off age for a high-top? Or are they acceptable with gym-style clothing on a civilian street? Forgive all the questions, but sneaker-age is on my mind thanks to a picture sent by my younger (she won't see 35 again) sister in the UK. The pic shows my sister's new all-black Nike sneakers, customized with the letters, ahem, 'YOLO.' I know, that's an argument right there. There have been mixed reactions, riotous laughter from some friends and secret envy from me. I would never dare wear such a thing in New York but I can't work out why. It must be because inside, I secretly think I am too old. Heartbreaking, eh?

Sneakers, along with hot-pants are a woman's age-style barometer. I am using 'hot-pants' as a generic term for very short shorts but they could be the denim cut-off or satin disco-dolly variety. When it comes to age-appropriate footwear, American women are generally on the right lines. We Brits are much free-er with our sneaker choices but this has a downside. The ordinary UK female's down-played approach to style means many have worn sneakers for too long. Failing to occasionally swap out the sneakers for heels has resulted in a shared, flumpy, flat-footed kind-of-walk, due bizarrely to the popularity of the Converse sneaker. One thing I noticed missing on females when I moved to NYC was this brand. Considering this is the nation that invented the canvas sneaker, I was surprised. After three years here I get it, Converse are skater, teen shoes and are treated as such. In the UK, they are the casual footwear choice of all women between the ages of 20-55. Except for me because I am just not that keen.

Beyond all that canvas and metallic leather, British women are forever pushing the boundaries of sneaker fashion further. It is in our fashion history. I spent a whole year with ingrown toenails crammed into a pair of too-small but rare Old Skool leather sneakers culled from the back of of the warehouse of a well-known sports brand. Recently, I had to physically hold back a visiting fashion pal in Bergdorf's as she lunged at those Marc Jacobs wedge sneakers.

"OOOOOH!" she cried. "They are like Miranda Kerr's Isabel Marants! I just need to touch them!"

My friend, like my sister, is not 16. Yet these high, wedgey sneakers are a tempting purchase, crazy $200-ish price aside. They are high like a boot but casual like a sneaker. They are snedgeys! After an argument in loud whispers, my friend and I quit Bergy's. Not before I decided I needed a pair, she counseled me out of it, we both welled up in tears and had to go for a glass of wine.

The reason for our tears was the sneaker age question. Perhaps a guru could write us some rules. If only Diana Vreeland was still alive, we could ask her. There are unwritten, sneaker rules operating within the fashion community and after a few minutes, no, seconds thought, here is a rough chart.

SNEAKER AGE CHART
Age: Under 18: Absolutely any brand, shape, heel height and color.
Age: 18-30: No high-tops, colors are acceptable but no neon, wedges still working.
Age: 30-40: flat soles only, neutral colors, white or navy now working well, avoid bouncy soles as they are very aging.
Age: 40-50: Good-condition is the primary goal as battered and well-worn will give the impression you are actually living on the street.
Age: 50-60: Dark colors balance out lightening hair color, choose flat but expensive designer if you can.
Age: 60-upwards: Congrats you have earned the right to wear any kind of sneaker you damned well like.

Subscribe to the Lifestyle email.
Life hacks and juicy stories to get you through the week.