The Dad Shoes Revolution has begun, led by two European footwear companies that are already piling up ambassadors, collaborators, and sales.
Not long before the whole world shut down, a friend of mine returned from a European vacation and sniped that everyone, everywhere was wearing dad sneakers; their presence couldn’t be missed on the streetwear runways that are Parisian sidewalks. The chunky-soled, mostly white kicks favored by men and women alike were paired with oversized menswear and thick, structured knits.
Fast forward a few years — and a few iterations — and it turns out that that simple observation proved to be a prediction of an explosive emerging market in footwear. And two brands have been at the forefront of the revolution where comfort meets fashion: Hoka One One and On-Running.
Hoka One One
Hoka One One (pronounced “oh-nay oh-nay”) first came onto the scene in 2009. Immediately, the goal was to change the game, as its highly structured “maximal” design served as a stark contrast to the barefoot-inspired fashions that had been taking over the running shoe market. From your favorite celebrity to your favorite chef, people cannot get enough of the wide-set shoe and its comfy cushioning.
Deckers Outdoor Corporation — which also includes cult favorites UGGs and Teva in its portfolio — acquired the French-founded company in 2013. Since then, they have seen their baseline value of $70 million skyrocket in direct proportion to their popularity and appearances on the feet of global celebrities.
Hoka has established a number of successful collaborations with niche brands, including the extremely hip Austin-based Outdoor Voices. Additionally, it has compiled an ambassador lineup that reflects its commitment to redefining what it means to be an athlete.
- Founded: 2009
- Place of origin: France
- Quarterly sales: $210.4 million
- Collaborators: Japan’s Engineered Garments, Outdoor Voices, Cotopaxi, Moncler
- Ambassadors: Outdoor Advocate, Pattie Gonia; Marathon Runner, Alison Désir
- Celebrity fans: Reese Witherspoon; Britney Spears; Gwyneth Paltrow
Hoka’s growth strategy is still in its infancy, but it is exploring opportunities for brick and mortar stores. The company launched its first pop-ups this year, and it’s only the beginning for the brand that has become more than simply everyone’s favorite dad shoe.
The Swiss-based company was founded by former champion triathlete Olivier Bernhard with the desire “to revolutionize the sensation of running.” The result: an unconventional design that resembles tiny clouds on the bottom of each shoe.
In 2019, On (often referred to as On Running) attracted the attention of tennis legend Roger Federer, who joined the company as a “co-entrepreneur” with a healthy equity stake that helped fuel his ongoing rise toward billionaire status. Although King Roger left behind a $7 million annual Nike contract to pursue the partnership, the decision was one of his most lucrative to date.
Plus, he got to play a direct role in designing the ROGER Pros, which were released in tandem with his return to the court earlier this year.
The company went public on the NYSE in September, raising $736 million in an IPO at an $7.3 billion valuation. It offered shares at $24, and are now valued at $38.45 as of this writing.
- Founded: 2010
- Place of origin: Switzerland
- Quarterly sales: $343 million
- Collaborators: Roger Federer; Zurich University of the Arts
- Ambassadors: Team BrAvery: the world’s fastest blind man, David Brown, and his guide, Jerome Avery; Olympic distance runner Alicia Monson
The two brands are redefining both style and structure.
And, unlike most major shoe brands, both Hoka and On have hitched their success to a wide range of athletes who collectively show that anything is possible. And if your goal is to crash the gates of a market long dominated by the Swoosh, the Three Stripes, and Jumpman, that’s just about the perfect mindset to have.