What Makes Golden Goose Sneakers So Popular?


Tuesday Bote - Dec 18, 2020



Over the past two decades, distressed chic – a fashion trend wherein clothes and shoes are deliberately made to look worn out or even ruined – has held sway among influencers and celebrities. For all that clothing and footwear look as though they’re one tear or scuff away from the dustbin (or dumpster, for that matter), the who’s who of entertainment and fashion can’t seem to get enough of the look – and are more than willing to pay top dollar for it. 


Dignified by the moniker “street fashion,” distressed chic has brought about items that have made fashion critics cringe in their bespoke boots. For instance, jeans with more rips than wearable fabric, thousand-dollar windbreakers that look as though they were picked up from the bargain bin, and – perhaps the most democratic example of the trend – sneakers that look so well broken-in that they have become the epitome of both style and comfort.


For those in the know, there are sneakers, and there are Golden Goose sneakers. The trend has also inspired high-quality Golden Goose alternatives, such as Oliver Cabell’s line of distressed sneakers. Given its popularity, one wonders - what makes Golden Goose sneakers so popular?



What Exactly are Golden Goose Sneakers?

The Golden Goose brand has been around since 2000 and, despite its name, is actually an Italian import.

“Rebellious origin”

Founded and still headquartered in Venice, Italy, Golden Goose is the brainchild of designers Francesca Rinaldo and Alessandro Gallo. Based on the official back-story, the brand was founded as a sort of rebellion against the known paradigms of haute couture but without compromising the emphasis on quality and craftsmanship that has characterized the Italian shoemaking industry for centuries. 


From the beginning, Rinaldo and Gallo wanted their sneakers to be worlds apart from the big-market brands and the colorful kicks endorsed by athletes. For them, sneakers were like a diary: a standing record of numerous experiences, as seen in every scuff, tear, and smudge accumulated over time. 



High-quality “rip and tear” aesthetic

The end result is a pre-distressed sneaker with a somewhat worldly patina on it: a street-smart shoe that seems to have seen everything. However, there’s a twist. Each Golden Goose sneaker is made by hand by master cobblers from assembly to the addition of final details such as a sprinkle of glitter or an aesthetically interesting rip or tear. Plus, each Golden Goose sneaker pair or high-quality Golden Goose alternatives is made with fine leathers as opposed to synthetic fabrics – and these are just a few of the reasons why the price is so prohibitively high.

Oliver Cabell Sneakers - Ethical and Hand-Made High-Quality Shoes


So, Why are they Popular?

Yet, despite the high cost and the distinctive shabbiness of each Golden Goose pair’s appearance, these are almost always sold out as soon as they’re put on the market.

They’re comfortable

The Golden Goose brand can be summed up in one word: comfort.

The distressed look of the shoe isn’t just aesthetic, but it is also practical. On average, one may need to wear a pair of shoes for around five or six times for it to fit the way we want it to, or to be able to walk without stiffness or wincing from pain. Golden Goose, however, takes that breaking-in period out of the equation by weathering the shoes long before they’re placed in boxes for shipping and delivery. Thanks to different proprietary methods, what should be stiff leather and hard soles becomes softer, more comfortable, ready to wear, and ready to hit the streets. As a result, you get what makers refer to as “perfect imperfection” that define Golden Goose originals and Golden Goose alternatives.

Perfect Golden Goose alternatives - Low  1 Distressed Sneakers by Oliver Cabell



At the same time, each pair of Golden Goose sneaks is made with a wedge built into the heel of the shoe which makes the wearer an inch or so taller than they actually are – and this can boost one’s confidence, especially if they aren’t exactly gifted when it comes to height.

All-season status wearables

Given the way they look, they also lend themselves well to the most casual of outfits and can be worn in any season. (They are weatherproof, by the way, so rain or so never seems to be a problem for wearers.) Thus, it isn’t surprising that these shoes have made “ugly” sneakers and their look-alikes highly fashionable and in-demand.


Over the past two decades, Golden Goose sneakers have become the footwear of choice for many celebrities, including pop superstars Taylor Swift and Selena Gomez, along with fashion influencers like Mandy Bork and Olivia Palermo.


But the craftsmanship and distinctive look of these shoes is just half the reason why they’re so popular. The other half is not so appealing.

Golden Goose Courts Controversy

Distressed footwear has long been part of the “uniform” of those who play by their own rules or march to the beat of their own drums: grungy, edgy, and certainly against all the standard rules of fashion. 


However, there is edgy and there is going too far. “Too far” is where Golden Goose went in 2016 and again in 2018 when they released a pair of sneakers that looked more weather-worn than usual: in fact, what made these shoes distinct was the use of what appeared to be silvery duct tape keeping the shoes from falling to pieces. 

Poverty fetishism accusations

The controversial kicks from 2016 were a tatty pair of dirty-pink shoes with dulled strips of silvery duct tape on both heel and toe, with seriously frayed laces that seemed seconds away from ripping apart – and each pair sold online and at Barneys New York cost a whopping $585. The internet was in an uproar over the shoes and many critics – both in the fashion industry and from anti-poverty movements – scored Golden Goose for its apparent mockery of the urban poor by making a tone-deaf fashion statement with its footwear. 


However, this only prompted a remorseless response from the brand’s founders, citing that they were paying homage to the skater culture of the American West Coast:


“[Golden Goose] is proud to highlight its pioneering role in the booming of the distressed look, one of the current biggest trends in fashion. The duct tape reinforcements appearing on the [Superstar sneaker] style pay homage to the West Coast’s skater culture — professional skaters, who have inspired the brand’s shoe collections from the beginning, repair their shoes with the same kind of tape.” – statement to Us magazine, 2016


Two years later, in September 2018, the company released a second pair of shoes made with questionable taste. Unlike the 2016 pair where the duct tape was only placed at the edge of the heel and toe, this pair featured a band of duct tape wound around the upper and sole, seemingly holding the shoe together after some significant damage. Nordstrom, which offered the shoe on its retail website, described the grungy design accent as “crumply, hold-it-all-together tape.” 

Questionable sourcing practices

Even the professional skaters whom the Golden Goose designers alluded to as their inspiration, took umbrage with the way the shoes looked and the audacious price of $530 for a pair that even they wouldn’t wear on the streets. 


It was seen as a publicity stunt – but quite a profitable one because the shoes sold out almost as soon as the issue blew up – and one which questioned the taste and sensitivity of the Golden Goose brand as it was seen as a fetishization and an outright mockery of poverty and destitution by the moneyed classes who could pony up the price.

Oliver Cabell exemplifies sustainability and ethics in making best-selling shoes

In more recent years, even the company’s supposedly ethical sourcing and labor practices have been called into question by a world that is rapidly becoming more conscious of where materials are sourced, how animals used in the shoemaking process are raised and treated, and how the workers producing the shoes are treated in the workplace. 


As a result, many Golden Goose fans are starting to consider equally fashionable yet more sensitive and sensible labels who can produce great-looking and comfortable shoes at a more reasonable price.

Oliver Cabell: Modern Shoemaking with a Heart

At Oliver Cabell, we take pride in crafting footwear of exceptional quality and comfort, including our Golden Goose-inspired line of distressed sneakers. Each pair of sneakers, driving shoes, and boots is made with sustainably-sourced Italian leather and undergoes rigorous quality control. Not only that, whatever your style, there’s bound to be a pair of Oliver Cabells that’s perfect for you.

We are making a difference when it comes to modern shoemaking. Our enterprise pairs together sustainable sourcing and manufacturing practices with our dedication to making high quality footwear – a combination that constantly delivers on the promise of comfort and elegance.

Whether you’re a weekend warrior who loves to take long walks or an urbanite who’s constantly pounding the pavement, there’s a pair of Oliver Cabell sneaks for you

Crafted using traditional European shoemaking methods, each Oliver Cabell shoe is made to the highest standards of quality and environmental compliance, making it a great choice for those going in for mindful modern living.

The company’s use of sustainably-sourced Italian leathers as well as its emphasis on treating its people as stakeholders in its continued success speaks well of its commitment to both exceptional and responsible manufacturing. 

Tasteful, stylish, and ethical, every pair of Oliver Cabells embodies casual elegance and comfort that you can happily wear anywhere.