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Footwear Furore: Style-Conscious Brits in an Uproar Over PM’s Trainers

After over 70 years, the reign of the Adidas Samba may be over, thanks to Rishi Sunak | Image Credit: ELLE
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The internet descended into a tizzy over the weekend as UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has apparently ‘ruined Adidas Sambas for everyone.’

These are unquestionably trying times. In a world replete with ceaseless grim news and plagued with uncertainty, anytime a spot of humorous or just plain weird news crops up involving one of the world’s most visible politicians, well, sometimes, you just have to bow to the absurd and run with it.

And with that in mind, we bring you the UK’s Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, who set off a proper British furore when he recorded an interview wearing the decades-old classic Adidas Samba trainers (with dark socks, no less).

It did not go well.

The Instagram video that launched a firestorm of criticism

The iconic Adidas Sambas are facing an unexpected downturn in popularity, all because of a recent sighting on the feet of UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. Once revered as the go-to footwear for celebrities like Harry Styles, Kaia Gerber, Bella Hadid, Paul Mescal, and Rihanna, the 1950s three-striped sneaker is now seemingly falling out of favour.

In an Instagram video where Sunak explained his government’s latest tax and childcare policies, the spotlight shifted significantly to his choice of ‘everyman’ shoes.

The internet promptly called for its fainting couch, and social media erupted with comments like “The Sambas, guess he’s one of us now,” and “His trainers really helped [the video] become easily understandable and relatable for me,” dripping with sarcasm.

There was a lot of this going on in UK’s social media community | Image Credit: X

To no one’s surprise, the British press also piled on, sceptical of any attempt to seem relatable, and criticising Sunak’s apparent effort to appear young and hip, suggesting that he had unwittingly tarnished the ‘cool factor’ of such a classic sneaker.

“In a bid to present himself as young and hip… Sunak took an eternally cool sneaker and ruined it for everyone,” declared British GQ.

Journalist Ed Cumming tweeted: “Thinking of the Adidas Samba community at this difficult time.”

“Adidas Sambas were this year’s coolest shoes – until Rishi Sunak got a pair,” said the Observer.


The Guardian was no less harsh: “Look down and check what you’re wearing on your feet. If it’s a pair of Adidas Sambas, I’m afraid you need to take them off immediately and never wear them again.”

Perhaps former Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson put it most succinctly, writing on X (formerly Twitter), “Holy sh*tbiscuits. I support the PM, but there is a limit.”

“Rishi Sunak’s fashion choice has consigned one favourite trainer to the bin,” wrote UK columnist and TV personality Vanessa Feltz | Image Credit:

Michael Hogan wrapped it up in his Observer piece, writing, “The PM has already proved the world’s worst waiter and pint-puller for photo ops. He admits to having no working-class friends, can’t use a contactless card, and sounds like an alien when he talks about stacking the dishwasher. Yet another try-hard bid to appear relatable has backfired. Overnight, old-school favourites have become Tory trotters. Talk about putting your foot in it.”

This reaction starkly contrasts with the public’s response to former President Barack Obama’s appearance in a pair of box-fresh Stan Smiths right here in Kuala Lumpur back in 2019, which was universally praised as tasteful and on-point.

The internet swooned over Barack Obama’s look at an event in Kuala Lumpur in 2019 | Image Credit: AFP/Getty Images

Similarly, U.S. Vice President’s Kamala Harris’s choice to sport an array of Converse sneakers on the 2020 campaign trail was celebrated as a bold departure from traditional political attire norms.

Alas, the beleaguered Rishi Sunak enjoyed no such love. As CNN put it, “Perhaps the furor over Sunak’s sneakers isn’t purely because it’s inconceivable that the wealthiest Prime Minister in British history would be wearing relatively humble $100 shoes — though that doesn’t help — and instead has more to do with when he wore them. The Sambas appeared to be a transparent attempt at signal dressing, if not a potential distraction away from the politics of his interview. Even the most ardent sneakerheads know there is a time and a place for a gum sole, and the British public have decided on-camera at 10 Downing Street is neither.”

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