We’ve worked with Superga to make some fresh versions of their classic 2390 military pump, made from that much-overlooked wonder of the fabric world… mesh. Taking inspiration from Mediterranean beach footwear and vintage fencing trainers, they might just be the ultimate summer sea-side shoe.
They launch on Thursday the 6th of August at 00:01 (BST), but until then, here’s a quick chat with Oi Polloi co-founder Steve Sanderson about the story behind the shoes…
Alright Steve, what’s going on with these mesh Supergas?
The 2390 is a really good shoe, and I wanted to revisit it. I’d had the idea of doing some mesh shoes for summer, as I was thinking I’d not seen any good mesh shoes for ages. We also decided to slightly change the design of the shoe, changing the toe-cap on it—it’s now got an asymmetric toe-cap inspired by ‘70s and ‘80s fencing and squash shoes. This new version is now called the 2592.
You know when you get those old school guys on the Riviera wearing espadrilles and mesh shoes? It’s that kind of idea, they’re super breathable so you can get the air on your feet in summer. It’s that marina vibe… knocking around seaside towns.
I suppose they’re maybe the sandals for those who don’t like sandals.
If you want the breathability but you’re not down with the sandal, these are the alternative.
Mesh is one of those fabrics that gets taken for granted a bit. What’s the history?
It was invented by a mill owner in Manchester in 1888. This guy, Lewis Haslam, took his auntie out for a walk, and they were up the top of this hill, really cold in the middle of winter—and she had these fishnet type gloves on. He asked her if her hands were cold, and she said, “No they’re not.” And he thought, “That’s weird, she’s got these gloves with holes in, so why are her hands warm?”
And because he was a mill owner and he was inventive, he went off and started to develop a loose weave fabric. And when they developed it, they found it was really good—if you wore it underneath clothing, it retained heat, and if you didn’t have anything on top of it, it kept you cool.
The actual fabric he invented was Aertex. In 1970 the Umbro strip that England wore for the Mexico World Cup was made from Aertex. And then in the 80s, adidas started using mesh on trainers.
There were all these fencing shoes, and the Tishtennis, and they were part of the inspiration really. I was obsessed with those adidas fencing and squash shoes back in the late 90s, but no one wanted them. Everyone goes on about City Series, but they weren’t that interesting compared to the fencing shoes.
They look mega—they’re a bit like climbing shoes, the way they lace right down to the toes, but they’re made of white mesh and suede. There was the Barrington Smash too with that asymmetric toe-cap.
I think because fencing and squash use a lot of the same manoeuvres, diving around and doing the splits, a lot of the shoes were quite similar. The fencing ones had white suede toe-caps, but when you went to a club with loads of mud on the floor, they’d just soak it up like a piece of blotting paper. It was awful.
The mesh shoe is definitely a bit of a Mediterranean staple, but they’re not really seen much in England. What do you remember about them?
I’d see them in little Spanish shoe-shops—those trad old guys shoe shops—and I’d be fascinated looking at them. They were somewhere between a canvas pump, and an espadrille—relaxed… summer… lightweight.
I find that type of footwear has an interesting flavour, but the point is, I don’t really like a lot of those shoes. I wouldn’t want to wear them—but I like the idea of mesh shoes. I wanted to make some mesh shoes I’d actually wear—something in a silhouette that actually looks good. Taking this old man’s thing, which isn’t quite right, and mixing it with something that was a bit more practical to wear.
Definitely. Some of those beach shoes look pretty flimsy, whereas these are a bit more solid.
Yeah, what I like about the Superga 2390 is that it was a utilitarian product. It was designed as a military training pump, and it was one of those shoes which they made in different colours for different things, whether it was the postal service or the military. We had a vintage pair which were tax inspector’s shoes, which was pretty interesting.
It’s a really nice looking shoe—a good design which has been produced in a way that isn’t mad expensive. The shoe is a good shoe in the first place, so you don’t want to change it too much.
These classic, simple shoes work well with most clothes too. Wacky modern moon-boots don’t really work with a pair of khaki trousers or cords.
Not really. The problem is that those things don’t age well. Most of that overly designed stuff is going to go off two years down the line. But something classic and simple is never really going to go out of date. Something like a Desert Boot or a Wallabee kind of is what it is. And that’s nice… you don’t have to mess about with them too much. A classic pair of jeans, a polo shirt, some pumps… they never go out of date.