Kamala Harris’s nomination as Joe Biden’s running mate is historic: the daughter of immigrants from Jamaica and India, she is the first woman of colour to be on a major party’s presidential ticket. She is also the first to prominently wear sneakers on the campaign trail.
It is a small sartorial detail, but it is linked to the larger cultural moment in which we live. “Sneakers are a form of footwear finding their way into many women’s closets as part of a larger challenge to outmoded concepts of femininity,” says Elizabeth Semmelhack, the author of Sneaker X Culture: Collab. Traditionally, there is a standard shoe etiquette for women in political office – either alpha (see: Nancy Pelosi’s stilettos, Theresa May’s leopard print heels) or conservative (Elizabeth Warren’s slide sandals, Hillary Clinton’s pantsuit-matching kitten heels). Semmelhack believes Harris’s shoes signal action. “The sneakers are acting as the sartorial equivalent of being willing to roll up her sleeves,” she says. They suggest Harris “is a woman of action”.