Sneakers, the post-pandemic wardrobe essential, have clearly also made their way to the show floor. They are now a hot dress code at trade shows – especially among delegates at last week’s IMEX 2023 in Frankfurt.
Intrigued, I spoke to buyers and exhibitors at IMEX Frankfurt for their take on this sneaker trend.
Patrick Huber, assistant director of sales south at Gorgeous Smiling Hotels (GSH), a Munich-based hospitality company, observed that dress codes at trade shows are becoming “more edgy and comfortable” in recent years, as hoteliers eschew formal shirts and big ties for a more relaxed look that combines blazers with sneakers.
“White sneakers, in particular, has been a trend in Germany for the last three to four years,” he pointed out. Huber reckons the growing prevalence of the business casual attire at IMEX is also a reflection of the travel industry itself, which is more relaxed than other sectors.
London-based Miriam Evans, business leader from FCM Meetings & Events, views trainers (how the British call sneakers) as a form of “practicality” at trade shows. Like many European attendees at IMEX, she travelled with a small suitcase for the annual convention in Frankfurt. Not only does she thinks it has become more acceptable to dress casually for business meetings in the wake of the pandemic, Evans sees the current sneaker trend as an “inclusive” one as there is less pressure for women to dress a certain way at work.
Exhibitors, too, are forgoing dress shoes for something more comfortable. At the Marina Bay Sands/Sands Resorts Macao booth, both Marina Bay Sands’ vice president of conventions & exhibitions Ong Wee Min and director of MICE management Genevieve Lim were spotted wearing a pair of white sneakers underneath their black business suits.
Comfort, said Ong, is a key factor at play although he noted that the sneakers trend is more apparent at European trade shows than in Asia.
Others like Business Events Sarawak CEO Amelia Roziman was also spotted pairing a simple dress with sneakers, and whose high-energy look clearly embodied the innovative, forward-leading style that she’s known for as the head of BESarawak.
Sumate Sudasna of Thailand-based CDM – Conference & Destination Manangement, which is also a member of euromic (a global association of DMCs), paired his Thai-style blazer with a pair of dark blue sneakers with the logo and branding of euromic emblazoned on the sides. Sumate, who also sported a variety of pins on his lapel to reflect his professional affiliations, suggested that tradeshow wear can be a form of branding exercise for organisations.
Being the president of the Thailand Incentive and Convention Association (TICA), Sumate is also an advocate of wearing sneakers for comfort’s sake as delegates easily clock 10,000 steps during trade shows. His trade show attire motto? “Dress in good taste, and be kind to yourself.”
When it comes to trade show dress code, change is clearly afoot (no pun intended). The rules are changing, but opting for comfort doesn’t mean sacrificing professionalism. By putting our best foot forward and dressing our best selves to meetings, we will feel more confident and fulfilled. Our feet will thank us too.