Now, they are not just sneakers; they have become a unique bridge between trail running and street fashion. You can see them in the mountains, on the streets, and in fashion shows. They are chosen not only by outdoor sports enthusiasts and true nature fans but also by fashion influencers and various celebrities. They are literally everywhere. Salomon XT-6. The hottest sneakers of the last few years.
Honestly, we don't delve into trends and don't understand why people should follow them. But it’s always interesting to find out how something gained success so quickly. Especially when it comes to our passion – the world of quality technological men’s fashion. So we’ll try to answer the question: Why did this seemingly niche active footwear become the most hyped pair of sneakers recently, carving out their niche in the world of fashion. Let's talk about this.
How It Started
When it comes to the Salomon brand, it all started with their roots in the world of sports. The Salomon company was founded in 1947 by François Salomon and his family in the southeastern French town of Annecy. In their small workshop, they initially crafted skis, and later, ski bindings that were successfully patented. In the 70s, during the boom of extreme tourism and an active lifestyle, Salomon gear became extremely popular and in demand, making the brand globally known.
Everything went well until 1997 when Adidas acquired the brand rights and the entire production for approximately $1.4 billion. Adidas planned to turn Salomon into a versatile sports giant, but that didn't happen. Sales remained low, and the brand couldn't find its niche under the wing of the German giant. Consequently, in 2005, Salomon was bought by the Finnish conglomerate Amer Sports (owner of brands like Arc’teryx, Peak Performance, Wilson, and others), which later became part of the Chinese conglomerate Anta Sports.
These days, almost anyone with a slight interest in the sports world knows that Salomon produces gear for skiers, runners, and snowboarders. But how did they break into the fashion world?
Background of Changes
As mentioned earlier, Adidas' management was not successful for the company, as the brand's positioning with the slogan "Fuel your instincts" did not resonate well with the Salomon audience. So, after the purchase of Salomon, Amer Sports sought help from the branding agency FreshBritain, which provided strategic support to giants like Adidas, New Balance, Burberry, Arc’teryx, Dr. Martens, and many others.
To find a solution, a creative partner from the agency Bob Sheard visited one of Salomon's last factories in the Alps and interacted with employees on-site. During the visit, he met an elderly man who led him to a small room filled with folders from floor to ceiling. These folders turned out to be a storage of Salomon patents, numbering over 8000 – twice as many as NASA and four times as many as Adidas. Influenced by the impressive volume of technology, FreshBritain realized that Salomon is not just a representation of an abstract lifestyle; Salomon is a brand of innovations, especially in mountain sports. The company not only produced equipment but also clothing for active mountain sports throughout the year, from snowboarding in winter to trail running in summer.
The solution suggested by FreshBritain for Salomon was to discard anything unrelated to mountains, particularly surfing and rollerblading, and concentrate solely on positioning in mountain sports – as "The Mountain Sports Company." One notable step in this direction was the introduction of the XT-Wing trail running sneakers, which later transformed into XT-4 and the main character, XT-6, which will be discussed below.
From Trail To Fashion
The Salomon S/LAB XT-6 Softground, or simply XT-6 model, was released in 2012 and was initially designed by the S/LAB team for trail running, intended for use in rugged terrain. This team is responsible for crafting and innovating footwear and apparel tailored for the company's top-tier trail-running athletes, including French ultra-trail-running champion François D’haene. The footwear was created using advanced technologies such as Quicklace (lacing system) and Contagrip (sole), providing excellent grip. “It was a good compromise between stability, protection and performance, making it the best shoe for ultra-trail running!” says D’haene. So, they are truly technological sports shoes and suitable for running on any trail conditions. However, such features alone were clearly not enough to make it a worldwide hit.
Until 2015, neither they nor earlier models of the brand were mentioned almost anywhere in fashion publications. But that changed when the progressive Parisian store The Broken Arm and later the experimental avant-garde designer Boris Bidjan Saberi collaborated with Salomon. Around the same time, Jean-Philippe Lalonde from Veilance, an advanced subdivision of Arc’teryx, joined the team, launching the Salomon Advanced division. There, he discovered the XT-6 from the archives and saw their potential in fashion. It’s hard to understand now, but at first, Salomon did not believe in this design, which was nearly destroyed at one point. “It’s a tricky point, from our performance product when it starts to be obsolete within performance it’s sometimes too early to propose it within Sportstyle, we sometimes need to wait some time but it’s difficult to sometimes measure this time,” says Benjamin Grenet, XT-6 designer.
Time passed, and a couple of years later, when the Gorpcore boom began, Jean-Philippe Lalonde placed them on the shelves of Dover Street Market, what may be considered one of the highest peaks in the fashion world. And in 2019 these sneakers were recognized as GQ's Sneaker of the Year. These events became turning points in the success story of XT-6. Furthermore, one collaboration leads to another. And after a few years, they entered into partnerships with everyone. Noteworthy collaborations include Beams, and Wander, COMME des GARÇONS, KITH, Hidden NY, Carhartt WIP, GR10K, Madhappy, End., Atmos and more. Not to mention Rihanna at the main sporting event of the year in the USA at the Super Bowl, where she was wearing Cross Low, a collaboration with Maison Margiela (not XT but it also counts, right?).
"No matter how technical the design, it always remains very expressive and easily readable," says Jean-Philippe Lalonde about XT-6. And it's impossible to disagree. The design and comfort of the sneakers are suitable for both nature, urban conditions, and even catwalks. Simultaneously, their accessible and avant-garde design makes them popular everywhere. “Today, you can actually go out into the mountains, wearing the XP-6, for its original purpose, and it will last. I’m not going to say it’s not something no other shoe can do, but it’s definitely unique,” adds Jean-Philippe.
Don’t forget about the latest trends that perhaps started with the hero of our article – running shoes and the low-profile silhouette of sports trainers, which contrasts with the fading tendency of ugly sneakers and chunky soles. For instance, Salomon was one of the fastest-growing brands on StockX in 2023, which can prove that XT-6 will remain with us for many more years. So, Salomons are destined to thrive on our city streets, and we believe they have already become timeless classics. And now they are also available at our ARYS store. Try them; they are worth it, be sure.