Very Advanced – Salomon XT-Slate

Although hard to believe now, there was a time when Salomon footwear seemed to be worn exclusively by German backpackers and hardcore trail runners. It wasn’t until the keen-eyed team of Paris boutique The Broken Arm noticed the off-kilter charm of models like the XT-4 and Speedcross 3 that the fashion world really began to consider there might be more to Salomon.

High-fashion does a lot of things well but sneakers is not traditionally one of them –functionality and fashion rarely align. It was this which spurred The Broken Arm’s buyers to approach Salomon. The issue was their penchant for dark colours didn’t align with the French footwear brand’s technicolour performance range. Their unlikely partnership would result in the “Black Pack” – made exclusively for The Broken Arm and released under the forward-thinking S/Lab umbrella.

What happened next caught everyone – even Salomon – by surprise as the brand was adopted by fashion-forward subcultures across Europe. Whether in the clubs of Berlin or meandering down London’s streets, Salomon was at the bleeding-edge of culture. Through functional, durable design Salomon provided a palette cleanse to the hype-obsessed sneaker market. Their slow burn was further fuelled by the rise of GORP-core (named after slang for “Good Old Raisins and Peanuts” trail mix). The outdoor aesthetic of GORP-core merged the suburban “athleisure” look with remnants of  “techwear” and a push towards more nature-focussed visuals. With the help of online moodboards including the likes of @organiclab.zip and @hikingpatrol the GORP movement fuelled the Salomon trend into a firestorm of hype.

Almost overnight Salomon had become the brand de rigueur – with your new Arc’teryx Alpha which sees little more than a light shower or the latest creation from Rei Kawakubo’s Comme des Garçons. Unlike other manufactured hype, the adoption of Salomon seemed to be largely organic – leaving the French brand at-odds as to what should become of their fashion experiment.

In founding the “Advanced” range was a way to remove the lifestyle-focussed product from the S/Lab division allowing the design team to work more freely. Freed from S/Lab, the Salomon Advanced team had to consider where the future would take the division. Whilst styles like the XT-4, XT-6 and Speedcross had seen fantastic success with new colourways they were still born and bred on the mountain-side. Much like a wild animal, these models weren’t intended for domestic life.

Inspired by this duality the Advanced team devised plans for a sneaker inspired by Salomon’s outdoor heritage, which would speak to their new-found fashion success. The XT-Slate is what resulted from their experiments – a fashion lifestyle model born from the outdoor legacy.

Midsole tooling is lifted from the famed XT-4, with the Advanced Chassis™ Skeleton system running from forefoot to heel – providing fantastic torsional rigidity which helps to reduce fatigue on uneven surfaces. This is backed by the EnergyCell foam midsole which offers the cushioning which made Salomon a hit on and off the trail. The final touch comes from the All Terrain Contagrip® outsole – ready for whatever a fast-paced lifestyle might throw at you.

On the upper we find the bulk of fashion-influenced features with waffle knit nylon mesh features de-bossed details inspired by the rocky terrain Salomon shoes have traversed for decades. These topographical flourishes carry over to the toe bumper and mudguards – welded on to prevent abrasion in high-wear areas. No Salomon trail shoe would be complete without the signature Quicklace™ securing system and this feature was carried over to the XT-Slate.

With this new model, Salomon signals their intentions clearly – it’s not just an outdoors brand any more. With functionality at its core, Salomon’s XT-Slate is equipped to be worn with any outfit you can conjure-up. Where the core performance silhouettes caused some people to be intimidated with their brash colours and overlays, XT-Slate cuts through the noise to the core of what makes a Salomon shoe. In the process they’ve also become infinitely wearable – with just enough tech to keep that rugged look – whilst allowing the shoe to be worn more readily thanks to a stripped-back upper.