I look beyond their function, they are more than that for me. It's not a case of putting on a pair of trainers and ending up with sweaty or smelly feet any more. The fact that they were originally made for sports can only be a good thing, as the people who make them are employed to design shoes that look after our feet.
You've got to remember that in these days of increased leisure, the streets are our football pitches and the nightclubs are our playing fields - that's where we get our exercise. Some of them may be expensive but you've got to look at the technology that's gone into them. If people are prepared to pay hundreds of pounds for a pair of Mark One Jordans by Nike, fair play. I don't own a pair and I wouldn't, but I can understand why people do.
People knock trainers for being scruffy, but black or brown shoes can look equally sloppy, it depends how you wear them. Yes, there may be some ugly trainers, but it's like every development, you've got the good and the bad. How could you describe the Adidas Superstar as ugly? It's your first real, basic trainer, straight off the basketball court on to the streets and into fashion. Trainers are popular because they are extremely comfortable, they give you basic functionability, they're trendy, and they go with anything. They're here to stay, trainers are where modern culture has gone, like it or not."
Adam Halford is manager of Arc, 59 Oldham Street, Manchester. Menswear/FHM Magazine Streetwear Retailer of the Year 1998
"Training shoes are an incivility to which we should apply zero tolerance. The very earliest Adidas and so on were, I admit, completely inoffensive objects which you might imagine wearing for the purpose described. Now, however, they have graduated from being modest, cheap, function-oriented footwear to become major statements for people who are not training and are not (on the whole) sporty, athletic human beings. On the part of Nike, they're an extreme form of imperialism - `Just Do It!' Just do what? What about other people who might not want you to do `It', whatever it may be. This is a bit of American psychobabble used in a most unpleasant way. Trainers are part of the business of MTV culture. they go with sloppy thinking and sloppy talk - you wouldn't expect good conversation from trainer-land.
Although they are made out of hi-tech materials, and in ways involving new technologies, they also have a strong sweatshop element. And, as environmental campaigners have revealed, they often have very high levels of CFCs and other nasties. I realise there are those who think the trainer is a major art form de nos jours, and while I'm sure that they are highly collectable, to me they're simply inaesthetic objects. The more high-technology they are (not that this is very high), the more hideous they are. They go with horrible clothes (and graffiti) and make good clothes look bad. Trainer- wearing is remarkably homogeneous, remarkably conformist and has that permanent-adolescence thing about it. In smart London now, there's a sharp, stylised, formal way of dressing and trainers don't belong in that. They're just an uncouth statement and don't fit in, I'm glad to say."
Peter York is full-time managing director of Management Consultants SRU, and part-time social commentator
Interviews by Fiona McClymont