Photo: Sarah at home with her shoe wardrobe. She rarely wears shoes at home and will actually go out without shoes on if she can.
Sarah Sands is smart and stylish. She fundraises for Democratic candidates in federal races. She was the special assistant to Mickey Drexler when he ran the Gap. She has also worn nothing but sneakers since January 8, 2016. Not once. And doesn’t plan to ever again. She has already told her four kids that she will attend their weddings in sneakers.
So what happened on January 8, 2016? That night, Sarah hosted Hilary Clinton at her home for a fundraiser and was on her feet, wearing heels all day. As she says, “My feet were beat. I want to work for democracy but I don’t want my feet to hurt.” So that was that. A signature style was born.
Sarah already had a couple of fun pairs of tennies and started wearing them with everything, wherever she went. She found that she was so comfortable and that her sneakers went with everything she was wearing. Remember…this was before wearing sneakers was a ‘thing’. It’s when tennis shoes were for….tennis. But Sarah had found her style. She loves the challenge of the hunt and finds herself always searching for a specific color or look – fun, cute, fancy, or ‘serious’ options to wear. “There were fewer choices in 2016 but now the Nordstrom shoe section is 75% sneakers. Everyone now has it so easy!”
I had a couple of specific questions for Sarah, because, who is better to recommend some sneakers to FabList than someone who has worn only those for almost 7 years straight?!
Do you limit the clothes you buy or wear to only those items that will go with sneakers?
No. I don’t limit the clothes I buy. I wear sneakers to weddings and funerals. They go with everything. People come up to me all the time and say ‘I wish I could do that’ and I say ‘You can!’. There’s no law or rule saying you can’t wear sneakers all the time. And I like living a life where I can break into a run at any moment!
What would you wear to a dressier event?
I have my ‘fancy’ sneakers that I take better care of . They get better storage! I’d wear one of these ‘fancy’ tennies for a wedding. My ‘fancy’ shoes include:
Golden Goose classic white option
Chloe white sneaker with a scallop bottom and black tag in back
Loeffler Randall pair in silver (no longer available but here is a Cole Haan option)
Black patent leather tennies (hers are from Jigsaw and no longer available. Another option here.)
What are the shoes you wear most often? What are your go-tos?
I like a rubber toe in the front. I’ve worn Superga for years (white, different colors) and recently I’ve flipped to Tretorn canvas (light blue and other options). I also like the brand Feiyue that started out as a martial arts shoe brand. They were $14 when I first wore them but now they are up to maybe $45 or so. I went through a Converse All-Stars stage – white, black, navy, gray.
Right now the Adidas Ultraboost is a favorite. Their schtick is that they are knit – not leather or canvas. They have a great pink one, and I also have white ones. They slip on and are so easy. In terms of AllBirds, the look doesn’t suit me as well but they really are comfortable so sometimes I’ll choose those for around town.
Anything on your current wish list?
I would love a pair of Gucci sneakers. But there are lots of options and I know I’d only get one pair. So I get in a bit of paralysis about it since it’s such an investment. There is a pair with little bees on it that I have had my eye on though….but then I find that there are different options of the bee sneakers as well so then that stops me from pulling the trigger!
What do you take when you travel? And do you buy new shoes on vacation?
I run in Brooks (the Adrenaline GTS 23) and use those for travel as they are also the best for a really long day of walking. For evening I’d switch to Golden Goose or maybe a white Superga pair, or if need black then black Converse. Max of 3 pair for a trip though!
And buying sneakers while on vacation is risky. When you get home it just doesn’t look quite the same as when you were there. So I usually try to not buy shoes while traveling. The last pair I bought on vacation I ended up reselling on The Real Real.
How do you clean them? They always look so nice!
Almost all of them are canvas so I can toss them in the washing machine. I take the soles and laces out, use Spray & Wash where needed, sprinkle powder Oxy Clean directly on the canvas for 30 minutes then toss them in with towels in the wash, and air dry them. Some white canvas ones will have the glue pop out around the sole but most wash up perfectly. For a leather pair, I’ll wipe it with a rag/water and then wipe the rubber soles (of all of them – canvas as well) with Mr. Clean Magic Erasers, and Soft Scrub with bleach also works well on the white soles. Also, you can use both of those products to clean a white Apple watch strap as well!
What do you do when you are at the beach?
I actually do have one brand of flip-flops with excellent arch support called Archies that I will wear at the beach. Otherwise, it’s sneakers only!
What would Mickey* say of your all-tennis shoe style? (*Sarah’s previous boss Mickey Drexler, former CEO of The Gap and JCrew and current chairman of Alex Mill)
I think he would approve but he hasn’t been given the option to weigh in!
Tell me a bit more about the work you have done in the retail world and what you do now in the political realm.
After business school, I worked at the Gap as special assistant to the CEO when Mickey was CEO in ‘96-’98. I then came home Friday and had a baby Tuesday. I worked from home part-time doing business development for the Gap for 4 years when every internet company wanted to work with them. I spoke with and analyzed all those start-up companies and sent on the few that passed the test.
I was raising 4 kids and then started getting involved in federal races at the beginning of 2016, working with some other local equally passionate women raising money for Hilary Clinton. When we lost the race, my gang of friends and I realized we had to keep going. We are fundraisers. It’s work that needs to be done. I get to meet amazing people who are trying to make the world a better place and it’s an honor to help them. We kept going through the 2018 H]ouse race and into the pandemic when we worked for Joe Biden, and then again in 2022. We are now kicking off federal races for 2024. We get to support these amazing candidates, meet them in person, and introduce them to people who can support them. In November our loosely knit political posse is hosting Adam Frisch who is running against Lauren Boebert. I am also a part of an equally passionate group who raise money for Reproductive Freedom for All (formally NARAL). We have a huge luncheon on the Peninsula every fall to support women’s ability to control their own bodies. And yes, I’ll be wearing sneakers at every event!
Any last words on wearing only tennis shoes all these years?
I marvel at the women who will wear high heels. More power to them but I am glad that we all have a choice. Those our age can do that if they want to for whatever reason, but at this point they know they have a choice.
P.S. Sarah also has a penchant for great coats…. that may have to be a follow-up discussion!