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Moment 44: Work Shift

The trend of women wearing sneakers for commutes originated with the NYC transit strike in April 1980, when the city's professional women hoofed it.

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The New York City transit strike gave birth to the suits-and-sneakers look 1980

The New York City transit strike gave birth to the suits-and-sneakers look, 1980.

Photo By WWD Archive

Appeared In
Special Issue
WWD 100 issue 11/01/2010

Few things embody Eighties New York fashion quite like Melanie Griffith's Working Girl combo of career suit and shiny white sneakers. Early in the decade, thousands of women rushed to their jobs in similar attire, often slipping off the sneaks for heels just before approaching the executive suite. The trend had its origins in the New York City transit strike in April 1980, when, for 11 days, subways and buses in the five boroughs came to a screeching halt. Women were forced to consider alternative modes to get to work, from walking—hence the comfortable footwear—to cycling and roller-skating. The transit strike had more than just a fashion impact, with WWD reporting a slowing of apparel sales across town and cancellations from out-of-town buyers. But fashion diehards always find a way. Gabriela Segovia, a Mexico City native on holiday in the city, told WWD there was really only one way to get her shopping done: "We've been using the limousine ever since we got in."