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Did a Politician Ruin a Trendy Shoe?

Things have been tough in Britain lately. A cost of living crisis, soaring rents and economic recession. Illness at Buckingham Palace and the fracturing of the national service.

But the so-called disunited kingdom was brought together last week in collective horror and mild revulsion. The catalyst? Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who opted to wear a box fresh pair of white Adidas Sambas during a Downing Street interview to promote his tax policies.

Sambas, which trace their roots back to an Adi Dassler design from 1949, have more recently been hailed as the favorite shoe of Harry Styles, Kendall Jenner, Bella Hadid and Rihanna — and were buoyed by a hip collaboration with the British designer Grace Wales Bonner. But their association with Mr. Sunak meant that the coolest sneaker of the year was instantly and irrevocably tainted.

Social media lit up in outrage over the prime minister’s attempts at relatability; soon most national newspapers were also on the case.

“Adidas Sambas were this year’s coolest shoes — until Rishi Sunak got a pair,” said The Observer. “How Rishi killed off the biggest trainer trend in one fell swoop,” blared the Telegraph. Saying that Mr. Sunak was trying to present himself as young and hip, British GQ wrote, “Sunak took an eternally cool sneaker, and ruined it for everyone.”

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