We’re sprinting through the year. And with no sign of slowing down, the sneaker (comfortable, durable and effortlessly stylish) is synonymous with our busy lives. So, luxury labels and sports brands alike, are pumping out more sneakers in 2016 – in a offbeat colourways and distinct materials to suit every taste.
Sneaker-freakers rejoice, right? But what if you’re the guy who’s in search of some new kicks, but without the sneaker fanboy fluff? Luckily, we’ve scoured the streets and fashion week for the latest and the greatest in kicks. Here are the 7 hottest sneaker trends for men in 2016.
Breaking It Down
2016 sees men’s sneakers run in two distinct directions. Active brands are investing in lifestyle variations on their (already) top-selling running shoes, while luxury labels are releasing sportswear varieties (alongside their dress shoes) for a slice of the sneaker pie. Finally, there’s the independent craftsmen, creating a ‘slow’ sneaker movement of their own, where the art of sneaker making (handcrafted in unique leather) mimics that of Made In Italy dress shoes.
#1 Off-Beat Materials
Suede is the ‘it’ fabric for 2016. Western in its roots, suede gallops – in large and small doses – over sneakers this season, too. It plays on the notion of texture: replacing crazy patterns and prints with block colours (mostly neutrals and muted tones) that offer depth and a matte finish to the sneaker upper. Pony hair is a second Americana fabric set to take over 2016. A unique alternative to leather, keep pony natural in colour for subtle style that isn’t overbearing.
The final natural fabric, particularly suitable for vegans, is cork. More associated with wine bottles, the earthen brown material offers a bark-ish finish to uppers, striking against the stark white, bold reds, blues or yellows of other sneakers. Want both colour and texture? Most sneaker brands are creating coloured sneakers this season – with cork inlays.
#2 All-White, Almost
The white sneaker is more of a men’s style staple (with links back to Newman and McQueen) than a seasonal fashion trend, and again in 2016, white is far from redundant. The humble tennis shoe is big off-court this year: monochrome leather, canvas or a blend of both. It’s fame harks from its streamline shape, low-cut statue and pure white colour, easy for any wardrobe.
The change up in 2016? Gum rubber soles, which are an anti-marking sole, which also heat up as you move, for extra grip. But the gum won’t derail white’s simplicity. Where your white sneakers with everything: from distressed denim and bomber jacket to an off-duty cotton suit and basic t-shirt. And, if you’re workplace is sneaker-friendly (maybe Fridays?), white leather low-tops are the safest, most stylish sneakers for the office. Just keep them clean.
#3 Pastel Pop
Colour is big in 2016, too. But, unlike in the gym, the brightest isn’t necessarily the best when it comes to fashion. And as a result, leather sneakers are taking neutral and pastel colours onboard. Think mint, pastel yellow and powder pink – thanks to the Adidas X Raf Simons Stan Smith collection this season.
Pastels such as apricot and honey yellow – as seen with the Hender Scheme sneaker, are stylish ways to add some subtle colour too. And the old-school gum rubber sole is making its return, adding vintage toffee brown to an otherwise all-white sneaker. A cool way to style the light colour pop is with black socks or pants, letting the sneaker feature.
Sneakers – that look like an art project – are redefining the retro trainer. From the Nike Air Max to cool kid-Vans, clashy squiggles and doodles, as well as novelty animated prints (think Mickey Mouse) are reflections of the playful direction streetwear is heading.
On a more luxurious note, snakeskin has fast become a firm favourite within the world of high-fashion sneakers. Balenciaga and Gucci have both used reptile skin to give their footwear a more distinctive appearance. And the camo-print continues its domination, especially in a more subdued smoky grey – perfect for winter with felt-like upper panel and militant inlays.
#5 Tech Talk
Sneakers are embracing technical styling, construction and fabrication in 2016. Ultra-breathable, lightweight fabrics will be massive in the summer months pushed on by new technologies from Nike (Flyknit) and Adidas (Primeknit). These sporty fabrics are merging onto sleeker sneaker models, making their move from the gym to the street.
Meanwhile, foam soles – pushed on by Adidas’ Boost technology – is taking the sneaker’s comfort threshold to walking on Cloud 9 (literally). Combined with the mesh uppers, more flexible, less restricting sneakers are big now. And, there’s even talk of sneakers that self-lace, and shoes with in-built neoprene socks, perfect for a cropped pants and no-socks ensemble.
Want something out of this world? Sneakers – that could quite easily pass as Star Trooper boots – are rocketing through men’s wear this year. Y-3 continues to push alien-esque silhouettes, with a ramp-up in mesh and decrease in laces. A fellow promoter of the laceless is Axel Arigato. Its new Clean 90 Laceless, which looks like something out of Fifth Element, is all you need to add some stardust to a streetwear look. Finally, space machine sneakers – like that of the Reebok Pump Fury, boast Back To The Future references. Axle-ish construction on the uppers and vents mimic futuristic vehicles (as depicted in the Eighties) and mechanical armour. But, unlike the original retro colourways, candy colours are toned down agains the domination of black, white and/or grey materials.
#7 Custom & Hand-Crafted
In a world inundated by mass-production, there’s a shift toward handmade sneakers and custom details in 2016. From selecting the type of leather (calfskin, vegan, buffalo hide) to the sole (rubber, cork or leather), men are investing more time (and money) into uniquely personal sneakers – as they would a nice pair of Made In Italy loafers.
Polyforma is a pioneer of the ‘slow’ sneaker movement, and plays off the traditional with its minimal yet stylish shoes in quality fabrics. Vegetable tanned leather is a big material trend in this market. Like raw denim, it’s designed to age with the movements of the wearer. So, the personalisation of the sneaker continues, beyond the point of design, manufacturing and purchase.
The best part? There’s little-to-no branding on the sneaker, great for the guy who’s in it for the style, not the street cred or fashion status.