If you don’t already own a pair of sneakers, now’s the time to discover how to wear them. (And then go-out or jump online and get yourself a pair). Being anti-sneakers is like saying you don’t like ice-cream. Or chocolate. Or pizza. You just haven’t found a flavour that you like – yet.
Or maybe you’ve tried and bought a pair, but failed; never quite working the comfortable sports shoe into your everyday wardrobe? Maybe you’re already sneaker fan, but need some fresh inspiration: new styling, shape, fabric or colourway?
A simple guide to sneakers is all you simply need this season to get you in the sneaker-mood. Or, to reignite an old snearker-flame.
Low-top sneakers are those cut low on the ankle. Mostly minimal and lace-up, these trainers have become men’s style staples, harking back to days of icons Steve McQueen and tennis champion, Stan Smith (sounds adidas-ly familiar?) Low-tops closely mimic dress-shoes too, making them perfect smart-casual shoes. And they’re just as suited with shorts and a shirt with their sans-fuss, low-cut design. These are a must-own.
The high-top silhouette originates from basketball and other court sports. But, you don’t need to be Michael Jordan to slam-dunk a pair of these nowadays. Aesthetically, the shoe trunk extends significantly over the wearer’s ankle and are stylistically more sporty in today’s fashion world. They gel well with the sportsluxe influence in menswear: hybrid fashion-active pieces that combine style with function. And, they inject a bit of b-ball retro into your street style.
Slip on sneakers are lace-less. Their design makes them very easy to put on and take off, so they make for comfortable wearing. Particularly light, they come in canvas or leather materials and a sleek design, looking loafer-sque as more luxury brands produce them in creative textures and weaves.
Overall, slip ons are easy to put on shoes that work best with casual settings – the park, pub and beach.
The minimal sneaker rides well well the versatile low-cut sneaker and retains that classic shape best in white (like the original tennis shoe). From white, to black, to neutrals, monochrome hues in leather, canvas or a blend of both are a big win for the minimalist. And, they go with anything – suit, jeans or board shorts.
Retro runners look like a pair of kicks from the past. And, you should be looking to aesthetics, rather than the running capabilities of the vintage shoe (after thirty years of tech advancement, there are much better active shoes to get fit in).
In lace-up or velcro closure, retro runners will add a touch of vintage cool and a sports luxe feel to any ensemble. So, play up the old-school vibes with equally retro colourways: red, yellow, blue and green. Finally, opt for suede-on-leather inlays to add texture to the shoe and look to camouflage and animal print, keeping the colour palette more natural in this case.
Designed for the gym, but almost too good-looking to wear them while working out, the active sneaker carries high-tech mesh fabrication, streamline silhouette and incredible sponge-sole technology that’s great for breaking a sweat. As fashion gets more active, the active sneaker has itself become more stylish; less neon and nasty, more monochrome and chic. Keep this style for day-time, urban looks – nothing smart-casual.
Not just for the fashion-forward – sneakers that look like transformer shoes – are the latest trainer in the market. Only sneakers have the ability to be strangely futuristic in footwear, and still work well with jeans or active pants. Metallic fabrics, dome-like pockets of air, no-lace straps and ties are monikers of the forward progression of the sneaker. Ugly sneakers are the most out-there, but are the most interesting, and they could be the future.
Luxury brands have had to step into sneaker territory, as more men express an expensive (but comfort-loving) taste for the sneaker. While there’s no umbrella aesthetic for luxury sneakers, high-end kicks have earned the title of high-end for their sometimes minimal, sometimes out-there aesthetic, but always with a chic design and top materials.
The high-end sneaker isn’t made to look like your typical shopping mall sneaker. Nor is it mass-produced on a conveyor built in some factory abroad. Rather, high-end sneakers are expertly crafted using premium leather materials. This includes suede, python, cordovan. Or, one sneaker pair can boast a few different skins or hides at once. These will cause onlookers to look twice at your feet when wearing them.
Independent brands are leading the foray into bespoke and customised sneakers. Like suits, these unique kicks come made for you, in only the most premium (and sometimes abstract) materials and appendages. Other times, these handcrafted sneakers are minimal and organic in their construction, as hearty and hardy as the skilled hands that stitched the sole to the leather hide.
Their quality is unsurpassed. But, so is their price tag, so keep these for expensive occasions (especially, where tailoring is require). They shouldn’t become your daily get arounds, unless you’ve got the cash to invest in a few pairs to keep them looking pristine.
How To Wear Your Sneakers
Sneakers work best with neat tailoring. Start with a slim-cut, two-piece suit – in navy, grey or taupe – and opt for neutral (not neon) sneakers in a low-cut, leather finish; similar silhouette to a dress shoe. Make sure your trousers are slim, and cropped for an extra style touch – the hem landing just above the tongue (showing off your sneaker-game, of course).
Doing away with socks, a mandarin collar shirt – untucked, and colourful leather tote is a nice weekend touch. Or for the nights, take a crisp white shirt and do away with the tie – adding a pocket square with a hint of pattern or colour, nothing too rainbow.
Colour is an easy way to pull your trainers into the rest of your look, but keep it subtle. If your suit is navy, opting for a shade of blue to match the sole, the logo or the shoelace feels less contrived than all-blue shoes.
Many gents are rocking the sneaker (retro and low-cut, mostly) with smart-casual ensembles. Like the suit, if you’re going with colour, try drawing out a shade from your sneakers at injecting it into your button-down or t-shirt. Or mesh textures, drawing on a suede trainer’s soft nap and pairing it with a cashmere sweater under a casual blazer.
A graphic knit or roll neck makes for a stylish middle layer and marries both smart and casual perfectly. Instead of heavy black outerwear, try a camel jacket or a lighter anorak in khaki to protect against the elements. Just add your favourite pair of jeans or earthen-hue chinos.
The modern active sneaker is your best foot forward in the urban jungle, come day time. Contemporary runners inject a fresh aesthetic with rolled-up jeans and basic tee or jacket, the high-end sneaker looking a touch out of place with shorts and a tee.
Equally stylish, is the reworking of classic high-top sneakers, with a vivacious print. Instead of jeans, look to sports luxe pieces – jogger pants or jersey shorts – and add a nylon bomber jacket or cotton blouson as a less performance-coat.
Due to the bold nature of the sneaker, don’t go overboard with prints and patterns elsewhere; working with depth via knitwear (waffle, cable or mohair) and surface texture via suede or leather. In summer, thin and grainy cottons/linen are practical, and look to lightweight, technical jackets as a breathable, outerwear option for city nights.