As workplaces around the world move away from more conservative attire and the lines a greyed between officewear and casual wear, choosing a versatile pair of shoes has never been further to the fore.
Of course, casual shoes are nothing new, we’ve worn them for years since we’ve learnt how to walk. The difference is now we’re all getting a little more daring with what we wear them with, meaning a whole new level of consideration. Get it right and they’ll effortlessly work alongside 50% of your wardrobe. Get it wrong and well, it’s hideous!
But as well as how they look, there’s a couple of other factors you may want to consider, such as what you will be wearing them for, how much time you’re actually going to be spending on your feet, and of course, what type of budget you’ve got to play with.
Modern shoes are also made with a wide range of materials, from vegan glues and recycled plastics to leathers and synthetics, so choosing your moral standpoint against your love of designer labels needs to be addressed early on. This is why we have looked at the best 15 casual shoes on the market right now for your consideration, helping you start 2020 on a slick looking foot.
New Balance has always been known for their sheer comfort and practicality, perfect for those long days on your feet whether you’re at work or walking round the city. These 574s are made using super lightweight EVA foam cushioning that increases comfort no end. Although they will work with real casual wear such as jeans and tees, that’s as far as you could really go with these, but hey, that’s exactly what they’re made for. A real shoe for everyday use, especially when you’re out on your feet!
Based on the original 1970s design, the Chuck 70 High Top from Converse is a certified classic. Even though it was initially associated with basketball players in lettermen jackets in the US, the design has stayed with us over the years and adopted by a variety of styles and sub cultures, from punks and hippies to goths and hipsters. Pretty much anyone of any age can seemingly get away with wearing a pair, and it’s never a faux pas to wear them with just about anything.
We couldn’t get away with a modern casual shoe list without mentioning Vans. There are not many laidback looks these days that can’t be finished off with a pair, and although the colours may change the tried and tested designs pretty much stay the same – like these Old Skool Pros. Although essentially a skate shoe, they add a touch of Californian style to your ensemble. They are made with a suede upper and Ultra HD sock liners (if you’re wearing them on your board!) and a reinforced sole for extra durability.
Parisian brand Veja has been leading the way in sustainable footwear for over 15 years and have really taken off globally over the past five. Their Rio Branco sneaker is a testament to their ethos of using only natural and organic rubbers and cottons that are sourced ethically in South America. The design is classic sports casual that can works with a wealth of wardrobe combinations.
London’s Orlebar Brown are now synonymous with exemplary tailored clothing for the modern gent and have come some way since starting out as swim shorts specialists. These Larson trainers keep in line with their shorts in that you can actually swim in them, but they are far better suited to when worn with tailored shorts and chinos. They have a removable, perforated inner sole to help your feet stay dry, a neoprene tongue, and they weigh in at an incredibly light 201 grams.
Simplicity should always be considered if you want real versatility from your casual footwear. If you can add stellar form and design construction that uses recycled materials then you’re on to a winner, as the team at London brand Uniform Standard are finding out to their benefit. Their White Leather Series 3 sneaker is probably what we would picture in a workplace casual shoe, with a design that stays smart and reserved yet unquestionably elegant.
Taking the unusual approach of cutting out distributors and dealing direct to the consumer has made Aurelian somewhat of a luxury brand for the people, using high-end materials and selling on their products at a more affordable price. Their Beige Yacht slipper is a picture of summer, the perfect shoe for those smart casual evening dinners or champagne aperitifs after a busy day at the office. They’re also made from super-soft suede with elastical sides for total comfort.
Founded by Isabel and Jose Maria in 2014, JAK is a brand straight out of the vibrant capital of Portugal, Lisbon. Inspired by everything from engineering and architecture to philosophy and art, they aim to move footwear away from the realms of disposable fashion and into longevity. Their Nova shoe is created using premium natural calfskin with a leather-lined interior – designed and manufactured in Portugal. It’s one of those great designs that could easily move between seasons, accompanying tees and shorts as much as jeans and jackets.
With close to a hundred years of shoemaking experience, it’s safe to say your feet are in good hands with Cole Haan. There Zerogrand Wingtip Oxford Grey is the perfect marriage between smart and casual, taking the design elements of an oxford dress shoe and adding a bouncy rubber sole for that sneaker feel. It’s designed with flexibility and versatility in mind, along with a Pecan Suede upper to keep you looking dapper.
If you’re casual preference sways more towards the slip-on persuasion then these wonderfully rugged-looking Bosten Mules from the heads at Birkenstock might be your perfect match. They’re made for complete summer comfort with a Habana oiled leather upper, featuring an adjustable pin-buckle fastening for that more tailored fit. A cushioned cork sole takes any impact away from your feel whilst walking, and they they look great with a pair of slim-cut ankle-length pants, and casual shirt over tee.
Clarks is fast approaching 200 years in the shoemaking business, and the brand is still leading the way, constantly redefining their designs to fit the needs of the modern market. Their Seven moccasins are made using recycled rubber and natural cork to create a stylish new take on a classic design. The upper is made from superior suedes for that barefoot comfort, and perfect for those who are searching for a casual alternative that sits outside of the sneaker form.
Wahts pride themselves on creating shoes and garments for today’s lifestyle, recognising that the market of luxury and sportswear is on the merge. Their Night Blue Farrell New Runners have been created using the best Italian Suede around with a calfskin leather interior for unbelievable comfort. And best of all, they offer a whole heap of combinations when you slide that wardrobe door open.
Von Routte may have been born in Sydney but its founders come from Brazil. Their designs are inspired by cities around the world, such as this Lyon Stripe sneaker, a beautiful yet minimalist shoe that could be worn as easily with a classy pair of slacks or chino shorts. Lyon is one of the most stylish and underrated cities in France, and it looks like Von Routte have made the perfect shoe to match.
Any shoe that is designed in London and made in Italy should have anyone with a serious eye for design turning their head with a smile. This is exactly how Unseen Footwear does business, and the results are striking. Their Grey Suede Trinity has all the hallmarks of a sports trainer but is, in fact, a luxury casual shoe. It has a handcrafted Gommus sole, that sits under an Italian suede leather upper and tongue – offering a wonderfully understated aesthetic fit for the perfect modern office look.
The Beetle from Camper has long been heralded as one of their most recognisable creations. Their made using a blend of Nubuck leather along with some of the most lightweight materials on the market, patented by Camper themselves. The Beetle features elasticated laces that don’t need to be tied, forcing the shoe to stay comfy and snug against your foot when worn. A round toe with suede finish adds a nice alternative finish that makes the shoe a perfect casual smart cross over.
Everlane is all about sustainable and ethIcally made fashion. The company scours the globe looking for the best factories to produce its clothes, and ensures workers get paid a fair wage – you can even see a breakdown of the cost of production vs the price they charge. The Court sneaker is one of the most affordable ways to break into the white sneaker game (other colours are available) without scrimping on quality, thanks to a combination of full-grain leather and recycled materials.