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 are 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 casual shoes on the market right now for your consideration, helping you walk through 2021 on a slick-looking foot.
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Allbirds are the original start-up sneaker story which has seen this New Zealand born brand take over the world. So much so that Allbirds is now one of the most popular shoes in Silicon Valley. Their collection of no-fuss sustainable shoes mean they’re made for function but with a touch of style. Well worth checking out their range of well-priced styles and colours.
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!
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.
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.
Oliver Cabell isn't just in the business of low-cut minimalist sneakers. Taking inspiration from the German Army Trainer (GAT) from the 1970s (and later popularised by Margiela), Cabell's version serves up a faithful reproduction, including the gum rubber sole, suede detailing on the toe and a single leather stripe on the side.
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.
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 Hero Air Lace sneaker rocks a retro-inspired silhouette but teams it with wholly modern technology in the form of Active Air, which promotes air circulation around the foot for sweat-free toes.
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.
Few other brands have such global appeal as that enjoyed by Nike. The American sportswear giant is known by pretty much everybody on the planet, with each individual brand turning to it for various reasons, whether it be football, skateboarding, running or myriad other sports.
Of course, Nike shoe are as much a part of everyday life as night and day, and the Air Force 1 is one of the most recognisable models. Comfortable, durable and iconic, they're the quintessential everyday casual shoe.
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.
Rag & Bone
Kings of urban cool Rag & Bone is a brand that quickly and confidently carved out a market of its own. Wanting to ensure customers genuinely love the clothes and shoes they buy, pieces are the result of time and dedication and not some unconsidered idea in a bid to make a quick buck.
Their Retro Hiker takes the iconic waffle stomper hiking boot as inspiration and pairs it with classic sneaker design for a stunning hybrid that brings a refreshing design change to the everyday shoe.
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.
Wanting to bring a true sense of European craftsmanship in an affordable package to the US, Koio aims to shake up the footwear market. Sourcing materials and manufacturing in the Italian region of Marche (the same area that many high-end shoemakers reside) Koio is able to put a strong focus on quality. Workers are fairly paid too, and their staff roster includes a lastmaker who understands various shapes of feet unlike anyone else. Having him onboard allows Koio to design shoes that fit more comfortably on your feet than some other brands.
So, while the Capri sneaker might look like another imitation pair of low-cut minimalist sneakers, they're made in a more involved way compared to some of the others you'll see on a regular basis...and without the price tag.
Johnston & Murphy
Usually a brand associated with more formal dress shoes, Johnston & Murphy is also in the game of sneakers and casual footwear choices too.
With well over one hundred years of experience, Johnston & Murphy understands feet well, and the Amherst Lace-up take advantage of the company's Flex technology, which helps to provide incredible levels of comfort by conforming to the natural bend of your feet when walking.
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.
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.
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.