The biggest thing in men’s fashion right now seems to be the humble white sneaker. But are they timeless, or have they worn out their welcome?
White sneakers have always been popular, from the earlier canvas plimsolls to the most outlandish sneaker collaborations of the 2010s. But over the last few years, we’ve seen the basic white court-style sneaker take over.
These days, it’s totally acceptable wearing plain white sneakers as a smart casual option. Men even pair them with blazers and suits – and that’s become normal. Everywhere you look, there are white Common Projects and Converse x PLAY Comme des Garçons on men’s feet, in all sorts of social settings, from boardrooms to the beach.
But is it too much? Have we lost our sense of decorum when it comes to footwear? Have we relaxed our standards too much and let the white sneaker dominate when they should be reserved for more sporting occasions? Have white sneakers had their day?
DMARGE spoke with stylish men from around the globe to pick their brains on whether or not we should say goodbye to white sneakers, and we found some mixed responses – as well as some great style tips.
“Synthetic-lined sneakers can be on the nose… But white sneakers are classics, so no, they haven’t had their day,” Byron Bay-based men’s stylist and fashion expert Jeff Lack tells DMARGE.
“There’s a big swing away from styling them with so many alternates nowadays. I don’t like waste so don’t throw them out, rather keep them in good condition ‘on ice’ until the occasion presents itself.”Jeff Lack
Baltimore native, fashion journalist and personal stylist Tony Logan (a.k.a Tony Thrifts) is a little more confident about the enduring appeal of white sneakers.
“I personally believe that white sneakers will always be a safe bet because of how versatile they are… With the right white sneaker, you can easily dress it up with a fitted pair of chinos or dress it down with a crisp pair of denim,” he explains.
Logan suggests that a common mistake men make when wearing white sneakers is choosing pants or jeans that don’t compliment their footwear.
“I know loose and baggy-fit jeans are making a comeback but I believe white sneakers look their best when paired with tailored-fit pants. I love it when my jeans or pants hit slightly above my ankle where my sock is exposed,” he shares.
“Nothing hurts my heart more than someone wearing a great sneaker but it’s drowned with baggy jeans or pants.”Tony Logan
The number one mistake most people make is not keeping their white sneakers clean – an issue that Toronto realtor, TV personality and style expert Rizwan Malik is passionate about.
“Personally, I think you can never go wrong with a CLEAN pair of white sneakers to complete any look. I think they’re still very much relevant, current and on-trend. They really pull together a strong look, especially during the shoulder and summer months,” he says.
“Make sure they’re clean – you want the sneaker itself to look crisp. You want to regularly wipe, whiten, and clean them.”Rizwan Malik
Another common mistake men make with white sneakers (which might be why many of us feel as if the trend is on the nose) is that they over-correct when it comes to sneaker aesthetics, Jeff explains.
“The more simple the white sneaker – as in not too many patterns and colours – the smarter they look. This can, in turn, look a little boring with casual outfits.”Jeff Lack
“So with casual outfits play around with sneakers with embellishments like Primabase, Von-Röutte and CLAE. It’s hard to go past Nike Air Force Ones at the entry-level and Common Projects if you’re on a trust fund.”
Tony also backs the classic Nike Air Force Ones: “most people’s entryway into sneakers starts with a classic pair of Nike Air Force Ones because of how stylish they look and how easily you can pair them with every outfit.”
“My go-to brand nowadays is Veja,” Rizwan says. “The great thing about Veja is that the shoes have a little colour on them and they’re a sustainable sneaker made of vegan leather. I own about six pairs of them!”
Alternatively, if you’re totally over white sneakers, there are plenty of other casual shoes or other colours you can wear to fill that smart casual sprezzatura void.
“I’d still stick with sneakers but try a colour like off-white, cream, pink or pale blue,” Jeff suggests. “New Balance does a collab every other day, so check out those options as an alternative to plain white. Dark-coloured sneakers are hardest to style,” he points out.
“If all-white sneakers aren’t your cup of tea I would recommend these three options. The first would be the Adidas Gazelle core black and white stripe sneaker, the second would be the white and grey New Balance 993, and lastly, the Nike Air Max 90 Infrared,” Tony offers.
TL;DR? White sneakers are still cool, including for more formal occasions, but be savvy about what kind of white sneakers you buy, what you wear them with, and making sure they’re clean. And don’t be afraid to try something different! They’re not the only option in the smart casual playbook…