If the past few years in menswear have proved anything, it’s that kicks are key. So key, in fact, that 2015 saw over 9 million pairs of trainers resold at a total value of $1.2 billion, a statistic that suggests sneakers might just be the new stocks.
It’s not hard to see why. With the overarching instinct in menswear now being to loosen up, trainers are increasingly seen as acceptable, if not preferable, alternatives to ‘smarter’ footwear styles. But with archive designs and limited edition packs dropping daily, even the most woke of hypebeasts can lose track of what is, and isn’t, worth copping.
So we hit up the experts to sort the trash from the quality trainers. These are the five kicks that’ll cover all your bases.
The All-White Tennis Sneaker
Clean, minimal and trendproof, this is about as close to a dress shoe as a trainer gets. Although first brought to market in the early 20th century (in the form of the classic Chuck Taylor), snow-white kicks didn’t surge in popularity until the arrival of adidas’ Robert Haillet in 1965.
A pared-back pair of leather and rubber low-tops worn by the French tennis player of the same name, the Haillet later (in 1971) became the Stan Smith. Since then, this iconic silhouette has spawned legions of imitators, giving rise to a market today that’s awash with white-out styles.
“They look great with denim, and can, in a more liberal workplace, look great with a suit too,” says Sophie Hay, Menswear Editor at Lyst. Owing to their under-the-radar aesthetic, a pair of white (or off-white, for that matter) leather low-tops slide as easily into off-duty looks as suited ones.
What you get in versatility, however, you lose in ease of care. “Make sure you use a waterproofing and leather protection spray before you go jumping in any puddles,” advises Hay. “Your sneakers will quickly lose their fashion credentials if they’re covered in mud.”
With nearly every brand and high street name now producing their own take on the style, you’re sure to find something that fits – whether you’ve got £40 or £400 to splurge. “Common Projects’ Achilles are the benchmark in understated cool,” says Hay. “But Acne Studios and ETQ offer great minimal alternatives.”
- Topman Tux White Luxury Leather Trainers
- Fred Perry Spencer Leather Trainers
- Adidas Originals Stan Smith Trainers S75104
- Etq. Low Top 1 Rugged Sneaker
- Common Projects Original Achilles Low
- Nike Tennis Classic Ac
- Raf Simons + Adidas Originals Stan Smith Leather Sneakers
- Acne Studios Adrian Grained-leather Sneakers
- Reiss 1971 Don Leather Lace-up Sneakers
As good as a pair of pristine white kicks is, the never-ending upkeep they require significantly lessens their appeal. Which is where black comes in. Just as versatile, a pair of murdered-out trainers means you can spend less time scrubbing uppers with a toothbrush, and more time stunting.
“Black uppers and soles means no annoying cleaning, and they also go with everything,” says Hay. “Then there’s the added bonus that they’re stealth enough to get away with in the office.” (Although you’ll want to swerve canvas, mesh and neoprene styles in favour of low-top leather options in this case.)
Hay suggests steering classic with a pair from Italian brand Buttero, but you’ll find solid options from the likes of Puma, Nike and Converse too.
- Converse Chuck 2 Ox
- Puma Puma Suede Classic
- Nike Air Max 90 Ultra Moire
- Buttero Tanino Low Leather Sneaker
- Common Projects Original Achilles Low
- Asics Gel Lyte Iii
- Nike All Court 2 Leather Sneakers
- Filling Pieces Ghost Waxed-nubuck Sneakers
- Saint Laurent Sl01 Court Classic Leather Sneakers
The Skate Slip-On
A child of the 1960s, it’s no wonder the skate shoe’s all about ease. Featuring a game-changing low-profile, laceless construction, this super-casual style – first dropped with the debut of Vans’ Authentic range back in 1966 – is still prized both on and off the halfpipe.
“The slip-on sneaker deserves a place in each and every closet – if only for its ability to be worn with shorts,” says Hay. And that’s not to mention lightweight chinos and beat-up jeans. In fact, you’ll be hard pressed to find another no-fuss trainer style that’s more suited to warm-weather looks as this. Choose a canvas version in a colour like beige, black, grey and navy for optimal wearability.
“I’m a huge fan of a classic pair of Vans in white or black,” says Hay. “And a sleek suede and leather slip-on, like this style from Maison Margiela, will work with a pair of lighter linen trousers come summer.”
- Topman Off White Lux Sport Slip Ons
- Reiss 1971 Delon Slip-on Suede Sneakers
- River Island Navy Mesh Slip On Plimsolls
- Vans Vault Classic Slip On Lx
- Maison Margiela 22 Slip On Sneaker
- Diemme Garda Slip On
- Common Projects Perforated Leather Slip-on Sneakers
- A.p.c. Canvas Slip-on Sneakers
- Oliver Spencer Suede Slip-on Sneakers
The Basketball Shoe
Built with enough support to keep actual giants light on their feet, a basketball trainer comes in handy even if you don’t shoot hoops. That said, it’s their style, rather than their suspension, that’s shot basketball shoes straight to the top of the trainer ranks in the past few years.
Thanks to Lucas Ossendrijver, who made hi-tops high fashion with his autumn/winter 2007 collection for Lanvin Homme, baller styles are big business. And although they won’t – due to their high profile – gel as well with your wardrobe as the aforementioned silhouettes, no well-rounded sneaker collection is complete without a pair.
“While adidas and the Stan Smith might dominate tennis-inspired footwear, Nike can claim the top spot in this category,” says Samuel Smith, Fashion Editor at oki-ni. “The Blazer from the 1970s, and the 1980s’ Air Force One and Dunk have seen many homages.” If you’d rather aim higher, Smith suggests Valentino’s Rock Be line or, for something that skews left of centre, the Y-3 Qasa brings the basketball shoe right up to date.
- Nike Air Force 1 High 07 Trainers 315121-410
- Nike Air Jordan 1 Mid Trainers 554724-112
- Converse Chuck Taylor All Star Monochrome Hi Top Plimsolls
- Nike Blazer Hi Suede Vintage
- Nuke Dunk Hi
- Nike Jordan 4 Retro
- Adidas Tubular X
- Y-3 Qasa High
- Nike Lebron Xiii Usa
If the basketball court has been the main breeding ground for trainer styles over the past five years, 2016 is the year we changed tack to track. Lightweight, breathable and boasting an incomparable level of comfort, the runner puts performance first. But it’s not all function, no form: the latest running styles look as good with a smartly-cut trouser as a pair of training shorts.
“The adidas NMD is possibly the most comfortable shoe I own,” says Aman Tak, buyer at Offspring. “There’s also a hint of nostalgia in its side-wall plugs, giving a nod to the brand’s heritage – it’s always great to see re-worked originals coming back into the fold.”
Also worth a punt are select models from stateside competitor Nike. “The Lunar Epic Flyknit and Free Run Flyknit feature knitted fabric uppers, making them footwear you can not only do serious miles in, but look good while doing it too,” says Smith. “Nike are also pioneering the ‘old meets new’ approach in the form of its Roshe Daybreaks and Air Max LD-Zero H.”
To step-up your sprint, look to the likes of Lanvin, Valentino and OAMC, who all offer slick styles replete with subtle or stand-out detailing. At the slightly more affordable end of the spectrum, Asics, New Balance and Saucony produce supremely comfortable runners in a variety of contemporary and vintage colourways.
- Nike W Roshe Daybreak Nm
- Adidas Adidas Energy Boost 3
- Nike Flyknit Racer
- Saucony Shadow Original
- Asics Gel Kayano Evo
- New Balance Md1500fv
- Y-3 Pure Boost Zg Primeknit Sneakers
- Adidas Raf Simons Ozweego 2
- Nike Free Run Flyknit
Can you kick it with our list? Or are there other sneaker styles you’d rather see shortlisted?
Let us know below.