Unless you’ve been living under a soundproof rock, you’ll have noticed that some of the most lustworthy trainers of late are bulky, acid-tinged objects that could be probably be seen from space.
But whatever the latest trainer trends, there will always be room in the male wardrobe for a pair of stripped-back sneakers – chiefly because they effortlessly luxe-up a pair of lifeless jeans or add a bit of give-a-shit swagger to a suit.
Whether you’re ready to drop a load on some low-tops or need some price-conscious picks, here are 15 brands that do stylish footwear on the DL.
Italian brand Superga was cladding men’s feet in clean trainer designs long before minimalism was a bona fide menswear movement. Named after the Basilica di Superga near the factory where it was founded in 1911, the firm is best known for its 2750 model, which is identifiable by its cotton canvas uppers and vulcanised rubber soles.
Of course, the eternal appeal of these trainers lies in their ability to filter out the fuss (the only added detail being the unique side tag branding) and focus on the core requirements that men need from a trusty pair of kicks: chiefly quality, comfort, and timeless visuals.
Countless brands have taken the minimalist sneaker and run with it, but they all owe their success to one model: the Adidas Stan Smith. Released in 1963, the world’s first leather tennis shoe was initially named after French tennis player Robert Haillet until his retirement a decade later. As the Stan Smith, it remained seen primarily as an athletic shoe until its re-release in 2014 when it became part of the menswear uniform du jour.
Far from being the only stripped-back silhouette in the brand’s cannon, in recent years the Gazelle, Campus and Superstar models have all been revived to build on Smith’s success. Sometimes, you just can’t beat an original.
The celebrity-strewn streets of Los Angeles are hardly a mecca for minimalism, but against all odds, that’s where peak minimal footwear brand Clae was founded at the turn of the millennium.
Born with the aim of modernising the classic tennis shape, in recent seasons, additional silhouettes such as Vibram sole Chelsea boots and wool upper runners have widened the mix, but the best-seller will always be the fresher-than-wet-paint Bradley low-top. Who said Cali couldn’t do Scandinavian cool, eh?
If minimalism could be distilled into a single one-stop shop, Cos would undoubtedly be it. While the Swedish retailer is happy to dabble with the odd experimental shape in its clothing range, the trainers on offer have their feet firmly planted in simpler design territory.
That’s not to say Cos kicks are boring, though. Quite the opposite. Clean lines, high-quality materials and simple design flourishes come together in an orgy of impeccable taste, all packaged in neat lace-up and slip-on styles.
Odds are, if you’re heading to Reiss, it’s for a slimline suit or a holiday wardrobe that doesn’t instantly mark you out as a tourist. But as it happens, fuss-free footwear is also one of the high-street brand’s specialities, and unsurprisingly none of the trainers you’ll find here come with excess baggage.
Rarely straying from a cohort of shades that are safe for colour-phobes, Reiss trainers are all smooth leather, strokable suede and perforation detail that’s almost microscopic. That’s because great design doesn’t need to be seen from miles away.
While many footwear brands have to design their products at least six months in advance, on the high street turnaround time can be closer to six weeks, allowing budget retailers to quickly release on-point styles at prices that make dabbling in trends less nerve-wracking and financially ruinous.
Take H&M: as well as simple styles that cost less than a round of drinks, the retailer has a premium line that’s packed with luxe-looking sneakers finished with of-the-moment details such as gum soles.
Arguably the most prolific name in the game, Axel Arigato has released a new style of shoe or sneaker every week since the company began in the summer of 2014.
The Swedish label also sells straight to its customers through its website and Instagram-worthy bricks-and-mortar stores. No middlemen equals more affordable price points, meaning you can refresh your collection on the regular without having to sell older pairs (or skip rent) to finance your habit.
Once you get your head around how to pronounce the name (it’s ‘eighties’ FYI) the next task is to rifle through this Stockholm-based firm’s more garish stompers in order to discover its more conservative designs.
The brainchild of Jonathan Hirschfeld and former Acne Studios designer Max Schiller, Eytys’s unisex platform sneaker is what gained the label cult status and shelf space in some of the world’s most influential stores, but it’s the sole swag of its very first foray into footwear (known as the ‘Mother’) that has us coming back for more.
Demonstrating that being Scandinavian is not a prerequisite for nailing the whole pared-back design thing, Amsterdam-based footwear brand ETQ launched in 2010 with the aim of eliminating over-accessorised branding.
Colours on the hand-stitched leather uppers and vulcanised soles come moody, clean and subdued, but the shape is where things get more interesting. Alongside classic low-top designs, there are plenty of chunkier iterations on offer, which is what we imagine minimalism in the future might look like.
Operating in a footwear market that’s increasingly keen on young guns and edgy upstarts, in recent seasons best-in-class brogue purveyor Grenson has cast off the shackles of tradition and set its eyes firmly on the future with its not-so-dusty trainers.
Of course, the British footwear powerhouse hasn’t forgotten its heritage completely. Each of the brand’s designs is rendered in luxury fabrics like hand-painted calf leather and constructed to last for decades to come.
Prada-owned Church’s may have been a go-to for fine formal footwear since 1873, but a smattering of contemporary trainers prove that old, esteemed dogs can indeed learn new tricks.
With designs based on the brand’s classic Derby shoe, each lace-up is a slick sidewalk-ready ode to off-duty dressing that wouldn’t look out of place at the end of a tailored two-piece.
Founded in 1866 and now under the stewardship of Hermès, John Lobb produces around 1,000 pairs of shoes per week that are admired the world over. It’s little wonder, then, that the storied brand’s sports-inspired kicks are just as big a hit as its impossibly attractive men’s boots.
A dab hand at turning out the kind of footwear that looks unassuming from afar but unmistakable up close, many styles are made in Italy with the same immaculate craftsmanship as any dress shoe.
Hedi Slimane’s reign at Saint Laurent took the very Parisian fashion house into unchartered territory. But forget rock-luxe leather jackets and circulation-sapping skinnies, the footwear was where the magic was happening all along.
Post-Slimane, the label’s stark trainers still favour an edgy approach, with low-key low-tops in premium leather and suede often embroidered with the brand’s moniker in a handwritten scrawl.
When Common Projects released its now iconic Achilles model in 2004, menswear enthusiasts and brand founders Peter Poopat and Flavio Girolami had little idea that they’d change the entire footwear industry.
A catalyst for the rise of the luxury trainer, the brand identifiable by its use of gold embossed serial numbers is today a regular fixture on the front row, and on the feet of celebrities from Alexander Skarsgard and Drake to Nick Jonas and Kanye West.
The oldest couture house in France, Lanvin has remained relevant by bridging the divide between smart and casual. So it’s no big shocker that tasteful trainers make up a sizeable part of this heavy hitter’s repertoire.
In among mesh runners and nubuck basketball shoes are patent-leather sneakers that could go under the radar with a dinner suit as well as more weekend-ready styles that serve as the perfect bookend to pinrolled jeans.