Stepping It Up

Since sportswear and fashion’s tryst resulted in the birth of stylish leisurewear, we’ve started to swap rigid tailoring for a more comfortable, casual type of cool.

Brands across the board have embraced the dressed-down movement, with even the most revered names in luxury fashion dipping their toes into the proverbial sea of stylised trainers – here’s looking at you, Tom Ford.

But what does that mean for the old-school sneaker labels known exclusively for their beautifully formed kicks? It means it’s time to step up the game, or get swallowed by the tide. These next seven brands are doing the former, so it would be wise to keep them on your radar for the foreseeable future.

1. adidas

Let’s kick off with a familiar face, shall we?

It’s very much the time of the Three Stripes currently, with adidas’ new silhouettes, reworked classics and limited edition collaborations proving they’re one of the most exciting brands there is right now.

That’s without even mentioning its Kanye collaboration. The Yeezy 750 Boosts were released in February of this year, proving to be ‘god level’ popular and selling out in minutes. The fast-approaching clothing line will likely follow suit, but ‘Ye isn’t the only string to adidas’ bow.

The Tubular has been, and continues to be, reworked in fresh new colour ways and designs, while a number of other classics from the German giant are being revamped and revitalised for the modern market. Stan Smiths are still the pre-eminent white leather trainer, although the Superstar is very much back on our radar, and our feet.

Add to that on-going collaborative efforts with the likes of Pharrell, Neighbourhood and Raf Simons, to name but a few, and it’s no wonder so many of us have been taking the stripes over the swoosh lately.


Spring/Summer 2015 Collections

Current Styles
  • Adidas Originals Mens Grey Boston Super 84-lab Sneakers
  • Adidas Originals Boston Super – Size? Exclusive
  • Adidas Superstar 80s Clean Trainers In Black
  • Adidas Originals Stan Smith Leather Trainers
  • Adidas Ultra Boost M Core Black & Gold
  • Adidas Originals Gazelle Og Suede And Leather Sneakers
  • Adidas Hamburg Kopenhagen Collegiate Gold & Core Black
  • Adidas Allround Og White & Core Black
  • Adidas Originals Tubular Runner
2. Filling Pieces

If this Amsterdam brand – which broke major ground in 2014 – hasn’t piqued your interest yet, then now’s the time to get acquainted.

Formed in 2009 by designer Guillaume Philibert to – as the name suggests – meet a demand in the market, Filling Pieces is one of the originators of the luxe trainer. An indisputable savant in all things high-low, the footwear label produces superior quality sneakers at a price point that, surprisingly, isn’t all that eye-watering.

With a broad range of styles to step into, as well as collaborations with the likes of Aimé Leon Dore, Ronnie Fieg, Kith and END, Pieces is rapidly carving itself a niche in the crowded sneaker market.

What’s more, its shoes are handmade in Portugal using only the finest Italian materials, bringing a distinctly European flavour to the trainer game.


Spring/Summer 2015 Collection

Current Styles
  • Filling Pieces Mountain Cut Sneaker Red & Black Cubiq
  • Filling Pieces Mountain Cut Low Sneaker
  • Filling Pieces Mid Top Sneaker Red Woven
  • Filling Pieces White Python And Leather Trainers
  • Filling Pieces Navy Quilted Leather Trainers Sc112580
  • Filling Pieces Black Crocodile Effect Hi-top Trainers Sc108631
  • Filling Pieces Grey Mountain Cut Pleated Sneakers
  • Filling Pieces Grey Low Top Pleated Sneakers
  • Filling Pieces Off-white Low Top Sneakers
3. Common Projects

New York-based brand Common Projects has quickly established itself as the go-to luxury sneaker maker since its inception in 2004, and 2015 could be the company’s best year yet. Having tagged its BBall Low model as one of our favourite silhouettes of 2014, the label is continuing to bring the heat this year.

The brand has built its reputation by keeping things minimal. With the details extending to subtle, signature numbering only, it’s the quality of materials used and peerless manufacturing that really sets Common Project’s footwear apart.

The Achilles Low is easily the label’s best-known style, setting the bar in versatile, timeless trainers that are built to last.


Spring/Summer 2015 Collection

Current Styles
  • Common Projects Original Achilles Leather Sneakers
  • Common Projects Achilles Leather High Top Sneakers
  • Common Projects Bball Leather Sneakers
  • Common Projects Achilles Leather Low Top Sneakers
  • Common Projects Bball Leather High Top Sneakers
  • Common Projects Perforated Leather Slip-on Sneakers
  • Common Projects Achilles Low Nubuck Khaki
  • Common Projects Woman Achilles Low Foil White Sole Copper
  • Common Projects Original Achilles Low Perforated
4. ETQ Amsterdam

Back to Holland and another Dutch label in its relative infancy. ETQ is just four years old and, like a few others on this list, puts emphasis on unassuming design fused with premium construction.

Favouring subtle rather than showy style, ETQ is similar to Common Projects in its ethos, but much more affordably priced. The hand-stitched leather uppers atop vulcanised soles make for trainers that are built to stand the test of time, both in terms of aesthetics and build.

Though its collection is slowly expanding, and beginning to include pastel-coloured and richly textured styles, the brand’s focus is firmly fixed on clean lines and a monochrome palette. ETQs are very much trainers you can wear with anything.


Spring/Summer 2015 Collection

Current Styles
  • Etq Amsterdam Blueberry Low Top 3 Sneakers
  • Etq Amsterdam White Low Top 1 Sneakers
  • Etq Amsterdam Blueberry Quilted Mid Top 1 Sneakers
  • Etq. High Top 1 Sneaker Microchip
  • Etq. Low Top 1 Sneaker Blueberry & White
  • Etq. Perforated Panel Runner Microchip
  • Etq Amsterdam High-top Sneakers Collection Spring Summer 2015
  • Etq Amsterdam Low-tops & Trainers Collection Spring Summer 2015
  • Etq Amsterdam Low-tops & Trainers
5. Buscemi

The eponymous brand of fashion designer Jon Buscemi, these trainers aren’t for wallflowers. Truly unique in their design, Buscemi fuse classic streetwear shapes with premium fabrications and luxury detailing, including gold and rose gold-plated hardware.

Taking its aesthetic cues from the iconic Hermès’ Birkin handbag, Buscemi footwear is priced high and handmade in Italy from the finest materials; the company only deals in limited runs and exclusivity is at the core of its brand ethos.

Ostentatious is probably a bit of an understatement when describing Buscemi, with metallic shades, as well as crimson and orange, populating the current collection’s colour palette. What’s more, each shoe features an exaggerated heel handle – the label’s signature that marks it apart from other deluxe trainer brands.

If we’re talking strictly timeless style, then you couldn’t get much further than a Buscemi sneaker. But sometimes it’s OK to break the rules.


Holiday 2014/15 Collection

Current Styles
  • Buscemi Gold Clasp Mid-top Sneakers
  • Buscemi 125mm Handle Heel Sneakers
  • Buscemi 100mm Hi Top Trainers
  • Buscemi X Raif Adelberg Black Embroidered Hi-top Trainers Sc110183
  • Buscemi 125mm Crocodile Effect Hi-top Trainers Sc95899
  • Buscemi 100mm Silver Leather Hi-top Trainers Sc102675
  • Buscemi 125mm Sneakers
  • Buscemi Hi-top Sneakers
  • Buscemi 50 Mm Sneakers
6. article n°

A newcomer, article n° (article number) debuted recently having piqued interest at last year’s Liberty Fairs menswear trade show. Blending elements from old-school trainer styles with a little high fashion futurism, the brand brings an edge to traditional minimal, monochrome sneakers.

Mixing advanced materials like neoprene with classic Nappa leather, the label’s statement silhouettes sit somewhere between the almost austere simplicity of a brand like Common Projects, and the head-turning nature of Buscemi.

Although very little is known about article number currently, this discreet brand’s freshman collection has us on tenterhooks.


Spring/Summer 2015 Collection

Current Styles
  • 0621-0234
  • 0502-0134
  • 1115-0534
  • Article No White Python Effect Leather Hi-top Trainers
  • Article No Black Python Effect Leather Hi-top Trainers Sc111393
  • Article No Monochrome Leather Hi-top Trainers Sc111392
  • Article No Art No 1115 Hi Top
  • Article No Art No 0502 Runner
  • Article No Art No 0502 Runner Red White
7. Gourmet

Founded by Jon Buscemi, Greg Lucci and Greg Johnsen, this American-Italian footwear label tempers European sophistication with a US streetwear bent, resulting in styles that are often bold but still reliably constructed and entirely wearable.

Harbouring an unwavering appreciation for classic Air Jordan models, Gourmet has arguably gone a step further and refined these classic silhouettes, reconfiguring them for a more modern purpose.

Almost ten years old, Gourmet still remains difficult to categorise; its comprehensive collections (featuring uppers in everything from green snake embossed leather to silver foil and black mesh) and ability to stay up to the minute not only makes it a brand to watch this year, but for many more to come.

Gourmet’s 35 Lite model is perhaps the ultimate casual trainer, particularly for the summer season. Lightweight, with a supremely comfortable footbed, this versatile style comes in a range of colour ways and fabrics sure to satisfy any man who’s looking to update his shoe game this season.


Spring/Summer 2015 Collection

Current Styles
  • Corridore Black/citrus
  • Netto White/burnt Orange
  • Nove 2 Sp Black Polkadots/white
  • Gourmet Corridore Mid Top Trainers
  • Gourmet Libero Lx Trainers
  • Gourmet The 35 Lite Bk Trainers
  • Gourmet The 35 Lite Trainers
  • Gourmet The 35 Lite Sp Trainers
  • Gourmet The 35 Lite Bk Trainers
Final Word

Trainers have succeeded in transcending their original sportswear context, thanks to designers’ penchant for re-interpreting activewear.

With some of fashion’s most esteemed luxury labels muscling in on the market, specialist sneaker brands are noticeably stepping up to the mantle – with this shortlist blazing the trail.

Which trainer brands are you keeping tabs on?

Share your recommendations and tips in the comments section.