As the last thing we put on, trainers are sometimes the last thing we think of. It shouldn’t be this way. A strong outfit is often built from the bottom up, so your footwear should act as the foundation rather than the finishing touch.
Of course, with added focus on your feet comes an even larger margin for error – and many men seemingly aren’t aware of the potential cock-ups with your lace-ups. So, to convey a little kick-centric clarity, we asked the experts to highlight – and fix – the most common mistakes you’re making with your trainers.
Not Matching Your Trainers To Your Outfit
Not all trainers were created equal. Nor were they all created minimal. Sneakers that aren’t of the gleaming white variety – and that’s a lot of them – are far more difficult to pair with your civvies.
Take a tricolour pair of Asics or New Balance. Not only are multiple shades harder to integrate within a single look, a detailed design on a sporty silhouette isn’t a natural bedfellow to tailored trousers. It can even be tricky with denim.
To match your trainers to your outfit successfully, think about the proportion of your look, says Toby Standing from online styling service Thread. “If your style is sleek, slim and tailored, follow suit with your trainers and go for something similar – like a pair of Stan Smiths or Common Projects.”
That doesn’t mean you should eschew colour altogether, though. “Don’t be afraid to opt for a colourway other than the classic white. If you want a more subtle approach to your footwear, try a darker tone, like black or navy, that will look equally sleek but stand out less.”
The relaxation of dress codes at large also gives you more wiggle room down south. “Athletic shapes – like Reebok Classics – are becoming more acceptable to wear with a tailored outfit,” says Standing. “But as these trainers come with excessive design detailing, be sure to keep the rest of your look classic. Your trainers are the most casual component.”
The rule here, of course, is to be realistic. While experimental and directional footwear is popular on the runway, it makes sense to play it safe IRL: Milan Fashion Week isn’t quite the same as your brother’s smart-casual 30th birthday.
Getting Statement Trainers Wrong
Bored of minimal kicks and want to up the ante? As with most statement moves, there are a few ways to get it right – and many to get it oh-so-horribly wrong. Turning the volume up throughout your look is all sorts of Joseph’s technicolour screamcoat.
“Statement trainers are one of the biggest menswear trends of late – with every brand from Zara to Dior muscling in on ‘ugly sneaks’ and ‘dad trainer’ designs,” says Standing. “To wear correctly, the answer comes from the name of the trend itself: statement.”
Which means you let the trainers do the talking. “Keep the rest of the outfit simple. This will allow your trainers to really shine and be the focal point. Think straight- to slim-fit jeans, a classic sweater and the like.” After all, nobody looks good in head-to-toe Yeezy. That includes Yeezy.
Backing The Wrong Trend
Loud, colourful sneakers or chunky trail runners are great for confident men who want to stand out. But if you sit on the more conservative end of menswear, know that not all trainer trends are as in your face.
“While some of this year’s trainer trends seem out of reach for many guys, we’re also seeing a return to classic styles,” says Charlotte Austin, editor at Lyst. “The Nike Air Max 98 and Converse All Star One models have been getting a lot of traction this year, pointing towards cleaner, quieter shapes.”
Good news, especially if you want said trainers to meld with your current wardrobe and nail the cost-per-wear ratio. “Don’t expect the same [longevity or versatility] from purple Reebok Instapumps,” says Austin.
Wearing The Wrong Trainers For Your Commute
Misery is: a besuited man on the morning commute wearing trainers last seen in a 1996 aerobics class. Don’t pretend you haven’t noticed them. The slew of guys in good suits and comfortable (read: ugly as sin) sneakers is becoming something of an epidemic – but it’s one that is easily remedied.
“Sunday running shoes are not okay when paired with your work outfit,” says Standing. “You should invest in a pair of trainers that are comfortable, yes, but not suited to a marathon.” That means you go minimal.
“Muted leather sneakers aren’t the best for running, but they will take a load off your feet before and following a long day at the office. Brands like Asics, Nike, Spalwart and New Balance are all great in that they offer comfort that won’t cost a fortune.” Nor will they cost you your dignity.
Wearing The Wrong Trainers To The Gym
Though gym shoes deserve public ridicule when worn on a train, they’re most welcome when worn in an actual gym. Still, it’s too easy to get your kicks wrong for your workout.
“A lot of guys are happy to rock up in an old pair of trainers, assuming it wont make much difference. It really does,” says personal trainer and fitness expert, Patrick McAleenan. “The type of trainer you choose very much depends on your workout, and the level of cardio.”
So the heavier you are on your feet, the more support you’ll need. “Additional heel support and a stable base are great for weightlifting, while extra grip on the edges of the sole can abet lateral movements if you’re focusing on speed and agility training.”
Not Keeping Your Trainers Clean
You wouldn’t go out wearing a pair of knackered, dirty brogues, so why would sneakers be an exception? Keep your trainers clean at all times, especially if you’re heading smart-casual.
“Minimalist trainers need to be regularly cleaned to maintain a sleek aesthetic,” says Austin. “Wearing dirty trainers to a restaurant or a date is a big no-no, so keep on top of the maintenance.”
It’s no military operation, either. A low spin, low temperature cycle will return your canvas treads to box-fresh quality (pop them inside a pillowcase if you’re worried about damaging the details). If you opted for premium leather or suede, though, clean by hand using a specialist cleaning kit from the likes of Jason Markk or Crep Protect. Then apply a liberal dose of hydrophobic spray – prevention is better than cure, after all.
Not Replacing Them When You Need To
Every Stan Smith has its day. That means, no matter how much you clean, protect or maintain, sometimes, your favourite kicks (with the possible exception of Converse Chuck Taylors) need to meet their maker. And by maker, we mean bin.
Know how to spot the tell-tale signs of decay, says Austin. “If the leather is starting to come away at the seams, or small holes are forming in canvas trainers, it’s time to consider upgrading to a new pair. As long as you’re washing your laces semi-regularly, a quick wipe and polish should be enough to spruce up your existing pair in-between.”
Don’t settle for a different model, either. If your previous kicks were the life and sole of your greatest looks, simply buy another. It’ll be like you were never apart.