If you’re looking for a comprehensive guide on men’s
Originally designed for sports and exercise,
Sure, a lot of evolutions come from their practical roots, with athletic technologies targeting specific needs for, say, track runners versus soccer players or even dancers.
As always in fashion, though, form followed function. That said, today, non-skaters wear Vans, and non-basketball players wear Jordans for style alone.
Let’s take a look at several cool
While athletic shoes are often made out of breathable mesh, several different materials are used for
They also tend to add a touch of youthfulness and weekend vibes to outfits. The Converse Chuck Taylor All Stars are a good example of classic canvas shoes.
The first leather
These low-profile shoes set the stage for contemporary leathers, many simplified “dress
Vince Camuto even makes a dressier knit shoe with suede accents.
Regardless, they’re on-trend and comfortable, but they do require a lot of maintenance.
Probably the most famous instance of suede use is in the classic GAT and all of its immediate and distant relatives (including Puma Classics).
Different Sneaker Styles
Over the years, the number of sneaker styles has greatly increased. Here are the most common styles today:
Low-profile leathers are arguably one of the most versatile
As mentioned, the Common Projects Achilles
These high-tops aren’t as ubiquitous on the court today since other support-providing technologies are available. Still, they’re perpetually in style and offer a fashion-forward aesthetic that combines an athletic look with a boot-like statement.
There are also “mid-rise”
Otherwise known as the German Army Trainers, GATs never stopped being popular, though they’ve arguably experienced a renaissance in the early aughts, thanks to Maison Margiela.
They feature a white leather construction with suede detailing and a gum sole, which is super stylish without being in-your-face.
Plus, with brands like Beckett Simonon and Oliver Cabell offering their take on GATs, you don’t have to drop half a grand on Margielas if you don’t want to!
You’ll find a lot of very different-looking
Basically, if it has a light canvas upper and a rubber sole, they’re likely a plimsoll. Keds are a great example since they incorporate all of the prerequisites. They have an athletic, youthful, and even beachy tone about them.
Slip-ons might be in a category all their own, but their practical rubber-soled construction technically put them in the sneaker camp as well.
Like so many others, slip-on
Vans made the first slip-ons in the ‘70s, which quickly became popular among the skater community. They’re still considered a classic today.
I’ll keep this short, since this might be a controversial pick both in its inclusion on this list and where I subcategorized it (it can also go under the “Specific Purposes” category below).
Still, the boat shoe, or the deck shoe as those who do consider it a sneaker call it, is a Northeastern style essential.
It has laces but can be worn as a slip-on, and Sperry seems to have a cultural lock on the style. Deck shoes add an extra level of convenience since you don’t need to wear socks with them.
Golden Goose launched a trend when they built tattered-looking
Either way, they’re the easiest kind of
A few of them include Koio, and my favorite, Esquivel, who makes the pre-distressed Weekenders.
The enigma that is the “dad shoe” is hard to pinpoint. Typically, they’re super practical, comfortable, and anti-fashion. Since anti-fashion is now fashionable, that last quality is harder to qualify.
Some classic dad
Still, many brands across the spectrum, from Shein to Common Projects, offer a dad shoe.
This might seem like an arbitrary label for “trendy” shoes. However, if you hear the word “hypebeast,” and the image your mind conjures up is a line of people in varying fashion-forward and street style looks, waiting to get in on the latest sneaker drop, then it’s right on the money.
Typically, these shoes are eye-catchers, made out of a unique material or feature a visual signature, whether it’s a bright logo or a special pattern.
Sneakers With Specific Purposes
What makes a basketball sneaker a basketball sneaker versus a running sneaker? We’ll go over that in this section. Again, keep in mind that there’s always overlap between categories.
Court shoes, or basketball
Since they’re made to be breathable with thick supportive soles, court shoes are stylistically similar to running shoes, with many classics also falling into the dad sneaker category.
Usually made with a lot of different materials to accommodate the forces of nature, trail shoes often have a sectioned-off, even Frankensteined, look about them.
Many trail shoes have a cool environmental-meets-tactical aesthetic, some even infused with hiking boot qualities.
The Nike Wildhorse, for example, boasts a cool upper made of different textiles, sporting all sorts of colors. Trail shoes make fun statement pieces, style-wise, even if you aren’t an outdoor runner.
No shoe brand is associated with soccer more than Adidas, and they’re arguably the standard-bearers both in style and athletic technology.
Soccer shoes are often close-to-body, low-profile, and cleated. If you go for non-cleated or lightly cleated ones, like the Goletto VIII Turfs, they make an understatedly stylish casual shoe.
The most important quality for skate shoes to have is a sole that can effectively and comfortably grip the board.
That being the case, these shoes come in a few styles and shapes, including the low-profile Vans slip-ons and the more gradual silhouette of the Adidas Busenitz Pro.
Popular bulky models include the Adidas Forum Lows and the Osiris D3s, the original chunky skate shoe. Regardless, skate shoes provide a fun and youthful aesthetic to casual outfits.
Unlike running shoes that are designed for constant motion, modern-day tennis shoes need to be flat with specific tread patterns that accommodate constant stops and starts.
Many are equipped with thicker heels to cushion impact, making them visually similar to basketball shoes in some ways.
From a purely style perspective, if you’re going for a country club-esque casual look, the shoes you’d want to pair with your white shorts and a shoulder-draped sweater would be a pair of light, canvas
Contemporary running shoes feature breathable uppers, mesh for example, and often thick soles, especially in the heel area. This allows the shoe to work as a mini-springboard of sorts to perpetuate the repetitive forward motion.
The Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 39s have a fun style, almost like a basketball shoe with a bulked-up outsole. Running shoes are an effective option, even if you aren’t a runner if you’re looking for a comfortable shoe to walk long distances in.
Most running stores are staffed with specialists who can measure your gait and recommend specific models to try out.
Influential Sneaker Models
Starting with some classics and then onto some contemporaries, here are a few sneaker models that have either changed the game or they became ubiquitous with their specific style.
While the Adidas Stan Smiths are arguably equally as influential, the bulked-up Chuck Taylor look of the Superstars lean harder into brand-specific features.
Of course, I’m talking specifically about the iconic three stripes on the side.
The cornerstone of the plimsoll style, PRO-Keds makes the Royal Lo Classic, which features a fun two-stripe motif on the outsole.
If you want the OG simple look, you can always go for the unisex and ladies’ versions, which are really just white canvas shoes that can be worn by anyone who knows how to convert “women’s” sizes into “men’s” sizes.
Converse Chuck Taylor All Star
Whether you go for the high-tops or the low-tops, the Chuck All Star is one of the most recognizable
And despite how specific-looking it is compared to more universal styles, low-profile white leathers, for example, it somehow transcends subcultures. You’ll see these on guys with avant-garde fashion sensibilities, as well as traditional ones.
New Balance 576
The dad shoe representative of the section, the New Balance 576s came out in the ‘80s immediately gaining a cult following. They’re definitely timelessly cool though.
You can find these vintage shoes on eBay or, if you aren’t a hardcore purist, just go for the modern 574s, which have that similar off-duty breadwinner vibe.
The Reebok Ex-O-Fits are one of the most important high-tops in history.
A response to the Let’s-Get-Physical fitness culture of the ‘80s, they were the first
They combine the best of dad shoes, high-top styles, and ‘80s nostalgia, resulting in a sneaker that’s both casual and a statement piece.
Technically a basketball sneaker, the Puma Clyde, and the Puma Suede, its napped counterpart, are street style pillars.
They represent the merging of basketball, hip hop, street fashion, and high fashion — basically, what sneaker culture represents today.
They look like simplified GATs, giving them versatility.
Yes, the SK8-His are also iconic in their own right, but Vans really did invent the slip-ons.
These were skater-specific shoes as recently as the early aughts, but with brands as varying as Rick Owens and Timberland designing their own take on slip-on
We could make a list of Nike-specific models of influential
When the Jordan 1s came out in 1985, it was like throwing a stick of lit dynamite into a shed full of fireworks. Modern Jordan 1s are just as stylish as their ancestors, and they come in a wide range of colors, editions, and materials.
Maison Margiela GAT Replica
As mentioned, Maison Margiela’s Replicas are the most aspirational take on the classic GAT.
They’re certainly high-end and well-crafted, but again, several more affordable brands also offer a German Army Trainer if you’d rather save that ~$540.
Common Projects Achilles
Often referred to as the GOAT of white
Low-profile white leather
Golden Goose Pre-Distressed
Venice-based Golden Goose made taking care of your trainers easier than ever by introducing the world to their pre-distressed
They look well-loved but are actually built with quality materials. The big star on the side of the shoe is the brand’s signature.
We actually did a round-up of Golden Goose alternatives if you’re looking for something a tad cheaper!
When rapper Kanye West introduced his collab with Adidas in 2015, his Yeezys took the sneaker journey fast-track.
It went from limited and elite, to on the feet of street style enthusiasts and the fashion-conscious, to being worn by regular joes (who can afford them), all in less than a decade of existence.
They come in a range of versions, from the everyday wearable standard knit to the alien-esque Onyx.
Frequently Asked Questions About Men’s
Still have questions? Here are some answers:
Which Type of
Sneakers Is Best?
It depends on your priorities! Certain
What Are the Different Kinds of
What Are the Most Popular Types of
The low-profile leather
The Wide World of
We hope that was helpful! By separating sneaker categories into style, material, and purpose, you can figure out which direction to go, or at least start, when you’re trying to find a pair for yourself.
Some of the differences are small and nuanced, but that can often make all the difference in style or function.
Questions? Comments? Leave them below!
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