When it comes to footwear, there’s a tendency to lump various types of casual shoes into one category: sneakers, gym shoes, slip-ons, basketball shoes, and so on all fall into one great lump. This can make the rise of the “fashionable” sneaker a little confusing to anyone who thought it wasn’t acceptable to wear sneakers anywhere outside of a basketball court. That’s why we’ve put together a little guide to the different types of sneakers and how you can successfully work these into a fashionable wardrobe.
The classic sneaker
Converse All-Stars are the most obvious example of this type of fashion sneaker, though you’ll also find styles from brands like Vans. (Check out a huge range of classic Converse and Vans sneakers at Blackleaf.com.) Paired with chinos or dark-wash jeans, a slim-fitting tee, and a colorful cardigan or sport-coat, this is a casual look that’s fun without looking sloppy. It’s good for casual dates, barbecues and other events with a relaxed dress code. Typically these shoes are black or navy, but you can sometimes find colorful styles as well.
In some very casual work environments, you might even get away with pairing a very luxe pair of classic black or navy sneakers with your workwear. This might be an option in a creative or similar industry. However, that’s no excuse to let the rest of your outfit go into weekend mode: keep it classy with slacks or chinos, a belt, a tucked-in tee or button-down, and a blazer. Roll up the sleeves if it’s summery and add a scarf for cooler months.
The slip-on sneaker
Brands like Vans and Sanuk have crafted the perfect sneaker to pair with shorts and button-down shirts in the hot summer months. These sneakers are very casual, but because they’re also considered highly fashionable (thanks to the normcore trend), they elevate a casual beachside outfit in a way flip-flops or gym sneakers just can’t. Wear these as a country/beachside alternative to the more urban brogue. (And remember—forgo the socks.)
The colorful sneaker
Lace-up, slip-on, high-top, low-top: there’s no one silhouette for this category. These sneakers pop with the funkiest of weekend fashions: bright trousers with rolled-up cuffs; printed button-down shirts; accessories like a bow tie or a fedora; and possibly a bright sweater or coat, too. You probably won’t wear these with basic jeans and a blazer; they need equally bright and peppy fashion to accompany them, or else they can look mismatched. As a rule, they’re also not office-appropriate, though they might be okay for a casual date if you dress them up accordingly.
Super-sporty athletic shoes
Colorful, springy, and clearly designed for speed, these sneakers are perfect for hitting the gym—and not much else. They’re too sporty to wear to most events without looking as though you’ve forgotten to change your shoes. Tread lightly, and save these for days when you’re sweating it out with a group of gym buddies; for all other occasions, try one of the pairs listed above.