Sneakers are an expensive habit. If you’re reading this site and don’t have a drug problem, it’s quite likely that you spend a fairly disproportionate amount of money every year on sneakers compared to say, homeware or meals in restaurants or cultural activities. Your average pair of Air Force 1s cost $90. Most other much-hyped Nike silhouettes sit firmly in the triple digits. Even a sneaker as simple as the Vans Authentic costs $50. These are not insignificant sums, and that number "50" represents a certain mental barrier when things start to feel weighty. So what’s the alternative for the baller on a budget?
Well, Amazon recently sent a promotion our way advertising 50 sneakers it has on offer for under €50. Seeing as the selection on Amazon’s European branches tends to be far more limited than the U.S. version, we thought we’d take a look at what’s on offer over Stateside in the $25-50 bracket and offer an expertly critique of each one for all of you other there saving up for your child’s college education. (note: depending on your size, each one might break the $50 barrier)
Polo Ralph Lauren "Vaughn"
Brands. Everybody knows branded means better, but a lot of people think that they have to sacrifice branding if they want to snag a bargain – not true, because our boy Ralph Lauren has you covered. The "Vaughn" is the best of both worlds: it’s easy on your wallet, but won’t compromise your membership in the Lo-Lifes. Fellow gang members might make fun of you, though.
But let’s be real here for a second: this is a horrifyingly ugly piece of footwear. It’s almost like the brand told its designers to go out of their way to punish people for having the audacity to wear Ralph Lauren without having the money the buy one of its more premium pieces. It’s the feeling of contempt manifested in footwear form.
Sperry’s "Top-Sider Salt-washed striper CVO"
The budget sneaker market is full of cheap imitations of popular silhouettes. Case in point: Sperry’s Vans Era bootleg. It’s weird how Sperry’s managed to take a pretty simple silhouette and make it so much less appealing. Weirdly, it also looks like a boating shoe now. A boating shoe ideally suited to a battered old row boat…that’s sinking.
Another budget knockoff. K-Swiss seems to have taken its cues from the Air Jordan 12 here, but was too afraid of getting sued, so decided to disguise it as a couple of blocks of styrofoam. Cunning.
Sanuk "Pick Pocket" Slip-on
Part-loafer, part-thong, this is the ideal piece of footwear for a beach-going Vietnam vet. Looking at it kind of feels like PTSD, though.
Sanuk Hemp "Sidewalk Surfer"
Sanuk seems to have constructed a business model out of gunning for those incredibly narrow demographics that every other footwear maker seems to have ignored. Fashioned from hemp, the "Sidewalk Surfer" looks like it’s aimed at those dreadlocked guys you see dragging a dog behind them on the subway all the time, or Tom Hanks' character in Castaway.
Skechers Sport "Energy Fix Up Oxford"
Kind of like an Air Max 95 for geriatrics. The velcro straps are the perfect solution for trembling hands that struggle with the intricacy of laces, while the thick padding makes them the equivalent of floaties for your feet. Perfect for grandpa.
K-Swiss "Classic VN"
Bearing a striking resemblance to orthopedic shoes, the quintuple stripe branding makes these look like adidas knockoffs purchased from an Albanian flea market.
PUMA "Drift Cat 5 SF NM 2"
Ever wanted to look like a Russian spectator at the Monaco Grand Prix but don’t have an oligarch's budget? Well, then PUMA have the ideal wallet-friendly solution for you. All it's missing is some rhinestones.
FILA "Disruptor II"
Subcultures are typically the sort of thing you get into during your teens and grow out of once alcohol becomes legally and easily accessible and you’ve chalked up a few sexual conquests. The difficulty that comes with being in a subculture as a teen is that you have to go to school, which means looking presentable, but looking presentable means compromising your deeply-rooted ideals.
So what do you do? You threaten to drop out, that’s what, because being a cyber goth is much more important than a high school education. Or you get your parents to buy you a pair of FILA Disruptor IIs: understated enough to get a pass from your teachers, yet its soles are thick enough to trample any feelings of cognitive dissonance.
Ked's "Champion Vintage" Baseball Sneaker
Who's in charge of sneaker design at Ked's? Homer Simpson? This looks like one of those novelty creations he's so fond of, like that nacho hat. Seriously, who would wear these? Even Mr. Met would find it embarrassing, and even if you're the sort of person that gets sudden and uncontrollable urges to play a game of catch with their shoe, no one would want to be friends with someone wearing a pair of these anyway. So who are you going to pay catch with, then?
Although this represents only a tiny fraction of all the footwear that Amazon has on offer for under $50, it does illustrate an accurate picture of what the budgets sneaker market looks like. Aside from the odd pair of Chuck Taylor's or cut-priced Vans and even the thoroughly decent PUMA Suede, Amazon's budget sneakers are comprehensively terrible. It's almost as if footwear manufacturers have an unspoken agreement to create sneakers so repulsive that most people would rather forego the potential savings than look like a drifter.
Take our professional advice: it really is better to save up or eschew some of life's other luxuries than stump for one of the above.