Three things in life are certain: death, taxes, and the fleetingness of fashion. Sneakers have enjoyed a surge in popularity, yet while the sneaker industry is on its way to becoming a $95.14 billion juggernaut, high fashion’s fascination with casual footwear might be petering out.
At Paris Fashion Week SS19, we saw fewer sneakers on the runway than we have in recent seasons. The only fashion brands with a strong sneaker presence were those in partnership with sportswear companies, such as COMME des GARÇONS and Nike, whose work together extends back over a decade.
We’re not saying that the writing is on the wall for sneakers or that they'll no longer be a staple in fashion week street style sets, but suggestions are that more formal footwear could be on the comeback trail following the unprecedented rise of sneakers. We’ve seen brands such as Noah collaborate on a more formal-looking Vans Chukka MS, while Palace dropped a set of leather loafers for Spring 2018.
With all that in mind, we asked some leading industry insiders to name their go-to non-sneaker footwear option. Check out the answers below.
Oliver Mak — Bodega co-founder
For non-sneaker footwear, my choice is visvim’s Serra Boot. They’re more rugged than any other hiking boot in existence, yet sophisticated enough to wear to the opera. Hiroki [Nakamura] put in extra work on this model, and when you put them on, you feel like you can conquer K2, or at least make it to the corner store for some coconut water.
Gia Seo — stylist
I'm a Manolo Blahnik girl all the way — if it’s vintage, I’m sold! Give me a kitten heel mule with an adornment and I'm all yours. It gives the comfort of a sneaker without the bulk, and no need to double knot laces. As the Air Force 1 is a classic to the sneaker community, Manolo is a classic staple for life. I’m waiting for the sneaker mule collab!
Kevin Poon — JUICE co-founder
Kim Jones knows what we like, adding some really nice touches to his debut Dior sneaker line while maintaining a very wearable look.
Taylor Okata — stylist
My go-to non-sneaker is Loewe men’s polished leather penny loafers in black, designed by J.W. Anderson. This model has a substantial heel and sole versus a lot of the loafers I see on the market. I'm not into a really thin sole on a man’s shoe. The silhouette is structured and chic, so it dresses up any look real quick and hurts so good. It’s a bit prep, which provides a nice contrast to my looks.
Jake Metzger — Grailed co-founder and director of marketing
It's hard to look past a great pair of black boots. They can be formal or casual and mix well with black jeans or cropped pants, which I tend to wear a lot. For me, Guidi makes the perfect boot, especially the 988 and Chelsea models. They're super comfortable, durable — with some Vibrams added — and are subtle but unique.
Erik Fagerlind — Sneakersnstuff co-founder
When I got married almost 10 years ago, we decided to marry barefoot as we didn't want our special day to be attached to a brand of any sort. I have one pair of Church's shoes that I use for the funerals of people I know would have wanted me to wear them.
Dominic Ciambrone — The Shoe Surgeon
An all-black Dr. Martens Pascal wedge — the sole was my favorite, and it's discontinued. I spent a lot of time fixing boots, which is why I fell in love with them. Dr. Martens had these ones I found on Haight Street in San Francisco but had to special-order my size from a Los Angeles store. Boots are dope — it's not always about sneakers. You can wear them in the rain or just for fashion.
Treis Hill — Alife general manager
My go-to choice is the Cole Haan Pinch Grand Penny Loafer. It’s perfect for weddings, can be worn with or without socks, and can be styled both formally and casually in a suit or with denim and a sport coat.
Woody — Sneaker Freaker founder
I don’t currently own a single pair of shoes that would be considered remotely acceptable for use at weddings, court appearances, or funerals. But if I was to pick one classy shoe that would keep the fiancée happy and Judge Judy from sending me to the big house, it’d be the Cole Haan LunarGrand Wingtip. The OG pairs with the volt foam made quite an impact when they dropped in 2012. They’re all business up top but party down below.
Jake Woolf — SEAM co-founder
The Saint Laurent permanent collection combat boots. These boots are from Hedi [Slimane]’s first collection with Saint Laurent and are basically high-top dress shoes. I’m not really a leather jacket kind of guy, but knowing that these boots would look great with one is comforting for some reason. The patent leather upper means I can clean them up for fall weddings and wear them with a suit, but mostly I’m wearing them beat up with black jeans and channeling my inner Hedi Slimane.
Chris Green — Totokaelo/Need Supply Co. general merchandise manager
My go-to shoe is the Prada Brixxen leather boot. The sole and overall shape is something Prada has been doing for a few seasons now, so there are a lot of variations to choose from. It's a classic shape that has just enough design detail. Those tweaks make it one of Prada’s best shoes. It's a bit of a statement piece without being super flashy or based heavily on trends. It’s something that you can wear with anything. On top of all of that, they are built to last and extremely comfortable.
Adam Welch — MR PORTER editorial director
For a straight-up black Derby, you can’t really beat a pair of Tricker's. The continuity Derbies — leather- or rubber-soled — have heritage and staying power, are well made, sturdy, and good value for money. That said, the ones I find myself wearing most are this lug-soled pair from Dries Van Noten. The toe box is slightly elongated, which makes the shoe seem that little bit smarter, but it’s also rounded off, which stops them being too penguin-like.
John McPheters — Stadium Goods co-founder and CEO
I love visvim Grizzly boots. Hiking boots have always been a mainstay of New York City street culture, with Timberlands being the classic look. With visvim, their quality is exceptional and they do heritage Americana better than anyone in the United States. I’m also a fan of Danner boots. For weddings, though, I wear sneakers these days.
Yassine Saidi — head of PUMA Select
When I’m running from a sneaker collab meeting at PUMA to the boardroom of a fashion house, I prefer the STAMPD Capo boot. It’s relatively formal and definitely not a sneaker, but also edgy enough to save me from the conformism of wearing a suit.
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