The views and opinions expressed in this piece are those solely of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the position of Highsnobiety as a whole.
Men’s fashion has come a long way in the past few years. We’ve flown through dozens of trends in the span of just a few short years. Streetwear has taken over, with spurts of athleisure, normcore, and skate style shifting the way most guys dress. Nowhere have these changes been more obvious than on our feet.
Sneakers — with its resale market and ultra-hyped collaborations — have evolved into a behemoth industry. Sneaker designers have become their own breed of celebrity, as names such as Virgil Abloh, Kanye West, and Pharrell Williams have crossed over to become key figures in the industry. Meanwhile, A-list celebs with savvy stylists seek out the most current, coveted sneakers before anyone else can wear them.
To balance out the seemingly endless calendar of sneaker releases, some important names in footwear and fashion have pushed back and sought out alternative ideas. We aren’t quite in the middle of a double-monk renaissance, but as brands work to distance themselves from the stigma of sneaker-dom, there are more options worth investing in. A world not defined by athletic shoes alone is something I’m ready to get behind.
The sneaker world has seen an influx of fledgling sneaker brands trying to peddle their takes on Common Projects-style white sneakers geared toward younger guys who have started paying more attention to fashion. Brands such as Adieu, meanwhile, are finding ways to put new twists on classic styles.
There are other examples to suggest sneakers might be fading from prominence — at least a little bit. Palace has regularly offered quirky takes on classic bit loafers, with the past season’s faux-snakeskin renditions among the most memorable. Noah’s nautical preppiness has given us nappy suede loafers in lighter, more casual colors. Balenciaga might make the statement sneaker, the Triple S, but its most recent boots have swapped oversized midsoles for smooth leather and color branding.
Cult New York label Engineered Garments has also taken to harder soles, collaborating with Dr. Martens and US formal footwear staple Bass on two distinctly non-sneaker styles. Hedi Slimane’s debut at the rebranded Celine also bolstered the argument that more formal styles might be making something of a comeback. Although, if you’ve had your ear to the ground, some Belgian loafer proponents might tell you they never left.
I don’t expect sneakers to disappear overnight or Allen Edmonds’ stock to suddenly triple in price. But assuming this wave of preppy footwear continues, it would be worth paying attention and investing in a few pairs — especially if you’re sick of taking an L on every sneaker release.
In recent months, I’ve invested in a few pairs of sturdy leather loafers. Buying them is a different feeling than copping the sneaker collaboration du jour. Rather than stacking dozens of shoeboxes or keeping multiple pairs of shoes on ice, with loafers, it’s all about breaking them in and wearing them at every opportunity — similar to wearing in a pair of prized denim jeans and letting them develop a personalized touch.
Choosing a pair of leather shoes in place of a limited edition sneaker might not work for you right off the bat, but it has helped me start to build a more well-rounded wardrobe. Loafers in particular provide a natural entry point for anyone hesitant about making what feels like a dramatic shift.
Penny, Belgian or tassel, loafers are a perfect supplement to Vans Slip-Ons. I’ve found that if you’ve ever worn Slip-Ons, you can figure out a way to wear some crisp loafers just as well. Try them with frayed denim or straight-leg work pants, sockless or even with your favorite casual socks to take out the stuffiness and avoid any “power lunch” vibes.
Designers are making it easier than ever to opt for these formal styles by adding non-traditional materials or patterns to chunkier, more casual shapes. Rather than look like a teenager who broke into his dad’s closet with some patent leather black loafers, you can opt for shaggy suede, animal print, and offbeat colors for a less serious look.
The shift toward a post-sneaker world might come more naturally with age. While I’m not officially an “old,” I haven’t been a teen for a few years either. When it came to choosing shoes for my wedding, the thought of going “cool” with a pair of minimal sneakers never crossed my mind. But neither did ultra-formal options such as patent leather, which I’d be unlikely to wear again. Instead, I splurged on a pair of classic Gucci Jordaan loafers, knowing they would fit into my wardrobe easily after the big day was done.
Hype’s influence fades as you get older. The items we buy tend to go a bit further, working toward a more well-rounded wardrobe and staying in our closets for longer. That doesn’t mean I’ll stop copping sneakers — and neither should you. We’ll always need comfortable footwear. But perhaps we can get closer to a world in which sneakers and formal footwear coexist happily.
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