It’s hard for me to imagine going without a pair of sneakers this time of year. Summer is about having the windows down and volume up, biking somewhere on a hot afternoon, and hanging your feet off a picnic bench while BBQ-ing with friends. Camp moccasins and penny loafers can be great for these sorts of things, but I also like having a pair of casual sneakers you can wear with jeans and camp collar shirts.
I’ve cycled through a bunch over the years, but find I keep returning to the same ones (although, the first pair below were recently acquired). If you’re looking to get a pair this summer, here are some of my favorites. Since they’re mostly designer shoes based off classic silhouettes, I’ve included links to the originals, which are much more affordable. As sneakers go, the build quality between the low and high end of the spectrum is smaller than it is in dress shoes – almost everything is in design. I like the uniqueness of these versions, but their designers found the originals to be inspiring for a reason.
A few of weeks ago, I met up with Kiya from
Visvim offers their Skagway every season in slightly different materials and patterns, and these bamboo prints are the best I’ve seen from their collections. They’re made with a Japanese hand-printing technique called katazurizome. The company describes it as a kind of
From their online video, katazurizome seems to be a simple stenciling method. A paper stencil is fixed on top of a piece of material – here being black suede – and then a worker applies paint using a short, rounded, deer-hair brush. Since they use short and quick brush strokes, the prints end up having a lot of variation. One pair of Skagways I bought had a fairly uniform print, while another had a bit more bubbling and irregular character. I kept the second.
I can’t say enough about how much I like these. The EVA Phylon midsoles and vulcanized outsoles are exceptionally comfortable; the soft leather lining allows your feet to slip out a bit more easily than other Chuck Taylor remakes. And there’s a ton of great detailing – a uniquely designed tongue, double needle sewn toe cap, and of course the hand-stenciled bamboo print. They’re a great way to wear a more interesting shoe, even if you have conservative tastes like me, and work well with brands such as
Sizing: I went true to size, although some recommend going down a half size. I think I could have gone down, although TTS is still comfortable for me.
Common Projects is best known for their
These are basically the Nike Air Forces 1s made with better materials and a slimmer silhouette. They go well with certain contemporary casualwear outfits, but have a more distinct look than the anonymous Achilles. I wear mine with jeans and leather jackets, sometimes a topcoat in the fall.
Note, these b-ball high-tops are
Sizing: Go a full size down
If German Army Trainers look familiar, it’s because the brothers who invented them would later go on to start Adidas and Puma, two companies who still make shoes with a familial resemblance. At some point in the 1970s, German soldiers wore these as standard issue for indoor exercises, which is how they got their name. And when the standing army was downsized after the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989, these sneakers eventually made their way into military surplus shops across Europe.
A decade later, Martin Margiela and his team bought a few pairs for their Artisanal line, where they remade and recycled everyday objects into fashion items. They embossed the tongues on their vintage GATs with Margiela’s numeric branding, hand-painted the outsoles, and passed them around the design studio so the staff could doodle on them. The shoes were then distributed to different stores around the world, along with a card that encouraged the new owners to add their own messages.
The style has been part of Margiela’s permanent collection for over fifteen years, and they’ve offered them in every iteration imaginable, from
Sizing: True to size
Engineered Garments originally released their Vans Vault collab a few years ago, but it’s returned every summer since at their Nepenthes store in NYC. These come in slightly mismatched uppers, where the materials used for the vamp and quarters are switched between each shoe. They’re great in that slightly offbeat way that has defined not only Japanese brands in general, but Engineered Garments in particular. Fair warning, wearing these means you’ll spend at least thirty minutes each day explaining that, no, you didn’t accidentally walk out the house with mismatched shoes. And no, this isn’t the fashion right now. You just like them, OK?!
To be honest, these aren’t my favorite on this list, but they’re some of my most worn. You could leave them two feet from your front door and basically walk into them without missing a step. They’re simple, fun, and easy to put on. They also go well with the sort of things you’re likely to wear when you’re running out for an errand – chambray shirts, field jackets, and jeans; t-shirts and shorts; or trucker jackets and fatigues.
Nepenthes re-released these sneakers today in-store, but they’ll be available for phone orders starting Monday. You can get Nepenthes’ contact info and see this season’s colorways on
Sizing: Go a half size down
In the 1970s, shortly after Japan fell in love with Ivy Style, the Japanese started noticing that American college students were no longer wearing neckties with tweed jackets to classes. Instead, many were repurposing outdoor brands such as Sierra Designs and Eddie Bauer into their everyday attire. Certainly, the oxford-cloth button-down remained popular, but instead of hook-vent sport coats and striped rep neckwear, students were wearing 60/ 40 parkas, Levi’s jeans, and Champion sweatshirts.
The look was later coined “Rugged Ivy” (or sometimes “Heavy Duty Ivy”). In his book
If you like these things like I do, or simply want to dress like a narcotics FBI agent in an undercover sting operation, try Spalwart’s Marathon Trails. They have that classic retro-runner look, but with a slightly funkier treaded outsole that gives the style a sense of humor. They’re a bit flimsy in terms of construction, but still durable and reasonably comfortable – especially on hot days since half the shoes are made from breathable mesh panels. Classic, low-key, and kind of dad-ish, but in a good way.
Sizing: True to size