Canvas sneakers have been on the scene for not far off two centuries. The very first sneakers ever made were canvas, and some of the best-selling styles of today are too. In a world of fast-moving fashion trends and fleeting fads, very few things are this consistent, which is why adding a pair of canvas kicks to your footwear lineup is never a bad idea.
There are some good reasons why canvas is such a popular and enduring material for sneakers. For starters, it’s extremely durable. The tight weave of the fabric means it stands up well to daily wear and tear, and while it does pick up dirt easily (particularly in white), it’s very easy to clean. That being said, if you show us a box-fresh pair of Chuck Taylors and a slightly scuffed up pair, we’ll take the worn-in ones every time, because another perk of canvas is how nicely it ages.
Whether you’re making your first foray into the world of canvas footwear, or just looking for your next pair, you’ll find everything you need to make an informed decision right here. From buying considerations to the best brands, here’s what you need to know.
Canvas vs Leather/Suede vs Synthetic Sneakers
OK, so canvas sneakers have been around for a long time. Fine. But hasn’t the world come up with better things to make sneakers from since then? There’s classic leather and suede, or all those fancy synthetic materials you find in modern athletic shoes. Surely they’re better choices than canvas? Well, it depends on what you’re after.
Canvas sneakers are lightweight, which makes them perfect for warmer weather conditions. Unlike leather or suede, canvas is soft, flexible and highly breathable too, which helps you to stay cool even in hot and humid weather.
As touched upon above, canvas sneakers are also easy to clean and maintain. They don’t require any special care or cleaning products, which can save you time and money in the long run. You can easily clean a pair of canvas sneakers with a damp cloth, or even just sling them straight into the washing machine.
Last but by no means least, canvas sneakers are usually a lot more affordable than the alternatives. This makes them a great option for those who want to dress well on a budget.
Canvas Sneaker Buying Considerations
Canvas take dye really well, which means you can get some really bright, vibrant colour options. With so much to choose from, it can be difficult to settle on a colour, but in most cases, less is more.
Understated, neutral colours will work with more of your wardrobe. There’s less danger of clashing, and you’ll ultimately be able to get more wear out of your purchase.
High or Low?
Canvas sneakers come in both high-top and low-top versions. The practical benefits of each one against the other are negligible. The main one is that low-top sneakers are usually easier to put on and take off.
For the most part, it’s a matter of personal preference. Think about what sort of clothes you like to wear. High-top sneakers look good with cropped or cuffed pants, and tend to look better with a wider leg.
The final thing to take into account is price. A canvas sneaker is a canvas sneaker, and there’s always going to be a point of diminishing returns. Expect to pay somewhere between £50 and £100 for a solid pair from a respected brand like Converse or Vans.
There are designer labels that charge A LOT more than this, but you’ll be mostly paying for the name and the marketing, not the quality of the product.
The Best Canvas Sneakers Brands
Clae specialises in simple, stripped-back sneakers with a focus on environmentally-friendly production. It’s footwear that’s designed for versatility and immunity to the passing of trends – classic silhouettes, understated colour schemes and no excessive logos or detail.
The brand makes its shoes from all sorts of materials, including canvas. Check out the August – a classic canvas plimsoll made from natural and recycled materials.
Brazilian brand Cariuma is a sustainable footwear brand with skateboarding roots that’ll appeal to eco-conscious shoppers. The sneakers are simple and timeless, with an obvious boardsports influence.
The company use responsibly-sourced materials including bamboo, organic cotton and sugarcane, which means they can be produced with as little harm to the planet as possible.
Many of the bestselling styles are made from canvas, including the Oca Low, which is a simple court-style shoe that’ll look good with everything short of a formal suit.
Oliver Cabell makes high-end sneakers at price points that undercut some of the key competitors. If you find yourself drawn to the likes of Common Projects but don’t have the budget to buy then this will be an attractive alternative.
It’s not just luxe leather sneakers though, the brand works with canvas too. The label’s bestselling Low 1 model, for example, is available in distressed canvas for a worn-in, well-loved look fresh out of the box.
The idea behind JAK is simple: to make simple, beautiful shoes that go with anything and everything.
Take the brand’s newest model, the Glove, for example. It’s about as uncluttered and restrained as a shoe can be, and it’s made in Spain using recycled and natural materials.
The simple canvas design of Converse’s iconic Chuck Taylor All Star has remained more or less unchanged for over a century. Why? Because it was perfect then and it’s still perfect today.
This primitive basketball shoe laid the foundation for sports footwear as we know it. It was the first example of a ‘pro model’ and has inspired countless imitations over the years.
This is the most classic and definitive canvas sneaker out there and a design that every man should own.
From the empty swimming pools of 1970s Southern California to the world. What started as a small-scale skate shoe operation has snowballed into one of the biggest footwear brands on the face of the earth. At the core of its success, canvas sneakers.
Most of the brand’s most popular styles feature a predominantly canvas construction – shoes like the Sk8 Hi, the Era and the OG Slip-On. The Authentic was the model that started it all though, so if you’re looking for somewhere to start, that’s it.
Stepney Workers Club
Stepney Workers Club is a UK footwear brand that specialises in canvas kicks. Its bestselling Dellow model makes a great alternative to something more mainstream like a Converse Chuck Taylor Ox or a Vans Old Skool.
It’s a simple canvas plimsoll with a sturdy sole and chunky-ish shape that should work across most of your wardrobe. Best of all, it’s available in a whole host of tasteful colourways.
Slovakia’s Novesta has built its whole brand around stripped-back canvas sneakers. These simple, functional shoes have become a common sight in many of the coolest sneaker stores in the UK.
They’re fuss free, easy on the eye, comfortable and affordable. Check out the Star Master, which is the brand’s signature style. Or, for a high-top alternative, take a look at the Star Dribble instead.
For a solid balance of affordability and style, it’s difficult to beat the Superga 2750 Cotu Classic. Streamlined, simple and practical, its a classic plimsoll that works well as an everyday beater and goes with everything.
The self-described “people’s shoe of Italy” is an understated classic that offers a timeless silhouette, and works well with both wide and slim-leg trousers.