The Best Minimalist Sneaker Brands For Men (& The Model To Buy)

Image Credit: Oliver Cabell

Of all the considerations when shopping for a pair of sneakers, versatility is perhaps the most important. A shoe’s adaptability dictates the amount of action it will see, and when it comes to your outfit, less tends to equal more.

Let’s face it: a well-made pair of sleek, minimalist sneakers is always going to trump trend-baiting beetle crushers in terms of bang-to-buck ratio, not to mention the effect on your long-term style credentials. While maximalism may be enjoying a surge in mainstream popularity, once it’s dead, it’ll be these modest staples gleefully kicking their way through the ashes.

Simple sneakers are the ‘trend’ that never died. They are eternally stylish, effortlessly adaptable and a must-have style on any self-respecting, modern gent’s shoe rack. Below are what we consider to be the best men’s minimalist sneaker brands on the market today, from small independents to luxury behemoths.

Common Projects

Key Model: Achilles Low

Not everyone understands the fuss that has surrounded New York-Italian brand Common Projects since it first hit the market in 2004. We assure you, though, that it is justified.

At first glance, the label’s renowned Achilles Low is just another minimalist sneaker. Upon further inspection, however, it’s obvious that CP has essentially reinvented the wheel. The Achilles is the ultimate – the benchmark for all other stripped-back kicks to live up to, and so far none have even come close.

Check out the slightly sportier B-ball model, too, for a different take on the label’s trademark simplicity.

Buy now at SSENSE

Oliver Cabell

Key Model: Low 1

The Common Projects Achilles Low is all well and good, but it’s a simple fact that not everyone has £300 to spend on a pair of shoes.

This is where Oliver Cabell comes in. The independent brand’s direct-to-consumer approach offers a means to get luxurious, handmade sneakers minus any nasty markups.

The result is a sleeker shoe rack and a fatter wallet. What’s not to like about that?

Buy now at Oliver Cabell

J.C. Lutz

Key Model: Customised Sneaker

Paris-based J.C.Lutz specialises in high-quality sneakers that are made as ethically as possible. Its made-to-order business model is worlds apart from its competitors’ mass-produced, environmentally damaging production methods and allows the brand to offer truly customisable kicks.

The great thing about J.C. Lutz is that you get to design the final shoe, so you can go as minimal as you desire. Choose to accent a clean white upper with a heel colour or subtle contrast stitching, or leave it as a blank canvas. You can even add your name or initials to the sole, making your shoe much more personal than the cookie-cutter alternatives on the market.

Once you’ve created your perfect sneaker, the design is sent to a family-run atelier in the La Marche region of Italy where it is 100% handmade by master shoemakers using the finest calf leather and suede. For those with exacting standards and a clear idea of what they want, J.C. Lutz is for you.

Buy now at J.C. Lutz


Key Model: Bradley

Born in 2001 in Los Angeles, Clae distils that easy-going, West Coast vibe into its comprehensive range of minimal sneakers. Drawing inspiration from its hometown’s architecture, design, colours and elegance, the brand’s shoes are meticulously handcrafted in the same Vietnam workshop they have been working alongside for the past 20 years.

Expect clean lines, premium materials, and versatile colourways that will never go out of style. These are sneakers designed to be worn every day, for every occasion.

Clae’s bestselling silhouette is the Bradley: a sleek, minimal silhouette available in a wealth of quality materials – including aniline, oiled, full grain or milled leather, nubuck or waxed suede, and textured canvas – and versatile colourways, as well as a choice of rubber or gum soles. It will quickly become your go-to shoe, no matter which one you pick.

Shop now at Clae


Key Model: Royal S01

Founded in 2014 by Isabel and José Maria, JAK is an independent shoemaker based in Lisbon, Portugal. All of its products are built in the northern region of Portugal, famous for its multi-generation, family-owned shoe factories. JAK sells directly to consumers, allowing it to deliver better quality at a lower price point.

When it comes to design, JAK advocates slow fashion and, therefore, produces timeless, versatile sneakers designed to be worn over and over again. The materials used are all sourced locally and responsibly – primarily full-grain leather that ages beautifully over time and develops its own unique character.

The Royal S01 is JAK’s bestselling silhouette, and it’s easy to see why. A sleek, unspoiled upper is complemented by an ultra-soft calf leather lining and shock-proof inner soles, creating the perfect marriage of design and comfort.

Available in a variety of materials and colourways, the suede versions are our favourites. An easy way of bringing texture and a touch of luxury to your everyday looks.

Shop now at JAK


Key Model: IBI Slip-On

Cariuma is the first skate shoe brand to be B-Corp certified. The company focuses on creating functional yet stylish footwear with the lowest possible environmental impact. It does this by using organic, recycled and regenerative materials and ensuring its sneakers are built to last and outlive trends.

The Ibi Slip-On is Cariuma’s simplest silhouette. It’s a completely vegan shoe made from bamboo and recycled plastics and is one of the lowest carbon footprint sneakers ever created. In fact, Cariuma claims that the Ibi Slip-On creates three times fewer emissions than the industry average for a pair of shoes. It also features a sugarcane outsole and cork insole and is completely machine washable.

Shop now at Cariuma


Key Model: Belèratt

Made-in-Italy brand Velasca is dedicated to making high-end Italian craftsmanship accessible. Its direct-to-consumer model allows it to offer premium products at lower prices than you might find elsewhere. These include Italian-made knitwear, shirting, and minimalist leather sneakers.

One of our favourite styles is the Belèratt. It’s a fuss-free, round-toe tennis shoe made from beautifully smooth calfskin leather. This timeless style can happily mingle with everything from jeans to tailoring, and it’s handmade in Montegranaro, Italy, using traditional shoemaking techniques.

Shop now at Velasca


Key Model: Stensund

Sweden’s Myrqvist is on a mission to bring the joy of high-quality handmade footwear to a wider audience. The brand’s direct-to-consumer approach enables it to deliver premium quality at a reduced price thanks to the lack of retail markup. The collection includes everything from work boots and dress shoes to minimalist sneakers like the Stensund.

This simple sneaker is an upscale twist on a retro foam-sole runner. It’s constructed from a mix of large, uncluttered suede and mesh panels and is available in a range of tasteful muted colours. The materials are from Italy, while the shoe is assembled in Portugal.

Shop now at Myqvist

Crown Northampton

Key Model: Upton Wholecut

Crown Northampton is a fifth-generation, family-owned business with real shoemaking pedigree. Using only the finest locally-sourced materials, all of its footwear is made to order in its Northamptonshire factory ensuring all processes from design to production remain in-house and entirely under its control.

The brand’s new Sneaker Collection is handmade using first-grade suede and leather uppers sourced from the finest tanneries in the world, including the Horween Company and C F Stead. The sneakers are fully leather-lined and have an exclusive rubber sole. Sidewall stitching secures the sole unit and allows the sneakers to be resoled later to increase longevity.

If you’re looking for a smart sneaker that can dress up like a Derby shoe, the Upton Wholecut is for you. Crafted using a single piece of leather, wholecut design and construction is a mark of true quality that not many manufacturers can match. It’s an easy way to separate yourself from the white sneaker crowd.

Shop now at Crown Northampton

Axel Arigato

Key Model: Clean 90

Launched in 2014, Swedish brand Axel Arigato is one of the best-established labels producing high-quality minimalist sneakers. ‘Arigato‘ is Japanese for ‘Thank you’ and was originally used to describe something valuable and hard to find. That about sums up the brand’s proposition.

Axel Arigato works with a small number of European tanneries and suppliers, and most of the production is based in Porto, Portugal. Its extended range includes designs inspired by vintage athletic shoes and chunkier styles, but the Clean 90 is our go-to.

Something akin to a quintessential minimalist white sneaker, it will work with tailoring, sweatpants and everything in between.

Shop now at Axel Arigato

Uniform Standard

Key Model: Series 1

The Uniform Standard story is familiar in sneaker and fashion circles: with 18 years of experience designing products for other brands, the founders decided to branch out on their own in 2018. Social and environmental responsibility is at the forefront of everything they do, with the East London-based brand utilising the finest Italian leathers and premium recycled components to create their lines.

The Series 1 is the flagship silhouette. A clean, timeless style that can be dressed up or down, it’s available with smooth calf leather or textured suede uppers in a wealth of colourways.

Shop now at Uniform Standard


Key Model: LT 01

Established in Amsterdam in 2010, ETQ was created to answer the luxury trend of loud, garish branding and excessive pricing. Shunning fleeting fashion trends, the Dutch brand produces high-quality, well-designed sneakers for a fair price. The entire range adheres to the company’s minimalist principles, using shape and proportion to help its offering stand out.

The LT 01 is ETQ’s flagship model. It features a clean upper with a substantial sole and comes in several timeless colourways that will never go out of style. We particularly like the VEGEA® options – you would swear these sneakers had premium leather uppers but it’s actually a material created using wine waste and vegetable oil. We’ll drink to that.

Shop now at ETQ.


Key Model: Chuck Taylor All Star 70

It’s impossible to overstate the impact Converse’s All Star sneaker has had on the world of footwear. The most popular and recognisable silhouette on the face of the earth, its century-plus history puts most other sports brands to shame.

All of this from a shoe that’s about as technologically advanced as a wooden spoon. But therein lies the All Star’s beauty: sneakers don’t get simpler than this. It does everything it needs to, nothing it doesn’t and looks great in the process.

Buy now at SSENSE


Key Model: Stan Smith

In any conversation regarding the most iconic sneaker designs of all time, Adidas’ Stan Smith is bound to come up early on. This crisp, white tennis shoe has been a common sight on streets, courts and even the front row of fashion weeks for a long time.

It is arguably the definitive white sneaker, having sparked countless imitations. Still, it is yet to be matched in terms of looks, value for money and timeless appeal.

Buy now at MR PORTER


Key Model: Star Master

Straight out of Slovakia, heritage footwear label Novesta has been doing its thing for the best part of a century. By ‘thing’, we mean crafting some of the sturdiest canvas shoes money can buy.

Characterised by its oversized eyelets and heavily treaded rubber sole, the label’s Star Master shoe is undoubtedly the main attraction. But for something a little more aerodynamic, the brand’s Marathon Model is another great minimalist option.

Buy now at Urban Excess.


Key Model: Cortez

Oregonian sportswear brand Nike is hardly the unsung hero of the footwear world. In fact, the very concept of sneaker culture comes as a direct result of its work.

While today’s focus may be on technical fabrics and state-of-the-art production methods, the company has its roots in simple design. Take the Cortez, for example – it’s a classic example of a retro running shoe that’s beautifully uncluttered and bears nothing of the unnecessary.

Buy now at Nike

Paddy Maddison

Paddy Maddison is Ape's Style Editor. His work has been published in Esquire, Men’s Health, ShortList, The Independent and more. An outerwear and sneaker fanatic, his finger is firmly on the pulse for the latest trends, while always maintaining an interest in classic style.