Sneaker designs tend to fluctuate just as wildly as men’s fashion trends these days. Each season we’re introduced to a myriad of new shapes and styles, each hoping to earn pride of place on sneakerheads’ feet.
Yet while some new models are well worth adding to your rotation, others are better left alone. And if you want to avoid looking like a fashion victim, it really pays to be able to tell the difference. So here are the sneaker trends you need to know right now, and some of our favourite designs. It’s time to upgrade your kick game.
Chunky “ugly” sneakers stomped their way into the fashion spotlight back in 2013 with the release of the Raf Simons x Adidas Ozweego. But the trend has really only gone mainstream in the past couple of years.
It was the emergence of the beetle-crushing Balenciaga Triple S in late 2016 that kicked things into gear. While the world was hesitant at first, fashion insiders and industry influencers have now fully embraced the look, ensuring that every brand, from high street to high end, is now churning out big, bulky silhouettes. While most are best given a wide berth, there is the odd design that’s worth adding to your shoe rack, such as A.P.C.’s Techno Sneaker, Gucci’s Rhyton and the aforementioned Triple S and Ozweego.
The recent 1990s revival within menswear has brought a number of gaudy trends back to life. The most offensive of which has been the reemergence of oversized, in-your-face branding. Everyone from respected haute couture houses to minimalist-leaning labels have had their logos blown up and emblazoned all over their collections. And the world of footwear hasn’t escaped unscathed either.
The past year has seen enlarged logos cropping up on sneakers of all shapes and sizes. From Nike to Gucci, and everything in between.
Fashion’s cyclical nature usually means that whatever is going on at any given time is a response to what went before it. For many years, minimalism had ruled supreme, so things were bound to begin moving in the opposite direction at some point.
However, rather than being cast into obscurity, minimalist footwear has earned a place in the sneaker history books. Simple white trainers are now a bona-fide men’s style classic and their enduring popularity proves they won’t be going away any time soon. Common Projects’ Achilles model is still widely considered the pinnacle but everyone from sportswear giants to Northamptonshire shoemakers to up-and-coming independent labels are now producing their own take on the silhouette. Buy whatever takes your fancy – you really can’t go wrong with a plain white kick.
Back-To-Basics Skate Shoes
There was a time when footwear designed for skateboarding operated a strict “bigger is better” policy. Air-bubble cushioning, excessively-padded tongues and intricate detailing were all par for the course.
But, over the past decade, things have gone back to their roots. Today the no-frills skate shoe is a popular choice for everyone from fashion designers to the guy pulling your pint down the local pub to, well, skateboarders. Stick to the heritage brands – Converse, Vans, Nike SB et al. – and swerve the high fashion labels pillaging the culture for a more authentic take.
When it comes to footwear designed with sport in mind, pushing boundaries with technology has always been a driving force. The big athleisure brands are locked in an endless arms race, each hoping to come up with the next big thing in sneaker tech. For the rest of us, that means great shoes that are built to perform.
Over the past few years, we’ve seen knitted uppers become popular, 3D printing starting to be rolled out as a means of production for intricate sole units, and even self-lacing mechanisms. Expect more boundary breaking developments going forward.
With all that tech being churned out by sportswear’s heavy hitters, sometimes it’s nice to go back to basics. Retro suede runners are big news this year and make the perfect accompaniment to anything from a tailored tracksuit to raw selvedge denim.
These throwback kicks often feature vivid block colours, meaning they can be a great way to introduce a splash of vibrancy to even the most pared-back of outfits. Plus they’re seriously comfortable, which is always a welcome bonus. The best designs can be found at heritage brands like Spalwart, New Balance, Asics and Novesta.
Urban-Friendly Trail Runners
If we’d told you a few years back that high-performance trail-running shoes would soon be peppering the front frown of Fashion Week you’d have thought we were mad. Still, here we are.
In 2019, functionality got fashionable. The results included the widespread use of technical fabrics by high-end designers, pockets aplenty, and your bird-watching uncle’s street cred reaching an unprecedented all-time high.
It also meant that typically performance-focused sneaker brands like Salomon and Hoka One One found a new audience in the menswear scene. In recent months, this has meant collabs between trail-runner brands and fashion labels including the likes of Engineered Garments, Palace and Opening Ceremony. These entirely practical sneakers are the new footwear-fashion paradigm.
The Rise And Rise Of High-Fashion Collab Sneakers
Collaborations are nothing new in the world of footwear. In fact, they’re about as old as sneaker culture itself. These days, however, they’re becoming more important than ever before as a tool for reintroducing consumers to forgotten silhouettes and shaping brand image.
All of the biggest sneaker releases in recent memory have been collaborative, and recently high-fashion labels have been getting involved, too. The Nike x Sacai LDWaffle, Air Jordan x Dior Jordan 1 and Adidas x Prada Superstar have been some of the most talked about shoes ever released, crystallising the cross-pollination of streetwear and haute couture.
These types of sneakers are a perfect metaphor for what’s been happening in the industry over recent years; urban style and runway fashion are coming together in trainer form, and if the last 12 months are anything to go by, it only looks set to continue.
Boots aside, it can be a tricky business finding footwear that’s built to cope with winter weather, particularly where sneakers are concerned. Thankfully, the overarching trend for functional fashion has brought with it a new foul-weather footwear option that’s taking the sneaker world by storm: Gore-Tex trainers.
In recent months we’ve seen all the biggest names in the game playing with this waterproof material, both in new designs and by reworking classic styles. A few standout examples of the latter are the Adidas Stan Smith and Superstar, the Converse Chuck Taylor, the Nike Air Force 1 and the Vans Sk8 Hi, all of which have been blessed with a watertight upgrade.
As the trend picks up speed, more and more labels are turning their attention to Gore-Tex and looking at how it can be used to give their sneakers a fresh angle. We’re excited to see what else they dream up over the course of the coming year.
Dad Shoes Are Forever
Dad caps, dad bods, dad jeans… it seems like every hot new men’s lifestyle or fashion trend over the last few years has been trailblazed by our fathers. Unsurprisingly, footwear is no exception, and while the dad shoe trend may not exactly be breaking news, recently it has taken root and become much more accessible.
If you’re looking for a specific shoe to thank for opening this new, ultra-comfy footwear option up to the masses, we’d be inclined to point you in the direction of the New Balance 990 v5. The 990 series has long been the high-water mark for all other dad shoes to aspire to, but this updated version from the beginning of 2019 really set things in stone.
To pull it off for yourself, we’d recommend going for simple, understated colours to increase versatility and to balance out the heavy detailing and chunky silhouette.
Back To The 2000s
They say fashion works in 20-year cycles and so far we haven’t seen any evidence to the contrary. The trend clock appears to still be ticking to the nanosecond and if that’s the case we’re right on time for a 2000s revival.
As the 2020s get off to a start, we can expect to see a shift away from the 1990s styles that have been dominating footwear fashion for the past several years and a move towards post-millennium shapes and design motifs.
Will that mean a resurgence of Earth-shaking beefy skate shoes? Well, hopefully not, but in a world where haute couture designers are marching models down the runway in hoodies and Salomon trail runners, we suppose anything is possible.
We all know what an effective tool texture can be in a men’s sartorial arsenal, but how often do we think of applying the same logic to our footwear? All too often, we’ll settle for a plain leather or suede, but an emerging trend is poised to change the way we think about giving our trainers a tactile touch.
Corduroy has been making inroads in menswear for a few seasons now and over the course of the past year it’s been beginning to trickle south. The real catalyst was the Sean Wotherspoon Air Max 97/1 that took the sneaker world by storm in 2018 but as more brands get involved the trend only looks set to grow.
If you’re thinking of dabbling in a bit of corduroy on your sneakers, we’d advise you to steer clear of wearing it anywhere else. More than one corduroy piece per outfit is never a good look, but do feel free to mix it up with different fabrics to add depth and focal points throughout an ensemble.