10 Independent Brands Making The Best Minimalist Sneakers For Men

Image Credit: Morjas

It’s a big claim, but we’re calling it: the minimalist sneaker is the quintessential footwear choice of the 21st century. The style, which can be traced back to the launch of Common Projects in 2004, is now a foundation of the male wardrobe: an elegant, democratic shoe that works with tailoring, denim, sweats and everything else.

Nothing else comes close in terms of overall influence. A genuine everyday, everywhere sneaker, it brought casual comfort to high fashion and proved that dressed-down staples can be beautifully designed and brilliantly made.

The design DNA may be simple and stripped back, but the choice on offer is staggering. The popularity of minimalist sneakers gave rise to a new wave of independent sneaker brands that put premium construction, sleek silhouettes and eco-conscious design at the heart of everything they do. Ground your wardrobe with our pick of the best.


Key Style: 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 the architecture, design, colours and elegance of its hometown, 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 fall out of style. These are sneakers designed to be worn everyday, 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 Style: 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, and sold directly to consumers, allowing it to deliver better quality for a lower price point.

When it comes to design, JAK is an advocate of 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: Sneaker 02

Morjas mixes classic designs, traditional shoemaking practices and contemporary touches to create a range of footwear that’s both exciting and timeless. Its collection includes loafers, boots, formal shoes and minimalist sneakers. Regardless of style, all of Morjas’ shoes are tied together by the quality and attention to detail that goes into each and every one.

The brand’s admittedly unimaginatively named Sneaker 02 is its take on a simple leather tennis shoe. Handmade in Portugal, it’s a round-toe design with clean, uncluttered uppers and a sturdy Margom rubber sole. We like it in white for a classic looks, but it’s also available nine additional neutral colours, ranging from navy to green.

Shop now at Morjas


Key Model: IBI Slip-On

Cariuma is the first ever skate shoe brand to be B-Corp certified. The focus is one creating functional yet stylish footwear with the lowest possible environmental impact. The brand does this by using a combination of organic, recycled and regenerative materials, and by ensuring its shoes are built to last well 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, cork insole and is completely machine washable.

Shop now at Cariuma

Crown Northampton

Key Style: 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. Coming fully leather lined with an exclusive rubber sole, sidewall stitching secures the sole unit and allows the sneakers to be resoled a later date 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. An easy way to separate yourself from the white sneaker crowd.

Shop now at Crown Northampton

Axel Arigato

Key Style: 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 that was valuable and hard to find. That about sums up the brand’s proposition.

Axel Arigato works with a small number or European tanneries and suppliers, and the majority of production is based in Porto. 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


Key Model: Belèratt

Italian brand Velasca is dedicated to making high-end Italian craftsmanship accessible. Its direct-to-consumer model means it is able to offer premium products at lower prices than you might find them elsewhere. This includes things like Italian-made knitwear, shirting and even 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. It’s a timeless style that 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 direct-to-consumer approach enables the brand to deliver premium quality at a reduced price thanks to the lack of retail markup, and 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 and the shoe is put together in Portugal.

Shop now at Myqvist

Uniform Standard

Key Style: Series 1

The Uniform Standard story is a familiar one in sneaker and fashion circles: with 18 years’ experience designing products for other brands, in 2018 the founders decided to branch out on their own. 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 Style: LT 01

Founded in Amsterdam in 2010, ETQ was created as an answer to the luxury trend of loud, garish branding and excessive pricing. Shunning fleeting fashion trends, the Dutch brand simply produce 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 from the pack.

The LT 01 is ETQ’s flagship model. It features a clean upper with a substantial sole and comes in a number of 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.