Alternatives to Common Projects

The price of minimalist sneakers has really gone through the roof in the last few years. Common Project’s low top Achilles, for example, used to cost somewhere between $250 and $300, but you’d be lucky nowadays to find them at that price on sale. On the upside, with their growing popularity, more and more companies are coming out with their own designs, which means there’s a lot of options at a wide range of price points.

If you’re considering some minimalist kicks, here are some of the non-CP options, from most to least expensive:

Over $300

APC ($355): APC’s sneakers are nearly just as expensive at full retail, but given their distribution, you can easily find them on sale. Totokaelo Man, for example, has them on discount right now for $249. Similarly designed and priced are Wings + Horns and Svensson.

Buttero ($325): A much more original, but still tasteful, take on minimalism. Depending on what you plan to wear with your sneakers, these could be a better option than your standard sleek or sporty designs.  

Our Legacy ($310): This Swedish brand has a really nice, youthful take on contemporary men’s clothing. This season, they have sporty white low top, which is sold at their online store, French Garment Cleaners, and Totokaelo Man.

Hydrogen-1 ($305): A new San Franciscan label with sneakers that are just as well made as any of their competitors. These white low tops with gum soles look great, and they come in suede

Comme des Garcons ($300): Wait, are these minimalist sneakers or just Adbuster rip offs?

Over $200

National Standard ($270+): A relatively new label that I unfortunately don’t know much about, but they’re sold at reputable and fancy boutiques. Check them out at L’ExceptionIkkon, and The Corner.

Erik Schedin ($238): I’ve unfortunately never handled these, but have always admired their design. The listed price drops down to $238 once you deduct for European taxes.

Twins for Peace ($200): A minimalist sneaker with a cheeky pair of shoelaces. If you don’t like the laces, I imagine you can easily swap them out for something simpler. 

Under $200

Garment Project ($192): A Danish company doing basics such as shirts and sweatshirts. Their sneakers have an inverted “V” at the eyelet tabs and a more exaggerated toe cap. Available at MKI and Wardrobe19.

Nikes ($105+): Granted, Nikes will always have that big swoosh, which goes against the spirit of minimalism, but they have some great designs at relatively affordable prices. Check out the Air Force OnesDunksAir Jordan 1 Mids, and Blazers. You can get these in all white if you go through Nike’s ID program.

Saturdays NYC ($95): A nubuck version of Vans Authentics that’s on sale at Totokaelo Man and Roden Gray. Also available? Authentic suede Authentics.

Kent Wang ($95): One of the most affordably priced options of all.

Adidas ($75+): Many of Adidas’ designs can look reasonably minimal. Consider the Sambas or Stan Smiths. After all - the Stan Smith is what almost everyone above is knocking off.

Five Sneakers for Summer
As much as I like leather hard-bottom shoes, summer is really a great time for sneakers. They go well with chinos and madras shirts, jeans and t-shirts, and even the occasional casual button-up with shorts. I mainly rely on five different models for my rotation.
German Army Trainers: If German Army Trainers (GATs for short) seem new but familiar, it might be because the two brothers who invented them would later go on to launch Adidas and Puma, two classic sneaker companies that often make shoes bearing a familial resemblance to GATs. They were also used by German soldiers for indoor exercises during the 1970s, which is how they got their name.
You can find GATs today at a pretty affordable price. They’re about $30 if you’re in Germany and can get to a military surplus store, but if you’re not, you can find them between $60 and $90 on eBay and through German proxy sellers. Jesse wrote a great article on how to score them here.
There are also a couple of slightly modified designs by Svensson and Maison Martin Margiela (the second of which issues them in a number of different colors every season). I have the black pair you see above, the grey ones here, and the classic white leather/ grey suede combination. The last is probably the most popular among style enthusiasts, but I find myself wearing the black and grey pairs most often. You can get Margiela GATs for about $250 on eBay or during sale seasons. 
Common Projects: Enough has probably been said about how useful this minimalistic design is, so let’s talk about alternatives, in case Common Projects are too expensive for you. The good news is that there are a ton of alternatives. Check, for example, these by Acne (some on sale here), ETQ, Erik Schedin, Vor, Marc Jacobs, Svensson, National Standard (some on sale here), Twins for Peace, Kent Wang, Zegna Sport, Aspesi, Buttero, Generic Surplus, Superga, and Adidas (Stan Smiths, Soloist collaboration, and Campus 80s). Admittedly, the last few don’t look very much like Common Projects, but they’re somewhat similar and it’s nice to have options.  
Hydrogen-1: A few months ago, Hydrogen-1 offered to send me a free pair of sneakers to review. I was skeptical, to be honest, but I figured it couldn’t hurt to give their black Oxygen high-tops a try, so long as they knew a positive review wasn’t guaranteed.
I’ve been happily surprised with them and find they’re just as well made as my Common Projects or Margielas. The slightly pebbled black calf leather doesn’t show creases easily and the padded collar makes them exceptionally comfortable. The sole looks chunkier online than in real life, but they do give the shoe a nice casual look. Like the aforementioned minimalistic options, the simplicity of these high-tops makes them very versatile.
I also like these grey chukkas. Hero, the founder behind the company, tells me they’ll be doing an end-of-season sale in a few months, and that both models will be coming out in different colorways and materials this October or so.
Billy Reid: Billy Reid has a collaboration line with K-Swiss that I really like. It’s a very sporty, slightly retro design that goes well with a grey sweatshirt and pair of jeans. A bit more “designed” than the other options on this list, but in a way that still feels simple and basic.
Canvas sneakers: The great thing about sneakers is that they don’t have to be expensive. If you’re on a budget, aim for something classic and made from canvas. My go-tos are Superga 1705s in white and navy, but you can read about a number of other options in this old post I wrote a couple of summers ago. It’s hard to go wrong with any of those models.
If you want something more unique, check out these other designs by Superga, Converse, Twins for Peace, Industry of All Nations, and Nigel Cabourn. Wooden Sleepers also has a pretty neat-looking Italian military sneaker that I’ve always admired. Like with all the models mentioned in this post, I think they’d make for a really great pair of summer shoes.
(Pictured above: Margiela GATs, Common Project Achilles, Hydrogen-1 Oxygens, Billy Reid x K Swiss, and Superga 1705s. For what it’s worth, I’ve found all these run true to size, except for the Supergas, where I had to take a 10 instead of my regular 9).

Five Sneakers for Summer

As much as I like leather hard-bottom shoes, summer is really a great time for sneakers. They go well with chinos and madras shirts, jeans and t-shirts, and even the occasional casual button-up with shorts. I mainly rely on five different models for my rotation.

German Army Trainers: If German Army Trainers (GATs for short) seem new but familiar, it might be because the two brothers who invented them would later go on to launch Adidas and Puma, two classic sneaker companies that often make shoes bearing a familial resemblance to GATs. They were also used by German soldiers for indoor exercises during the 1970s, which is how they got their name.

You can find GATs today at a pretty affordable price. They’re about $30 if you’re in Germany and can get to a military surplus store, but if you’re not, you can find them between $60 and $90 on eBay and through German proxy sellers. Jesse wrote a great article on how to score them here.

There are also a couple of slightly modified designs by Svensson and Maison Martin Margiela (the second of which issues them in a number of different colors every season). I have the black pair you see above, the grey ones here, and the classic white leather/ grey suede combination. The last is probably the most popular among style enthusiasts, but I find myself wearing the black and grey pairs most often. You can get Margiela GATs for about $250 on eBay or during sale seasons. 

Common Projects: Enough has probably been said about how useful this minimalistic design is, so let’s talk about alternatives, in case Common Projects are too expensive for you. The good news is that there are a ton of alternatives. Check, for example, these by Acne (some on sale here), ETQ, Erik Schedin, Vor, Marc Jacobs, Svensson, National Standard (some on sale here), Twins for Peace, Kent Wang, Zegna Sport, Aspesi, Buttero, Generic Surplus, Superga, and Adidas (Stan Smiths, Soloist collaboration, and Campus 80s). Admittedly, the last few don’t look very much like Common Projects, but they’re somewhat similar and it’s nice to have options.  

Hydrogen-1: A few months ago, Hydrogen-1 offered to send me a free pair of sneakers to review. I was skeptical, to be honest, but I figured it couldn’t hurt to give their black Oxygen high-tops a try, so long as they knew a positive review wasn’t guaranteed.

I’ve been happily surprised with them and find they’re just as well made as my Common Projects or Margielas. The slightly pebbled black calf leather doesn’t show creases easily and the padded collar makes them exceptionally comfortable. The sole looks chunkier online than in real life, but they do give the shoe a nice casual look. Like the aforementioned minimalistic options, the simplicity of these high-tops makes them very versatile.

I also like these grey chukkas. Hero, the founder behind the company, tells me they’ll be doing an end-of-season sale in a few months, and that both models will be coming out in different colorways and materials this October or so.

Billy Reid: Billy Reid has a collaboration line with K-Swiss that I really like. It’s a very sporty, slightly retro design that goes well with a grey sweatshirt and pair of jeans. A bit more “designed” than the other options on this list, but in a way that still feels simple and basic.

Canvas sneakers: The great thing about sneakers is that they don’t have to be expensive. If you’re on a budget, aim for something classic and made from canvas. My go-tos are Superga 1705s in white and navy, but you can read about a number of other options in this old post I wrote a couple of summers ago. It’s hard to go wrong with any of those models.

If you want something more unique, check out these other designs by Superga, Converse, Twins for Peace, Industry of All Nations, and Nigel Cabourn. Wooden Sleepers also has a pretty neat-looking Italian military sneaker that I’ve always admired. Like with all the models mentioned in this post, I think they’d make for a really great pair of summer shoes.

(Pictured above: Margiela GATsCommon Project AchillesHydrogen-1 OxygensBilly Reid x K Swiss, and Superga 1705s. For what it’s worth, I’ve found all these run true to size, except for the Supergas, where I had to take a 10 instead of my regular 9).

Casual Summer Footwear

Like most men of my generation, I rarely wear more “formal” clothes such as dark wool suits and black oxford shoes. Much of my wardrobe consists of more casual items, though I admit it leans towards the dressier side of things. That means lots of odd trousers and sport coats, casual button-up shirts, and shoes such as derbys, boots, and slip-ons. With the passing of Memorial Day and the unofficial arrival of summer, I thought I’d review some casual footwear options for the new season. Basically things that will work with what I think most men already have in their closet.

Generally speaking, I think men tend to look smarter in a pair of leather shoes than trainers. The one exception is white sneakers during the summer. For some ensembles, such as a pair of navy chinos and a colorful madras shirt, there may be nothing better. My favorites in this category include Superga, Chuck Taylors’ All Stars, and Vans’ Authentics, but there are many others. I covered a bunch of them last year in a post about plimsolls. In addition to those, you can consider the Common Projects and German Army Trainers that Jesse has talked about, as well as Svensson’s Classic Low Whites, Superga’s 1705s, and Superga’s decks. Svensson is a bit more refined looking, like Common Projects, but comes at a lower price point and even less branding. Men of Ilk is offering a 20% off discount code right now (GLCCW49), which puts the Svenssons at $180 for American customers. As for the Supergas, I bought a pair of the 1705s a few months ago and have been really enjoying them. The branding is less obvious and the design is basic enough to pair with most things.

For something slightly dressier, you can consider chukka boots. I know boots are a bit of an odd suggestion for summer footwear, but depending on your regional climate, I think they can work quite well. Alden’s unlined suede chukka, for example, is so soft and buttery that it wears very much like a slipper. The lack of leather lining inside makes the upper more malleable and breathable, much like a canvas shoe. My friend Stephen at The Simply Refined has said everything I could say about them. For something similar, you can consider Church’s Sahara and Allen Edmonds’ Amok. The brown version of the Amok is on clearance right now for $125.

If you prefer a bit more structure in your leather chukkas, you should check out Loake’s Kempton, Sahara, and Camden. Brooks Brothers also has a suede boot that gets discounted to $130 or so at the end of every season, and there’s of course Clark’s desert boots that everyone already knows about. If you have a bit more money to spend, I would also recommend A Suitable Wardrobe’s crepe sole chukka. I really like the shape of the toe box and think the crepe sole/ suede upper combination helps underscore the casualness of the shoes.

Finally, I’ll also suggest you get a pair of loafers this summer. Like with chukkas, these can be worn mostly year round, but feel especially nice for the warmer seasons. There are a good number of styles to consider, but for the purposes of this post, I’ll stick with the classic American penny loafer. Inspired by the Norwegian moccasin, the penny loafer was the sine non-qua for the post-war “Ivy Look,” and still looks quite sharp today. I recommend getting them from American manufacturers such as Alden, Allen Edmonds, Ralph Lauren, Brooks Brothers, Rancourt, and Oak Street Bootmakers. Bass also has some, though their quality is much lower these days. Outside of American companies, you may also want to look into Markowski, Herring, and Loake, as well as some of the models that Crockett & Jones offers.

Of course, there are dozens of good causal footwear styles, and some may be better suited for warm weather conditions than the ones above (e.g. espadrilles, white bucks, and spectators). However, for good, versatile basics that can work well for summer and transition into fall, I think you’d do well with white sneakers, suede chukkas, and leather penny loafers.