Dyed Sneakers for Summer

"Whatchu know about that RIT Dye?" - Big Boi on Bullseye

I’m not sure if these aren’t a bad idea, but summer is essentially made for questionable clothing choices (I’m looking at you, shorts). Lately, I’ve been thinking about dyed sneakers, which I suspect might look better on my screen than on my feet. On the other hand, they also look like they’d be really fun to wear this summer with beat-up chinos and casual shirts. Something for lounging around on lazy days. 

To get a pair, you have three options.

  • DIY. The first is to obviously make them yourself. Start off with a pair of white sneakers and dye them with one of the many at-home dyeing kits. RIT Dye is popular, and you can buy packet of it at Walmart, CVS, or Amazon. There are a ton of online guides that will show you how (start here, here, and here). Basically, the gist of it is: if you want a deeper color, such as these Chuck Taylors 3sixteen once dyed, you’ll want to use hot water and lots of a salt. Prepare the dye in a bucket, however, as the chemicals might stain your bathtub or sink. Then, dip your shoes in multiple times and let them air out in-between each dip. For a lighter color, such as these Chucks by Tenue de Nimes, just use warm water, don’t use a lot of salt, and don’t dip them in that much. To ensure the color doesn’t deepen, you can rinse them off afterwards. (Note: For a kind of dye that will fade with time, try Jacquard’s natural indigo. Just be careful the first few weeks, as the color might bleed a bit more than RIT Dye, which means you can wind up with blue feet and perhaps even blue floors).
  • Farmtown Denim. You can also go to Melissa Farmer, who’s a popular Reddit poster with an Etsy shop. She regularly dyes things for Reddit members for a small fee. At the moment, she has a pre-order for natural indigo dyed sneakers (she uses Jacquard, I’m told). You can get anything from Vans Authentics to Jack Purcells to Chuck Taylors, and she’ll provide the shoes. A great option if you, like me, are too lazy to do this process yourself. To see how her dyed shoes age, you can see check out the photos in this interview. 
  • Vans. Vans has a blue overwashed version of their popular Authentics this season. The upside to these is that they won’t bleed on you, and they’ll look broken in from day one. The downside is that you won’t get the experience of having dyed something yourself.

To get a sense of how these might look on your feet, check out our friend Travis Gumbs over at Street Etiquette. Noah Emrich also once dip dyed a pair of Tretorns in order to give them more of a two-tone gradient effect. 

(Photos via Vimeo, 3sixteenVans, and DIY Vat)

Cheap Shoes That Age Well
Although I wouldn’t call it a “rule” for myself, when I can, I try to buy things that I think will look better with time, rather than worse. That is, after all, why most of us value full grain leather shoes over corrected grain ones. It’s not because they’re cheaper in the long run (because they’re not). It’s because high quality shoes acquire a beautiful worn in look that only good materials and years of wear can impart. Shoes made from corrected grain leather, on the other hand, look terrible new and even worse with time.
Unfortunately, shoes that age well are typically expensive. The exception to this is canvas sneakers, which always look better with a bit of dirt and grass staining. Think:
Converse Chuck Taylors and Jack Purcells
Vans Authentics and Classic Slip-Ons
Superga 1705 and 2750
Sperry Top-Sider’s striped CVOs
Tretorn Nylites
All of these retail for under $75, but can be had for less than $50 if you wait for sales.
The best thing about these shoes isn’t their price, however. It’s their designs. Most have been around for decades and their designs are hard to improve on. Take Maison Martin Margiela’s interpretation of Vans’ slip-ons, for example. The heavier look and feel of leather doesn’t evoke the airiness of summer like canvas, even if the design itself looks more luxurious. Similarly, Nigel Cabourn’s interpretation of Chuck Taylor All Stars has a nice retro feel, but truth be told, I think the standard model today is hard to beat.
You can wear these with any number of spring or summer ensembles. I often wear my Chuck Taylor high tops with a white t-shirt, leather jacket, and pair of jeans, and my Superga 1705s with chinos and a madras shirt. On a cooler spring day, the madras shirt gets swapped out for a sweatshirt and light parka. Neither of these feel like compromises over full grain leather shoes, and they’re appreciably much cheaper. It’s nice that good things don’t always have to be expensive. 

Cheap Shoes That Age Well

Although I wouldn’t call it a “rule” for myself, when I can, I try to buy things that I think will look better with time, rather than worse. That is, after all, why most of us value full grain leather shoes over corrected grain ones. It’s not because they’re cheaper in the long run (because they’re not). It’s because high quality shoes acquire a beautiful worn in look that only good materials and years of wear can impart. Shoes made from corrected grain leather, on the other hand, look terrible new and even worse with time.

Unfortunately, shoes that age well are typically expensive. The exception to this is canvas sneakers, which always look better with a bit of dirt and grass staining. Think:

All of these retail for under $75, but can be had for less than $50 if you wait for sales.

The best thing about these shoes isn’t their price, however. It’s their designs. Most have been around for decades and their designs are hard to improve on. Take Maison Martin Margiela’s interpretation of Vans’ slip-ons, for example. The heavier look and feel of leather doesn’t evoke the airiness of summer like canvas, even if the design itself looks more luxurious. Similarly, Nigel Cabourn’s interpretation of Chuck Taylor All Stars has a nice retro feel, but truth be told, I think the standard model today is hard to beat.

You can wear these with any number of spring or summer ensembles. I often wear my Chuck Taylor high tops with a white t-shirt, leather jacket, and pair of jeans, and my Superga 1705s with chinos and a madras shirt. On a cooler spring day, the madras shirt gets swapped out for a sweatshirt and light parka. Neither of these feel like compromises over full grain leather shoes, and they’re appreciably much cheaper. It’s nice that good things don’t always have to be expensive.