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).