The weather is starting to heat up again in California, reminding me it’s almost time for camp collar shirts and washed denim jeans. Every time spring rolls around, I think about picking up a new pair of sneakers. While I love traditional welted footwear, sometimes sneakers go better with casual clothes than leather shoes of any stripe.
If you’re looking to expand your sneaker wardrobe a bit, here are a few I’ve been eyeing. Some are on the expensive side (such as the Vors), while others are reasonably priced around $100 or so. From mainstream lines to niche labels, here are ten great sneakers for spring.
Spalwart Marathon Trail Low ($159+): In the 1970s, shortly after Japan fell in love with Ivy Style, people in Japan noticed American college students were no longer wearing neckties with tweed jackets to classes. Instead, many were repurposing outdoor brands such as Sierra Designs and Eddie Bauer into their everyday attire. Certainly, the oxford-cloth button-down remained popular, but instead of hook-vent sport coats and striped rep neckwear, students were wearing 60/ 40 parkas, Levi’s jeans, and Champion sweatshirts.
The look has been described as Rugged Ivy, and if you gravitate towards that sort of thing, you’ll love Spalwart’s Marathon Trail Lows. They take after classic running shoes from that era, but give them a funkier style with a treaded outsole. They’re a bit flimsy in terms of construction, but still durable and supremely comfortable — especially on hot days. You can find them on sale right now at End.
Vor 2B Mid-Tops ($415): Vor’s sneakers are painfully expensive, although not out-of-line with top-tier brands such as Common Projects. That said, I love these mid-top basketball shoes. They’re a bit better made than your average pair of Air Force 1s, while still having that casual style that looks good with nearly anything short of tailored clothing. You can wear these with jeans and fatigues, topcoats and field jackets. They’d also look great with washed denim and a sweatshirt. The company also has basketball-styled low-tops.
Nike Air Max 97 Silver Bullets (~$200): Before everyone was all about chunky sneakers, Nike’s Air Max 97 sat on shelves forever because its inflated silhouette. Now it seems downright conservative next to Balenciaga’s Triple S. The design of the AM97 was inspired by Japanese bullet trains and the ribbed lines give the shoes an almost futuristic look. I think they look great under olive fatigues or shorts. You can find them floating around StockX for about $200 (StockX is an online trading site for hard-to-find shoes. They connect buyers and sellers directly, but also authenticate sneakers before shipping to make sure you’re not getting fakes).
Doek Oxford ($170): Last year’s coming-of-age drama, Call Me By Your Name, is full of the kind of summer-style that has made brands such as Ralph Lauren famous. Loosely cut oxford shirts, simple chinos, and pique cotton polos. The shorts are … pretty short … and shirts are often unbuttoned low. The looks are simple, slightly preppy, and easy to adopt. If you take after that kind of thing, check out Doak’s balmoral-style tennis shoes, which are made from a hefty cotton canvas and vulcanized outsole. They’re on the expensive side of things (Vans and Superga are affordable alternatives), but they look a bit better than your average pair of kicks. Just spray them with Scotchgard before wearing so they’re protected from stains.
Novesta Marathon ($195): There’s never been a wider range of sneakers inspired by classic ‘70s and ‘80s running shoes. Even luxury brands such as Tom Ford, Loro Piana, and Tod’s are getting on the look (and none of them are as good as the non-lux versions). Novesta is the in-house label for a Slovakian factory that’s historically done private label manufacturing for other companies. And like many factories, they’ve developed their own brand in order to sell directly to customers. In the last few years, they’ve done two collaborations with Comme des Garcons and gotten picked up by some leading menswear boutiques. I like their Marathon runners, which are a bit more conservatively styled than the Spalwarts mentioned above. For an affordable alternative, check Greats.
Vans Anaheim Slip-Ons ($75): Truth be told, I almost always just end up wearing my Engineered Garments x Vans slip-ons every spring — mostly out of sheer laziness since they’re so easy to put on. Their mismatched uppers make them look a bit more interesting than Vans’ regular slip-ons (although those are great too). The only downside is that they’re hard to find and only available through Nepenthes when available. For something similar, check out these sueded Anaheim or hairy suede slip-ons. The fact that the uppers aren’t mismatched like the EG version means you won’t spend half your summer explaining that, no, you didn’t accidentally walk out the house this way. And yes, this is the fashion now. Ughhh, mom.
Standard & Strange x TSPR Hi-Tops ($175): Chuck Taylors are some of my all-time favorite sneakers, but they’re … everywhere. For something slightly more unique, but still classically styled, I like these canvas high-tops from Standard & Strange. They’re made in Japan from densely woven canvas uppers and vulcanized rubber soles. And I think they’d look great with workwear. A good substitute for work boots in the summer when it’s too hot to wear heavy footwear, but also rugged enough to go with raw denim jeans. They kind of remind me of a Nigel Cabourn collaboration with Converse a few years back, which I sadly missed out on.
Adidas Army Shoes ($105): If German Army Trainers (or GATs for short) seem new but familiar, that’s 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. German soldiers also used to wear these to the gym in the 1970s, which is how the style got its name. We’ve long endorsed the originals, but they’re hard to find and require you to go through a proxy service (try searching Grailed). Last year, however, Adidas came out with their version. A lot easier to buy.
Nike Air Max 180 ($130): Pete mentioned these a few weeks ago, and I’m just co-signing. They look absolutely great. These Tide Pod looking joints were originally released in the early ‘90s, and with the decade’s revival in full swing, they feel fresh again (see what I did there?). I like how the playful colorway goes with washed denim and sweatshirts, or with darker jeans and topcoats come fall. Delicious looking.
Drake’s Gym Classics ($215): I love Drake’s for their ability to always put a new spin on classic style, but in a way that feels tasteful. These classic gym shoes were made in Japan and feature a hefty rubber toe cap. A bit like Jack Purcells, but better looking. Like some of the other options on this list, these sneakers have a vulcanized rubber sole. That means the soles are glued to the uppers with a wrapped piece of rubber tape, then baked in a kiln like pottery. This seals the sole, tape, and uppers together. Not necessarily exclusive technology to this Japanese factory, but cool.