by Anthony Enright
I’ve never really been a sandals kind of guy. I get the whole barefoot communing with nature, your toes digging into the sand (or grass or whatever) and I agree that is awesome at the beach or in a park. With sandals in other contexts though, there’s just too many ways to get the look wrong and too few instances when I think they really add a stylish touch to a guy’s outfit. Some people’s feet definitely don’t need to be seen in public, and even if you have the best feet in the world, they’re still, um, feet, so in how many venues are they really appropriate to be exposed? Not to hate on a defenseless inanimate category of footwear, but just not a men’s sandals fan. So if not sandals, what to do when the temps rise and you’re looking to go casual? The answer, of course, is the lowly sneaker (“trainers” if you’re British, which I’m not but I like to pretend).
Let’s get one thing straight, though, friends – I am not talking about athletic shoes. I think we all recognize that athletic shoes have a time, place and essential function. They are meant to be worn to the gym or when otherwise working out, and only at those times. Now, I know they’re comfortable and your pair are brand new and have gleaming neon accents, but please just say no to ever pairing them with trousers and a button down for a night on the town. If you are not going to the gym or actively engaging in a sport or activity wherein you will sweat, they will remain in your closet. Promise me.
But enough about what not to wear. A few great pairs of sneakers are essential pieces that can be worn with a wide variety of outfits from early spring through late fall. Not only are sneakers comfortable and versatile, they’re also an interesting (and inexpensive) way to add a contrasting color or highlight to an outfit. For example, you can add an element of whimsey with a brightly colored sneaker, or complete a crisp, pulled-together look with a white or neutral sneaker. As long as you don’t wear them to the office, a wedding, or a fancy party you’re probably okay taking some wide latitude with your pairings while the weather is warm. Sneakers are a great look with shorts, but I recommend leaving the socks out if you’re going that route. Shorts and socks tends to be an unflatteringly juvenile look no matter what footwear accompanies. You’ll find that having one good basic sneaker in a neutral color is really convenient, and if you’re a bit more adventurous, you can rotate in a couple pairs that have a bit more visual punch.
Maybe I’m just hard on shoes, but my sneakers seldom last more than a year, so I don’t think of them as a long term investment. That said, bear in mind that as with all things, you get what you pay for. Those $25 sneakers at Urban Outfitters are going to last all of three weeks, so plan accordingly.
Below are some of my favorite sneaker picks for the season (click the image for where to buy) along with a few unique yet appropriate outfit parings as a little inspiration.