In this article I discuss four styles of sneakers that are well worn items in my wardrobe. They are not the only sneakers / trainers that I own, but they are easily the most worn.
Common Projects Achilles Low – 1) White and 2) Black – elegant monochrome leather sneakers
USP? Ultra sleek leather sneakers. Something of an icon. Not ‘in your face’.
I like to wear with… Basically anything other than a suit, although that was a ‘thing’ when suits and sneakers was a trend in the mid-2010s.
Common Projects Achilles Low are one of those items that seems ubiquitous if you have read MaleFashionAdvice, Styleforum, etc., for years. In reality? I have never seen anyone else wear them, although I don’t live in a city. They are basically the perfect low-top leather sneaker. They are also much more expensive now than they used to be – almost double the price of five years ago (circa 2015..especially when they were discounted or second hand). Beware fakes!
At high school I was required to wear all white trainers for indoor PE (gym class). This was no easy feat – logos were not allowed. So no Nike, Adidas etc. The resulting purchase was a decidedly rubbish plastic-leather pair.
The irony is that in the same period, Common Projects were launching their ultimate answer to the issue: the Achilles Low. Since at least the release of the Achilles Low in 2004, there has been a steady stream of low top leather sneakers. Think Adidas Stan Smiths without the signature printed tongue, with little to no visible branding. The only giveaway is the silhouette and the gold stamped lettering.
These are for connoisseurs. It’s not surprising that GQ put them firmly at the top of an article titled ‘21 Best White Sneakers and Shoes for Men’. Compared to shoes like Stan Smiths they are incredibly refined and, to be honest, well made. They are never going to be as comfortable as foam-filled sneakers like Adidas Ultra Boosts, though. So there is an element of everyday luxury to these.
While the all white are iconic, the all black style are incredibly versatile too. I have probably had more wear of the black – the white are simply radiant and angelic, which is their great upside (they stand out) and their downside (they stand out), depending on what you are going for.
Also beware sizing. The common response is for people to ‘size down’ – i.e. take size 8 Common Projects if they usually wear size 9. My rule of thumb is that UK 9.5 is my shoe size (from experience, mind, not a Brannock device), and the EU43/UK9 are perfect. So I would recommend trying on some certified genuine Common Projects before delving into the much more affordable second-hand market.
Nike Air Jordan 1 Mid – Chicago colourway, classic basketball shoes
USP A cheaper, more accessible version of Nike Air Jordan 1. A classic colourway that references the sporting history of Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. Pretty much the definitive high-top basketball shoe.
I like to wear with… These work exceptionally well in casual outfits. They are more than comfy enough for long trips with plenty of walking.
The Nike Air Jordan 1 is one of those foundational sneaker silhouettes, especially in the US. In the UK they are far less common, at least in my experience. They are basically the stereotypical basketball style shoe, and for good reason. They are the first model associated with the greatest basketballer of all time, Michael Jordan.
A second hand eBay find, these shoes have been worn round town, on longer walks, on short trips to the shops. I’m an absolute sucker for the Chicago colourway – white, red and black. I love red, especially in sportswear, as it provides a perfect punch of colour alongside neutrals like white, black, navy and grey.
Having never seen the difference in person between the Jordan 1 Mid and the Jordan 1 High O.G., I can say that the Mid are so similar to the High O.G. that, unless you are a purist, the differences in design are semantic. Further, Nike Air Jordan 1 Mids are much easier to find used or new for a reasonable price, in the bargain.
Adidas Terrex Trailmaker GTX – speed laced hikers
USP The Gore-Tex lining and aggressive tread make these very good walking shoes. The speed lace system and dark colours give it that Hikercore look.
I like to wear with Whatever I am walking the dog in. When cleaned up a bit, these also work pretty well with jeans for a bit of a “Grayman” Techwear vibe.
These are a proper throw-on and go pair of shoes, but with a crucial extra bit of engineering.
I have lost count of how many times I have mentioned walking my dog, Henry, on this blog. Needless to say I get through hiking trainers. These are my fourth pair of Adidas Terrex shoes, and my least worn. They are the least worn because I think they are the coolest of the four styles I have owned. Why? These Gore-Tex shoes are fastened with a simple and easy speed lacing system.
I have not got the overall wardrobe (yet?) to take my outfits in a techwear dimension, unless it is in the direction of the hikercore aesthetic (see my big post, as referenced by leading techwear YouTuber This Is Antwon).
Converse Jack Purcell – canvas sneakers with a smile
USP In my estimation and experience, these are superior and more comfortable than Converse Chuck Taylors. A good summer shoe.
I like to wear with Jeans, chinos, shorts.
The newest addition on this list, I have been a fan of Converse Jack Purcell since I bought two pairs – one all-white canvas and the second in a navy and white – somewhere around 2013. This all black pair were an eBay bargain.
For me they fulfil the same role as much more expensive black and white canvas/rubber sneakers: namely, the Rick Owens Ramones. As compared to my other Converse, the All Star 70s, I would rate the Jack Purcell as a far more comfortable design.
If I were to recommend one pair on this list to a total beginner to fashion, it would be these. They have a low profile, like Common Projects. Their ‘smile’ toe box is a unique design. I have never tried the leather incarnation but they may be worth a look.