Ready-to-eat gourmet meals Water of the highest quality. Bleach of the highest quality. Many commonplace items have been transformed into ostentatious, pointless abominations by the human race. But it did get one thing right: transforming the humble athletic trainer into a work of art fit for a streetwear king (AKA someone with a six-figure Insta following). Designer sneakers have arrived. High-end brands, particularly those that produce designer sneakers for men, are continuing to thrive.
Gucci, Louis Vuitton, and Balenciaga sales continue to rise, demonstrating that today’s generation of stunting, brand-conscious consumers prefers to invest in premium, well-made fashion over throw-away items. The high-end sneaker is at the center of it all. From traditional Northampton shoemakers to century-old Parisian fashion houses, every brand worth its salt has created one, and it’s been a key contributor to the casual direction menswear is firmly committed to. In a nutshell, you’ll need a pair. If you don’t know your Jordans from your John Lobbs, you might want to start with this guide to the most stylish designer sneakers available right now.
Image Credit: CQP
The Best Designer Sneakers for Men
The embroidery revolution began about four years ago with the world’s most influential trend-setters, and it hasn’t stopped since. The brand’s most popular low-top white Ace designer sneakers are made in Italy and feature either the iconic bee emblem – first introduced in the 1970s – or a snake in the red, green, and gold Gucci colorway. These much-copied sneakers are the always-in-style sneakers that go with everything in your closet, from raw selvedge denim jeans and a plain white tee to dressing down your summer suits.
Image Credit: Gucci
Expensive sneakers aren’t just for entitled teenagers who use daddy’s credit card; they can also be for the sophisticated gentleman in his study who has a drinks trolley full of rare bourbons. Oliver Cabell isn’t one to follow fashion trends or fads. Instead, it creates designer sneakers that can be worn now, next season, and last season. The brand’s signature low-tops are simple and timeless, made entirely of leather or suede in Italy, with Italian calfskin leather interiors and durable rubber soles. If you prefer a smart casual look (T-shirt and sneakers with a colored suit), these opulent but budget-friendly kicks are for you. What more could you ask for than high-street prices and a high-end design?
Image Credit: Oliver Cabell
Stockholm has some nice shoes. Surprise, surprise, surprise. The premium kicks from CQP (Conversations & Quintessential Products) are designed in Sweden and handcrafted in Portugal, and they certainly fit the bill. Low tops with a canvas side panel, 100% Italian suede toe and tongue, and waxed cotton laces are most likely to be found in the Racquet collection. The Tarmac line, on the other hand, is a smarter quarter-top style of designer sneakers made with the same high-quality suede but with a 100% calf leather lining and arch support with multiple layers of cushioning. Wearing pillows on your feet is the next best thing.
Image Credit: CQP
Some brands stick to a single shape and don’t change it. Arigato, not Axel. Variety is everything to this Swedish brand. Axel’s lavish leather-infused lineup is a one-stop-shop for all designer sneaker lovers, bringing art students and sports nuts together in perfect harmony. From the uber casual basketball-inspired Court hi-top to the futuristically functional Tech Runner, Axel’s lavish leather-infused lineup is a one-stop-shop for all designer sneaker lovers, bringing art students and sports nuts together in perfect harmony. They were successful. Finally, there is world peace.
Image Credit: Axel Arigato
A brand steeped in history, with futuristic designer sneakers. Balenciaga‘s innovative designs continue to astound the world despite the fact that the company is nearly a century old. The oversized Triple S sneakers are the most iconic of the Spanish fashion house’s footwear styles, made of superior nubuck and mesh, with the brand logo proudly displayed on the back and that divisive triple-stacked sole jutting out. They are the undisputed kings of the chunky trainer craze. The Speed trainer isn’t the brand’s only avant-garde style; they’ve also capitalized on the sock-meets-shoe craze. With a memory sole and comfortable shock-absorbing technology, this alternative silhouette has more practical properties.
Image Credit: Balenciaga
One of the most instantly recognizable silhouettes on the market today, owing to their immaculate cleanliness. You could eat your dinner off of them. But there’s another reason Common Projects’ men’s designer sneakers stand out: the gold foil style code stamped on the heel, each one unique and indicating the shoe’s color, code, and size. The fact that they’re expertly crafted in Italy, come in on-trend pastel colorways like blush pink and nude, and are worn by celebrities like Drake and Alexander Skarsgard only adds to the cult status of the American-Italian label.
Image Credit: Common Projects
Another surprise in the footwear industry: Grenson not only makes brogue boots for bearded selvedge denim aficionados, but it also makes killer designer sneakers in its own distinct style. It’s possible you didn’t realize it made its own sneakers, which is an easy mistake to make given how new it is to the casual footwear game. This isn’t to say that the British brand is inexperienced.
Several of their styles are simply labeled as “Sneaker” with a number. Grenson’s versions of the classic casual shoe are extremely polished and refined. With its simple silhouette, Sneaker 1 pays homage to the tennis shoe of the 1970s, but it’s made premium by hand-painted calf leather, giving it an opulent feel. Conversely, Sneaker 3 adheres to the brand’s traditional aesthetic, featuring a low-top trainer shape with brogue detailing in regal colorways.
Image Credit: Grenson
When you think of Saint Laurent, you think of tight leather jackets and black boots. However, this isn’t always the case when it comes to the French fashion house. Saint Laurent produces equally edgy and decadent designer trainers for men, with scrawled branding across its court classic low-top trainers, crafted in canvas and available in a variety of shades, for those laid-back days. Do you want to make a bigger statement? Then try on its block-paneled hi-tops, which were made to be worn with your favorite leather jacket and black jeans.
Image Credit: Saint Laurent
When you were a kid, did you ever want to leave your regular shoes at the bowling alley so you could take home those vintage-looking rentals? Now you can get a pair – albeit of previously unattainable quality – without having to wait for hundreds of other people to try them on first. In Italy, John Lobb creates seriously exquisite and spotless retro sneakers with a stitched cup sole for durability and lightness – two qualities that are ideal for both the bowling alley and the sidewalk. You can also use Lobb’s By Request service to create your own bespoke trainers if you’re feeling (extra) flush.
Image Credit: John Lobb
Church’s is a true heritage footwear brand that was founded in 1873, but it was taken over by Prada in the 1990s, giving it a fresher and more contemporary direction. Many of its sophisticated designs (the Willenhall loafer, the Walthum brogue) were kept for the brand’s affluent sartorial clientele, but it also drew a younger, more casual clientele looking for well-made men’s designer sneakers steeped in masterful craftsmanship. The renowned Church’s logo can be found on the tongue of luxury sneakers like the Mirfield, which has a Derby-like silhouette. It also has a refined Nevada leather, similar to the company’s formal styles, demonstrating how Church’s has evolved while staying true to its roots.
Image Credit: Church’s
Mr. Brunello Cucinelli, the man behind the brand, describes himself as “part businessman, part philosopher, and park monk.” Although the brand is best known for its cashmere and impeccable tailoring, its designer sneakers are immaculate (but please don’t run in them; treat them like your own child). These shoes have it all: hand-milled, made in Italy, 100 percent leather, and intricate detailing in each style. Brunello donates 20% of his profits to charity, so you’ll feel even better about splashing out on such opulent footwear.
Image Credit: Brunello Cucinelli
AMI’s founder Alexandre Matiussi worked at Marc Jacobs, Dior, and Givenchy before launching his own streetwear-focused label in 2011. Most people would trust AMI’s men’s designer sneakers based on that single sentence alone, even if they hadn’t seen them. And your faith would have paid off because these kicks are truly exceptional. The Lucky 9s, a neoprene inner sock runner with a leather insole that has major Back To The Future vibes thanks to its ridged shape and ’80s colorways, are AMI’s most recognizable trainers. The throwback three-strap sneakers with embroidered AMI at the heel, on the other hand, are perfect for pairing with your everyday staples.
Image Credit: AMI
‘You cannot be elegant unless you are comfortable and well-shod,’ says Berluti. Looking at the designer sneakers from the Parisian label, this message is clear. The high-top Fast Track is a cross between a runner and a hiking boot, but instead of being shunned as a Frankenstein monster, it has been hailed as a modern masterpiece. The upper is made of glazed calf leather with Venezia leather details, but technical features like memory-foam insoles and anti-slip notched soles give the shoe substance as well as style. If you’re looking for something with more substance, you’ve come to the right place. Lizard and alligator leather are just a few of the exotic materials used by the brand, with fine line engraving adding extra detail.
Image Credit: Berluti
Men’s Designer Sneakers Frequently Asked Questions
What’s your favorite way to wear designer sneakers?
Designer sneakers are best known for their versatility. Sneakers with suede or leather uppers look great with chinos and a dress shirt or cable knit sweater in a business casual setting. On weekends, pair them with dark-wash jeans and a t-shirt.
What is the definition of a designer shoe?
A designer sneaker is simply a pair of shoes designed by… well, a designer. However, the materials used also play a role. Look for high-quality leather and suede, as well as sturdy construction. Designer sneakers, unlike your runners, should not need to be replaced every year.