The Sneakily Sustainable Sneakers You Need in Your Rotation

Veja's social and environmental conscience is a huge part of its mission, but the shoes are just plain stylish.
IMAGE Tim Mulcare

The intersection of great design and responsible production is busier than even in 2019. Brands that care about the way things look and the way they're made aren't exactly standard, but things are moving steadily in that direction. That wasn't always the case, even as recently as five or six years ago.

As it happens, that's when I first came across a French sneaker brand called Veja that's downright obsessive when it comes to creating shoes that are as helpful for the planet—and the people on it—as they are for building a solid 'fit in the morning. The company launched in 2005 after founders Sébastien Kopp and François-Ghislain Morillion became disillusioned with the idea of globalized production that was environmentally and socially irresponsible, focusing on sneakers because they're such an integral part of modern life.

The Veja V-10 sneaker launched about a decade later, but it's become a signature style for the brand. Here's why it's more than deserving of that designation.

Veja’s V-10 isn’t its oldest sneaker, but it’s become a signature style for the French brand.

Photo by Tim Mulcare.

It stands out in a sea of sneakers.

There's no shortage of minimal white sneakers on the market today, and that's great—they go with just about everything. But what if you want something that feels distinctive but doesn't swerve all the way into hypebeast (or dad-shoe) territory? It's time to look at the V-10. The sneaker is just a little chunkier, with old-school paneling and careful branding details—like that "V" logo—that don't scream for attention, but don't fade into the background either. Think of it as a standout shoe for low-key personalities.

The V-10’s paneling and perforations give it a classic vibe.

Photo by Tim Mulcare.

It's built right.

Here's what I mean when I say "built right." First, I mean that these shoes aren't designed to be worn through in just a few months. Ask around and you'll hear that they require a little breaking-in time, which is your first indication that they're sturdy enough to stand up to your day-to-day adventures. Second, I mean they're made in a factory where workers are treated fairly, and with responsibly sourced materials (the soles 18 to 22 percent naturally harvested Amazonian rubber, which helps prevent deforestation). In practice, that means you need to buy less, and the impact is lower when you do decide to re-up.

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Using harvested rubber in the soles of the V-10 helps prevent deforestation.

Photo by Tim Mulcare.

The brand deserves your attention.

The V-10 just isn't for you? That's fine—but maybe you should keep looking. Maybe you're more in the mood for a low-profile like the Campos, or the throwback vibe of the mesh-and-leather V-12. All I'm saying is that even if this shoe isn't a perfect fit, a brand like Veja is one you should keep your eye on. This is, after all, a company that posts the wages of its Brazilian manufacturing workers on its website, along with the price it pays for a kilogram of organic cotton. It's also a brand that'll tell you about the challenges it faces and why they matter, like explaining why leather production methods have changed, or how a drought necessitated the use of recycled cotton for a couple years. It's in-the-weeds, kind of nerdy stuff. And matters—a lot.


Veja’s "V" mark has become a kind of insider wink for sneaker fans.

Photo by Tim Mulcare.

Prop styling by Miako Katoh. Photography by Tim Mulcare

This story originally appeared on Minor edits have been made by the editors.

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About The Author
Jonathan Evans
Jonathan Evans is the style director of Esquire, covering all things fashion, grooming, accessories, and, of course, sneakers. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and son. You can follow him at @MrJonathanEvans on Twitter and Instagram.
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