Fashion

The Final Word on Wearing Sneakers With a Suit

We put this contentious style conundrum to rest... sort of.
IMAGE Instagram.com/JCrewMens
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“Is it okay to wear sneakers with a suit?” 

It’s a simple, straightforward question—but one that just won't fucking die, no matter how many times it’s been asked and addressed in style advice columns everywhere, and in arguments with your wife throughout the weeks leading up to her cousin’s wedding. The question comes up a lot, no doubt, because we love our comfortable, stylish sneakers; and also because we sometimes like to dress with a little rebellious affectation. The suit, in many ways, is a symbol of code and conformity, so it’s especially tempting to subvert it with something like—gasp—rubber soled footwear!? Heresy!

And yet the question hasn’t been settled upon, of course, because even the experts don’t agree. Answers range from “Yes” to flat-out “No” to “Not unless you’re Robert Downey Jr.” But for what it’s worth, here’s what we think.

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In the words of Alma Moreno: Yes...with reservations.

Yes, it’s okay to wear sneakers with a suit.

But we’re not anarchists. Sartorial relativists, maybe, but not anarchists.

We do believe that real style must abide by general rules of taste and aesthetics, but wearing sneakers with a suit is a matter too general to dismiss outright. For most guys (i.e. the sort of men who think it’s acceptable to wear Air Jordans to a wedding), it tends to look sloppy and juvenile and even pompous—like you’re desperate to inject some character into your outfit.

On the other hand, in an appropriate occasion, and with the right sneakers, it really can be done in a way that looks good and feels right. All it takes is a little judiciousness. And while that sort of judiciousness can’t really be taught, here are three paramount guidelines to get you started in the right direction.

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Choose the right occasion. Before making any other decision about whether or not it’s okay to wear your sneakers with a suit, ask yourself if it’s to an appropriate occasion. Outdoor weddings and beach weddings are the best examples of this—they demand the practicality of rubber-soled shoes, but also the formality of a suit. For other times, gauge how much leeway you have to dress casually. Regular day at the office? Sure, if you work in the right kind of office. Formal event? Maybe, if it’s an outdoor affair, and if not everyone will be dressed in all-out formalwear. You have to call your own shots here, but always err on the safe side. When in doubt, choose “appropriate” over “stylish.”

Only the slimmest, most minimal sneakers are up to the task. Basketball sneakers other than Chuck Taylors are categorically off-limits.

Not all sneakers can be pulled off with a suit. And by “not all,” we mean “very few.” Only the slimmest, most minimal sneakers are up to the task. Basketball sneakers other than Chuck Taylors are categorically off-limits. Chuck Taylors are generally off-limits too, except maybe the classic 1970s Chucks. Modern performance sneakers, whether for running or any other sport, are all generally off-limits. Anything high-cut is off-limits. Most mid-cut sneakers are off-limits. Stick to lifestyle sneakers, and always choose the most simple, straightforward silhouettes.

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Consider the suit you’re wearing. Never pair a black suit with sneakers. Ever. If you really must, wear your sneakers with a blue, gray, or brown suit—or any other color, if you think you can pull it off. But black suits? Those go with black dress shoes only. Lastly—and this rule applies whether or not you’d like to wear sneakers—make sure it fits right. Slim through the leg, with one or no break at the bottom.

If you really must, wear your sneakers with a blue, gray, or brown suit—or any other color, if you think you can pull it off. But black suits? Never.

If you need help picking out sneakers that pair best with a suit, here are the few that have our seal of approval.

Common Projects Achilles

This is the fool-proof sneaker for grown-ass men. It’s the epitome of all sneakers-to-be-worn-with-a-suit, because it’s slim, minimal, and made of the choicest leathers. It’s hard to go wrong with these.

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Available at Homme et Femme, EDSA Shangri-La Plaza, Mandaluyong City

adidas Stan Smith

We’re hesitant to cosign such a popular shoe, but there’s no way around it. The Stan Smith, in its 21st-century incarnation, looks great with a suit. If you can find yourself a pair in a colorway that isn’t on everyone else’s feet, go right ahead.

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Available at select adidas Originals retailers nationwide.

Doek Oxford

Japanese brand Doek carries a pretty good plimsoll called the Oxford, made with premium canvas and shaped better than your ordinary Vans Authentics. Especially in all-white, these are nice and simple; perfect for a suit.

Available at Regiment Store, Legazpi Street, Makati City

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Eytys Mother Canvas

Eytys has always had this Scandinavian brand of fashionable rebelliousness to it—and the Mother Canvas is their most popular sneaker. This is the kind of shoe that adds character without screaming for attention.

Available at Hoodwink, SM Aura Premier, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City

Nike Internationalist

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The Internationalist is one of the few releases from Nike in recent years that actually has a nice, classic vibe about it, which works with a suit the same way a pair of New Balance 574s would.

Available at select Nike retailers nationwide.

Zespa ZSP4

Here’s a lesser-known French label that happens to put out some of the best luxury sneakers you can find here in Metro Manila. Nice, supple white leather and a slim silhouette—a slightly more affordable alternative to anything by Common Projects.

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Available at Assembly, SM Aura Premier

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About The Author
Miguel Escobar
Assistant Features Editor for Esquire Philippines
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