Think about the last few pairs of shoes you bought. If at least one pair of sneakers wasn’t among them, I’d be shocked. Sneakers have become a mainstay of luxury footwear. And while it may have been NikeⓇ who pioneered what’s now considered a modern sneaker (think Air JordanⓇ), there is a panoply of other brands, luxury brands specifically, behind the burgeoning sneaker market.
So, who makes the best luxury sneaker for men? There are quite a few designers; the best answer for you ultimately boils down to your need and penchant for trends over classic looks or vice versa. That’s why I’ve compiled a condensed list of designers and brands perfect for an assortment of consumers.
For a clunky, chunky or “ugly” look, head straight to BalenciagaⓇ. The brand’s Triple S sneaker, Speed sneaker and Track sneaker are in the mix of styles that offer a lot of look—and, actually, a popular look. An employee at the brand’s Madison Avenue location told The Wall Street Journal that when the first two colorways of Triple S sneakers launched in September 2017, they sold out in a half an hour.
If you’re searching for bespoke quality (and you’re content with paying comparable prices), BerlutiⓇ could very well be where you’ll find your perfect pair of sneakers. The brand mainly makes slim, low-cut sneakers crafted in calf or alligator leather, knit and canvas. Though, it does a good job of covering the gamut in terms of trends, with the Gravity and Shadow sneakers being chunkier style offerings and the Playtime sneakers being more minimalistic.
To lean closer into the realm of minimalistic high-fashion sneakers means to look at Brunello CucinelliⓇ, a luxury brand that designs for a slightly retro, more tailored look and ultra-luxurious feel. Essentially, its “wow factor” comes from an ability to create timeless styles from some of the best quality suede and leather and acute attention to craftsmanship.
Put simply, Common ProjectsⓇ was born for the extreme minimalist. The brand’s Achilles Low style tops the market of premium white leather sneakers, presumably because of its relaxed-yet-sumptuous look and feel. For shoes so simple, they carry a heavy price tag, which fans can justify based on their versatility (they go with practically any dressy or casual outfit).
Golden GooseⓇ offers low- and high-top sneakers unlike any other purveyor listed here. Its sneakers are subversively designed to look worn; each pair is complete with scuff marks, stains and the like that are achieved using exclusive treatments. What adds value is its proposition to customers to “write a story” using a selected combination of charms, crystals, studs and handwritten messages.
And while the worn and heavily adorned look may be a trend, it’s certainly not one that’s here today and gone tomorrow, as A-listers, from Jude Law to Virgil Abloh, have been sporting them for years.
From an aesthetic perspective, these sneakers usually have a slim profile with some signature motifs, like the stripes or the printed logo or both, though in some past seasons they’ve taken more creative liberties by adding distressed effects, embellishments and chunky rubber soles. Of course, you’ll need to ask yourself whether those details fall in line with your style and justify the price.
GucciⓇ products are very high quality, and its sneakers are no exception; they’re made with top-quality materials and attention to detail. Their styles are mostly classic—made of a slim profile with a brand-defining feature, like the stripes or the printed logo or both, though in some past seasons they’ve taken more creative liberties by adding distressed effects, embroidery and chunky rubber soles.
With designs that are nearly identical to fellow sneaker designer Common Projects, KOIOⓇ offers great options for those channeling luxurious minimalism for a lesser price (roughly $150 to $200 less). According to the brand’s website, KOIO manufactures in similar high-end factories and uses premium Italian leather for its styles; KOIO also offers more support (e.g., extra heel padding) in its shoes than its main competitor.
A sneaker that is aesthetically classic yet somehow unprecedented is made by Maison Margiela™. The brand produces its shoes with supreme-quality linens, cottons, suedes and bovine leathers, and with both creativity and craftsmanship in mind. Its iconic low- and high-top Replica sneakers, based on 20th-century German army trainers, come in a wide variety of colorways and effects to appeal to minimalists, maximalists and everyone in between.
From classic white low-tops to chunky sneakers in vibrant (if not sometimes lurid) hues, Nike has an array of sneaker offerings, and customization services, that can compete with the crème de la crème of luxury. Like many luxury brands, craftsmanship is paramount to Nike, and it’s widely understood that all of this comes from the brand’s value for versatility and meeting the needs of as many consumers as possible.
Over time, certain shoe designs have been adopted by crops of consumers both interested in sports and not. The brand’s Air Force 1 shoe, for example, became more than just a basketball shoe when consumers began to style them for everyday wear and dressier occasions; at the same time, collaborations like that with Off-WhiteⓇ founder and fashion designer Virgil Abloh helped marry traditional athletic footwear and high-fashion trends.
Since his debut in the mid-90s, Simons has made an indelible impact on the fashion industry and, more specifically, on the luxury sneaker market. His relationship with AdidasⓇ resulted in many noteworthy releases, like a Stan Smith strap and the RS Replicant Ozweego, and as a chief creative officer for Calvin KleinⓇ, he made several equally memorable models. Now, he’s still designing sneakers, but this time they’re for his eponymous label, with statement designs that rival Balenciaga and Maison Margiela.
For those looking to get behind a brand with earnest sustainability goals, VejaⓇ presents some enticing luxe sneaker options and a lot of transparency regarding how their shoes are made. You can find a full report on Veja’s sustainability efforts by visiting the brand’s website, but in short, what makes Veja a luxury sneaker brand are its extensive efforts to create a “green” pair of shoes, from its use of fair trade, organic materials and to its endeavors to remove hazardous chemicals from the production process.
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It’s important to note that these are just guidelines for purchasing the best luxury sneakers. With over 20 years in the fashion industry, Esquivel Shoes takes pride in being a high-quality resource for shoppers. To learn more about our men’s sneaker collection or any other products we offer, send us a message through this link. We’re here to give you peace of mind and help you find the best sneakers for you.
George is a Southern California-based designer and craftsman who designed his first pair of shoes in 1994 and began honing his craft thereafter. For over 20 years, he’s operated his namesake brand, Esquivel, which specializes in handmade shoes and accessories. In the last decade, George served as Creative Director of renowned luxury bag and luggage brand Tumi Inc. and as Creative Consultant for Italian heritage brand Fratelli Rossetti, and has collaborated with many others for his own brand. George was a 2009 CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund finalist, and has been a CFDA member since 2010. When he’s not working alongside his team of artisans at his atelier, Esquivel House, in Downtown Los Angeles, George is enjoying time with his wife and high school sweetheart, Shelley, and their three grown children. He also loves mountain biking and hosting good friends for dinners and fêtes.