In 2021, sneakers are as popular as ever. The ugly sneaker trend is still going strong, but so is the clean and polished leather look. Regardless of which look you’re going for, these sneakers are offered at all kinds of price points and made with varying levels of craftsmanship. So, how do you choose?
As someone who has worked in the footwear industry for decades, it’s easy to see that there’s high value in a well-made pair of shoes. Two brands on both ends of the spectrum in terms of style are Golden GooseⓇ and Common ProjectsⓇ. They’ve garnered a cult following since their founding in the last 15 to 20 years, having made waves for their novel approaches to both sneaker design and production.
If you’ve been researching the best luxury sneaker, and you’ve narrowed it down to these two brands, this post is for you. So, without further adieu, here is the ultimate buying guide for Golden Goose vs. Common Projects shoes.
Golden Goose: Thoughtful and full of creativity
In the last decade, The Cut and several other high fashion authorities argued that Italian brand Golden Goose began the ugly sneaker trend with its pre-distressed, leather Superstar sneakers.
“‘Pre-distressed’” is putting it nicely; even when covered in crystals, these kicks looked busted, as though they’d already spent years pounding the grimy New York pavement,” Emilia Petrarca wrote in 2017. “But that was the point, and [people] were willing to pay such a steep price for seemingly used footwear because they were unlike anything else on the market.”
Such a value proposition is what sneakerheads and fashion nerds continue to love about the brand; designers Francesca Rinaldo and Alessandro Gallo’s subversive approach to design and exclusive treatments are pluses, and what adds even more desirability is its suggestion to customize sneakers using a selected combination of charms, crystals, studs and handwritten messages.
Common Projects: Among the most versatile
Common Projects is the brainchild of Flavio Girolami and Prathan Poopat. The duo basically created a line of sneakers for the extreme minimalist, and I say that not only based on their simple approach to design but because such an approach makes the footwear easy to dress up or down. The brand’s Achilles Low style tops the market of premium white leather sneakers and is favored among celebrities and technology CEOs alike, undoubtedly because of its relaxed-yet-sumptuous look and feel. But really, the same goes for all of the sneaker brand’s offerings—shoppers can choose from several neutral colorways, as well as high-top, platform and laceless models, to accommodate many preferences.
Common Projects sneakers come in far fewer colorways than those by Golden Goose, but for those who are looking for one pair of sneakers to go with everything, perhaps that doesn’t matter much.
Both: High-quality leather or fabric with less focus on overall comfort
High-quality, not necessarily Italian, but certainly European, skins will elevate the look and feel of sneakers, and that’s certainly the case for both Common Projects and Golden Goose sneakers. Both use Italian or otherwise high-quality leather, and this is perhaps the most obvious reason why fashion people call them top sneaker brands.
In terms of how and where the materials are allocated, not many companies use a leather insole, which maximizes comfort. Instead, companies use less expensive materials but sacrifice comfort and quality in the process. Common Projects is known to use cardboard, which is very stiff and won’t break in at all; meanwhile, the makeup of any pair of Golden Goose sneakers seems to vary, despite the shoes being known for having hidden wedges in the soles.
Both: Made by hand with acute attention to detail
In these times, makers use the term “handmade” pretty liberally, and some use machinery to avoid such costs. (It’s far more expensive to employ a craftsman than it is to buy and utilize a machine for production.) But when products are made by skilled shoemakers from start to finish there is an assurance of exceptional quality and that no detail will be overlooked. This should be the case for both Common Projects and Golden Goose, who both bill their footwear as wholly handmade.
To provide more context about the benefit of handmade, experienced artisans rely on traditional shoe-making techniques because they’re known to ensure longevity. Such an approach generally includes cutting the leather or fabric; sewing together the necessary pieces; mounting the materials onto the shoe mold; attaching soles to the shoes; and adding details like a shoe tattoo.
Of course, taking a handmade approach to footwear means great expense to make the shoes and thus a greater cost to the consumer, which certainly seems to be the case for both of these sneaker brands.
It’s also worth noting that handmade is not the same as made-to-order. Golden Goose and Common Projects shoes are billed to be handmade (at least in part), but they’re not made-to-order, which essentially means they’re not made upon request.
To learn more about made-to-order shoes, check out this article.
Ready to order a pair of luxury sneakers?
As always, these are just guidelines for purchasing luxury sneakers. With over 20 years in the fashion industry, Esquivel Shoes takes pride in being a valuable resource for shoppers. To learn more about our own 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.