What is a Dress Sneaker?

If you’re a relatively new fan of multi-purpose sneakers, you’re in for a treat. As you probably already know, sneakers are pervading almost every area of dress, be it casual, business-casual, semi-formal and even some formal events.

Sneakers, which have a rubber sole and flexible uppers, have the benefit of versatility. They may be comfortable—good for walking, traveling and the like. They may also be stylish, and thus the perfect alternative to high heels for women and standard dress shoes for men. Basically, a dress sneaker is perfect for those who want comfortable footwear but don’t want to sacrifice a sleek and sophisticated aesthetic.

For more about what a dress sneaker is and what makes a great pair, read on.

High-quality materials

As with any type of footwear, apparel or accessory, materials used factor into the quality, which ultimately determines whether or not that product can be considered luxury. Be it for low- or high-top sneaker styles, high-quality, not necessarily Italian, but certainly European, skins will elevate the look and feel of any pair of leather sneakers. Berluti uses materials (e.g., calf and alligator leather) that are on par with its dress shoe offerings, so it’s easy to see how such sneakers could be considered opulent and indulgent.

In terms of how and where the materials are allocated, not many companies use a leather insole, which maximizes comfort. Nike uses a sponge material, but the problem is that the rebound of such a material slackens after a while. Meanwhile, cardboard, which is used by Common Projects and other notable sneaker brands, is too stiff and will never break in.

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Supreme craftsmanship

How garments and accessories are made also plays a role in whether a sneaker can be considered dressy. That said, leather goods that take time are generally considered luxuries and thus, suitable for at least business-casual looks. Those that are thoughtfully designed and constructed are luxurious and lean towards formal. Of course, in the case of sneakers, they also have to be comfortable.

Another thing worth noting is that sneakers aren’t meant to last 20 years. Many designers, namely heritage brands both in the United States and abroad (think Alexander McQueen, Maison Margiela and Saint Laurent) and Italian fashion houses, make stiffer sneakers to last longer and thus justify the price. But it’s my humble opinion that if designers made sneakers softer to begin with and lowered their price points, it would be a lot better for the wearers.

Consumer preference

Your own taste and preferences play a role in what you might consider dressy enough, so the definition of such shoes is subjective. For those who spend an exceptional amount of time on their feet, comfort always comes first; but for most men and women, a combination of aesthetic and function is the sought-after sweet spot, and this is certainly the case when selecting shoes for dressier occasions.

From an aesthetic perspective, you may be more interested in a certain material, be it high-quality knit, canvas, suede or leather, and seek out the appropriate makers. For suede, for example, you may like Maison Margiela; and simple leather, you may look to Common Projects or FEIT.

Or you may be seeking a sleek, well-made white sneaker to complement many different formal looks, in which case you may look at KOIO.

The good news is that anything you like is pretty easily obtained, once you’ve nailed down what you’re looking for aesthetically, what feels good to walk in and what you’re willing to spend. (Dress sneakers range in price from approximately $350 to $4,000.)

When it’s all said and done, the best pair of dress sneakers will be a closet essential to you—one that you can enjoy for many events from both a style and a comfort perspective.

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Ready to order a pair of dress sneakers?

Just remember: There are a few major variables to consider when defining dress sneakers. The brand on its own doesn’t make a great pair of sneakers, even if it’s widely deemed a reputable or a heritage brand. Rather, it’s the quality and the reputation of the brand’s offerings, i.e., the elements afforded to make a beautifully constructed and visually appealing product, that define its excellence and wearability.

And as always, these are just guidelines for finding the perfect pair of dress 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 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 Esquivel

George Esquivel

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.