Perhaps the most versatile and easiest to wear of all trainer styles, minimalist sneakers boast simple, fuss-free designs that wear well with everything from workwear to tailoring.

If you’re after a new pair of trainers that are both comfortable and effortlessly cool, minimalist sneakers should be high on your wish list. Whilst their style is characterised by understated design, clean silhouettes and refined details, minimalist sneakers can take many forms. Choose low-top or high-top; canvas or leather; slip on or laced.

How to style minimalist trainers

Wear them with denim:

For a versatile weekend look, you can’t go wrong with minimalist trainers worn with classic blue denim jeans, a plain white tee and retro-inspired sunglasses. Make sure to roll the hem of your jeans a couple of times to show off the sneakers. 

Wear them with workwear:

A workwear-inspired look will never fail when finished off with some minimalist sneakers. A pair of wider leg trousers and an overshirt will tone down the smart casual elements of the shoes, as will some sports-inspired striped socks. 

Go for a tonal look:

To play along with the trainer’s smart potential though, go for a tonal navy look, which is just as ideal for the office as for the weekend. Break up the dark navy hues with other subtle neutral colours, like grey, black or brown.

Why minimalist sneakers?

The first wave of minimalist sneakers really came around with Common Projects, when the brand launched back in 2004. The proposition was simple: take a tennis-inspired silhouette, strip back all the extraneous detailing, and craft them out of beautiful Italian leather. 

That formula has proven especially popular over the last decade and a half, with numerous brands cropping up and offering similar styles. Emphasis has been placed on construction methods, too. Many brands are upping their quality with hand-stitched soles and metal shanks the likes of which you’d usually find in Goodyear-welted leather dress shoes

A good pair of minimalist sneakers won’t only last though. They’re arguably the smartest way into the sneaker game, and with their slim designs and premium leather they work especially well as a smart casual crossover shoe. Wear them with denim jeans or sharp office attire, and you can’t go wrong. 

The best minimalist sneaker brands in 2021

JAK

Founded in Lisbon in 2014, JAK has quickly made a name for itself as a key player in the world of minimalist footwear. The label strictly adheres to principles of high quality craftsmanship and slow fashion: Its refined and understated sneakers are made from locally sourced full-grain leather and sold direct to the consumer, cutting out middle men and unnecessary costs.



Uniform Standard

Known as much for its sustainability as it is producing expertly designed minimal sneakers, Uniform Standard is a great place to start. From its East London studio, Uniform Standard makes use of the best quality Italian leathers and suedes, while remaining conscious about its affects on the environment. 



Oliver Cabell

Oliver Cabell is innovative in the way it approaches its business. In offering its minimal sneakers direct to the consumer, skipping out the middle man and all the costs associated with that, its shoes come in at a far lower price point than some of its other competitors. Its trainers are handmade in Italy using Italian leather, soles and even laces – so you can be guaranteed top notch quality.



ETQ

ETQ has recently ventured into proper leather shoes the likes of Chelsea boots and derbies, but it’s best known for its laid-back sneakers. Working with a range of leather and colourful suedes, the brand’s signature LT 01 model is highly rated, with its crisp white colourway and impressive build quality. 



North-89

While North-89 has made a name for itself producing simply designed, well-made minimalist sneakers, it’s also innovated by updating the classic silhouette with breathable mesh uppers and gum soles. Sitting at a price point more accessible than others, the brand is a great option if you’re after minimalist trainers with a point of difference. 



SAYE

When SAYE was founded in 2017 it set out with the plan to plant two trees for every sale of its well-made, beautifully styled sneakers. Over 165,000 trees later, SAYE is still going strong, and is well known for its pared back take on retro styled sneakers of the ‘80s. The brand even has a vegan and recycled range, reinforcing its status as a leader in eco-friendly footwear.



Artisan Lab

Artisan Lab's goal is to prioritise quality over quantity, by producing limited runs of meticulously made products – including sneakers. An optimised last, long-lasting cushioning and interchangeable insoles ensure ultimate comfort, while use of the highest quality ethically sourced Italian leather, in tandem with special reinforcements on key points of the shoes, offer sturdiness. These are shoes that will see you through years of wear.



Axel Arigato

Swedish design powerhouse Axel Arigato is renowned for its minimalist sneakers, which are understated yet playful and never boring. Its most iconic model is the Clean 90, which boasts a sleek, simple silhouette and comes in all manner of styles – from classic black and white leather to the BeeBird, featuring the brand's signature bird motif.



Royal RepubliQ

Danish label Royal RepubliQ creates high quality leather products that always adhere to the philosophy of 'form follows function'. Its trainers are perfectly pared back in design and consciously crafted from the highest quality leather, to ensure that every step you take is meaningful.



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