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.
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.
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.
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.
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 construction 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.
LØCI creates vegan sneakers that are not only minimalist in style, but have minimal impact on the environment. Handmade in Portugal from 100% recycled materials, they boast a water-resistant upper, custom-made cork insole and a lightweight recycled rubber sole for extra durability in creating a no-slip rubber grip. If that's not enough, 10% of profits are given to LØCI's charity partners who are working to save the oceans.
As a certified B Corp company, Cariuma is committed to using responsible and eco-conscious materials, maintaining ethical factories, employing a strict code of conduct in day-to-day operations and giving back to eco-friendly organisations. Cariuma's minimalist trainers are available in a range of understated colourways and clean silhouettes. Keep it classic with plain white canvas, or add a touch flair with coloured suede detailing.
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.
Hylo creates high-performance running shoes from materials that are renewable, circular and resource-light. With a focus on quality of construction over heavy branding, the resulting look is sleek and simple. Choose from versatile hues like Sand, Khaki, Orange and Black.
Velasca's Italian-made shoes are crafted using only the finest materials, ensuring they'll stand the test of time. Every style of shoe — including its leather sneakers — is timeless in style, underpinned by a refined Italian elegance. With their sleek silhouettes and luxurious leather construction, Velasca's trainers can be effortlessly dressed up or down.
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 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 Amsterdam 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.
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.
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'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.
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.
Los Angeles-based sneaker label CLAE creates footwear that bridges the gap between work and play and day and night, prioritising ultimate versatility to suit the demands of modern life. In an effort to buck trends, CLAE's sneaker offering is characterised by a refined minimalist aesthetic that stands the test of time. Think clean lines, simple silhouettes and understated colour palettes.
Everything Aurélien creates is underscored by its philosophy of 'Smart Luxury' – making high-quality items affordable. Its minimalist men's sneakers adhere to an elegant aesthetic, with a focus on quality of craftsmanship over fussy extraneous detailing. Trainers are crafted in either super-smooth nappa leather or Softey suede, which comes exclusively from French calves and is treated in one of the most renowned tanneries in Italy.
Since its inception, French label Zespà has firmly cemented itself as a major player in the world of men's premium sneakers. Its design language draws inspiration from the Mediterranean, resulting in shoes that are imbued with timeless design; boasting excellent construction, clean lines and a Provençal colour palette.
Comovita is creating the world's most sustainable shoes through a winning combination of a zero-waste promise, a made to order model and the exclusive use of sustainable materials and ethical factories. The brand champions a timeless aesthetic through clean silhouettes, neutral colourways and the removal of any extraneous details. These are sneakers that will take you anywhere and everywhere
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