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.
Table of Contents
- How to style minimalist trainers
- Why minimalist sneakers?
- The best minimalist sneaker brands in 2023
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 wide 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 kicks really came around with Common Projects, when the luxury sneaker 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 Common Projects alternatives. 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.
The best minimalist sneaker brands in 2023
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, with many referencing classic skate shoes. 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.
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. Whether you pick slick black leather kicks or a more out-there coloured suede, you're guaranteed quality.
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.
While North-89 has made a name for itself producing simply designed, well-made minimalist sneakers, the Swedish footwear label 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.
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.
As with the rest of its footwear offerings, Morjas' sneakers are designed to last – both in terms of durability and timeless style. Handcrafted from luxurious Italian leather, they feature durable rubber soles and cushioned insoles, for ultimate all-day comfort. The silhouette of each style is elegant and refined, with sleek lines for a smart city look.
WAHTS is an Amsterdam-based brand that specialises in everyday sports-luxe staples, blending luxury ready-to-wear men's clothing with functional sportswear. The label's minimalist sneakers epitomise its ethos of simple, stripped-back design. Choose from retro-inspired tennis sneakers, slip-on trainers or chunky runner styles. Crafted from premium materials including Italian suede and smooth leather, they'll stand the test of time.
Fifth generation family-run footwear label Crown Northampton has become synonymous with world-class handmade shoes. Using locally sourced materials and traditional British construction methods, it creates everything from meticulously detailed brogues to luxurious leather sneakers. Expect minimalist silhouettes, refined colour palettes and ultra-durable construction.
Shop all men's sneakers at OPUMO.