I’ve been wearing the same shoes for a decade. Not the same pair of shoes, mind you, but the same kind of shoes: white nondescript low-tops with chunky heels. The men’s (or rather, unisex) equivalent to sensible black pumps, white sneakers form the foundation of my lazy uniform dressing — neutral enough to go with any outfit for (almost) any occasion. On any day of the week you’ll find me in one of the dozen pairs I own.
Bandwagoners have come and gone since 2006 — the Bedford Avenuers in Chuck Taylors, #menswear bros in Common Projects, tenth-graders in Vans. Soon, too, the mob will move on from Stan Smiths. I’ll still be here, hopefully adding to my collection with several of the men’s styles below. And before you say anything, yes, I do own many of these already, but as any white-sneaker connoisseur knows, you’re supposed to have at least two pairs of your favorite style. There’s the pair you keep pristine — and the one you beat the shit out of.
For someone who’s never touched a skateboard in his life
The first pair of white sneakers I ever owned — compared to the more well-known Authentic Pro, these have a lower stance (notice that it has four pairs of lace holes rather than the Authentic’s five), which I prefer with an invisible sock and pegged-jean look, especially in the summer. I take a pair of scissors and cut off the tiny tag hanging off the outside, though that’s a matter of personal preference.
For that friend who thinks he’s Alain Delon
In the strictest sense, these are off-white rather than snow-colored, and I don’t love the little tan tab at the heel announcing the label you’re wearing, but I am into the profile of these shoes and its slightly translucent sole. The deeply grainy leather is a luxe touch perfect for wearing with a casj suit.
For the uber-minimalist
The Adrian has such an attractively thick rubber sole, with rounded edges at the toe that make it look like you’re almost floating. There’s something very cool about the way they’re laced, too — wider and looser near the toe, and tapering like a carrot toward the ankle. I’m always eyeing these, and they’re never on sale, which is both maddening and unsurprising.
For the person who’s self-conscious about his height
The platform on these sneakers verges on the absurd, but it’s actually what I love most about them. The Stockholm-based Eytys has earned something of a cult following for (relatively) affordable fancy sneakers — I own a pair in leather (which I generally prefer to canvas for easy cleaning) and practically live in them. The cork sole is so comfortable I can forego my usual Dr. Scholl’s gel inserts.
For the snob who’s so over Stan Smiths
Something of an Adidas ripoff (let’s call it an homage), these shoes have a similar “puffy” leather upper, only stripped way down. Before I bought these last month, I thought the marbling on the sole would bother me (it reads almost as dirty in photos), but in fact, it’s hardly noticeable at all, and makes the scuffing I create on the shoes look almost artful.
Note: These are sold out on Ssense, but there are several sizes left from Bloomingdale’s.
For that Williamsburg friend who just moved to Crown Heights
I’m not into the Chuck Taylor with the red-and-white stripeage you saw on every male who worked at Condé Nast in the mid-aughts (too patriotic), but the leather version in all-white is a stunner. I wouldn’t wear these with nice slacks or even black jeans (they’re not quite elegant enough), but with some skinny blue Levi’s, they’re killer.
For the guy who does it for the ‘gram
The Platonic ideal of the whisper-quiet white sneaker, I want to hate these so much only because they’re so perfect, such a no-brainer, that they bespeak no taste at all (basic in the good way turned basic in the bad way). In truth, I’m probably just jealous. Every time I see some guy in gorgeous shoes on Instagram, they’re inevitably Achilles. Everything about this shoe, from the laces to the profile to the toe box to the sole, is exquisite. I have not and probably will not ever own a pair.
For the wannabe Dickie Greenleaf
The only slip-on on this list! Of course former Bergdorf Goodman men’s director Nick Wooster has created the perfect white slip-on. It looks luxe and vaguely moccasinish (is it the roundness of the toe?) in the jauntiest way. I’d wear these on holiday in Sorrento with swim trunks and a half-buttoned linen shirt pretending to be Jude Law in The Talented Mr. Ripley.
For the slightly pretentious pal always referencing Serge Gainsbourg
The gold rivets on these ivory sneakers almost justify their more-expensive-than-canvas-should-be price. I love that the toe rises off the ground — in profile, they have an almost naturalistic shape, like a more evolved (to borrow Pokémon-speak) form of Vans.
Note: These are sold out, but here is a very similar pair that also has gold rivets.
For the lumbersexual
A lot of SeaVees sneakers are overly preppy to me, but these all-white versions avoid that vibe — the slightly contrast off-white of the sole is a nice touch (though not the brown-gum sole that designers will use to ruin otherwise perfectly good white shoes). I would take Wite-Out to remove the loud SeaVees on the heel of the sole, though.
For the actually athletic dude wearing athleisure
I don’t, but if I did play tennis, I would do so in Tretorns, imagining I was Björn Borg for a few sets. The vertical hash lines near the front sole are so distinct, and even the way the canvas upper is put together (its lines running almost parallel rather than perpendicular to the shoe) is specific and charming: You always know a Tretorn when you see it.
For someone with taste without being annoying about it
I have in my lifetime cycled through at least ten pairs of Superga Cotus (I’m currently off them, but only temporarily). They’re incredibly comfortable, firstly, with no breaking-in necessary or weird footbed to contend with, and, secondly, because they’ll never approach the ubiquity of a Vans or Converse (is it because they’re Italian?), you feel like you’re part of some secret tribe.
For the friend who’s deep in ‘90s nostalgia
When I was in middle school, K-Swiss really enjoyed a moment (“I wear my K-Swiss”), but now that I’m no longer a seventh-grader, my tastes hew more toward the hardware-less, properly tied styles that you can’t immediately peg as the California brand. These fit the bill.
Note: This K-Swiss style is no longer available from Zappos, but it is on Amazon.
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