The 5 Sneakers You Need

Build your looks from the feet up with these five sneaker styles

Words: Dylan Muhlenberg | Illustrations: Kelly Poole

You probably have a closet full of sneakers already, and that’s cool, no judgment, everyone should own multiple pairs of kicks. It’s when you’re sitting on the exact same style in sixteen different colourways that you start to do your aesthetic a disservice.

Now we’d never do something so silly as advocate owning only five pairs of shoes (the horror!) – what we’re saying is that you need at lease a single pair in each of the following five styles in order to live your best life. That’s a performance shoe, a going-out sneaker, something plain, a retro classic and a pair of beaters.

The clincher is that you can then populate these categories with not only the most influential sneakers of all time and the best sneaker designs ever, but you’ll also have the right stuff to create multiple looks from the feet up.

The canvas beater

Our pick: Converse Chuck Taylor All Star

They say: GQ magazine calls these "the motorcycle jacket of shoes" and we’re not going to argue. They’re tough, versatile and look better the more you beat them up.

Why they’re dope: The oldest sneaker style on this page and in the world, the Converse Chuck Taylor made its debut a century ago. We’re including it here and not in the retro throwback category because it’s not a reissue, it’s a kick that never went away.

Wear with: Ripped denim, band Tee and a worn-in baseball cap.

Honourable mentions: Superga Classic, Vans Authentic

The tech sneaker

Our pick: Nike Huarache

They say: “Have you hugged your foot today?” Creative from the original ad in 1991.

Why they’re dope: Tinker Hatfield’s design was inspired by water-skis and featured a neoprene sock contained within the upper and a thermoplastic heel strap. Eschewing overt branding in order to focus on the tech on display, this is one of the purest performance footwear designs ever.

Wear with: The best thing about wearing the type of kicks usually associated with the gear inside an Olympiads kitbag? They work as well with joggers and a bomber jacket when worn to your local watering hole as they do on the track. 

Honourable mentions: adidas Equipment Support ADV

Retro throwback

Our pick: adidas Originals Gazelle

They say: “It’s quite a versatile shoe with subtle luxe finishes, and because it’s a classic it's easy to interpret in various ways that fit into our general New Horizons aesthetic.” So said FAKA, who went on to point out that it’s cute how they were both born in 1991 and that this Gazelle is based on that 90s version.

Why they’re dope: While we’re all about trends, we’re never going to chase them, and for us we’d rather stay relevant with a shoe steeped in simplicity. The Gazelle has remained relatively unchanged since it was issued all those years ago and will still be a go-to-shoe when we finally get the hoverboards we were promised.

Wear with: Tapered denim, long-line Tee and statement socks.

Honourable mentions: Vans Old Skool, Nike Cortez, Puma Clyde, Onitsuka Tiger Mexico 66, adidas Stan Smith

Plain white sneaker

Our pick: ReebokClassic

They say: “Hip-hop was more than just the music; it was part of culture, it was part of having style, it was a part of graffiti and arts. It was only right I wore the Reebok Classics then. I still remain that classic guy, and that’s the reason why I’m wearing the shoes now.” Kendrick Lamar.

Why they’re dope: After the flip-flop, the plain white sneaker is the most ubiquitous shoe of the summer.

Wear with: Whether you’re wearing yours with crisp chinos, tailored shorts or a sharp suit, they’ll upgrade whatever you’re wearing to star status.

Honourable mentions: Nike Air Force 1 Uptown, adidas Stan Smith

The smart sneaker

Our pick: Vans Sk8-Hi Reissue Zip

They say: "Leather luxury!" - Devon Daniels, Superbalist sneaker buyer.

Why they’re dope: Every guy needs a pair of grown-ass man sneakers. They're perfectly understated, which makes them suitable for the office and the type of venue that has a dress-code door policy. A more dressed-up sneaker that’s not as stuffy as traditional lace-ups, they’re the footwear of choice for when you want to look stylish.

Wear with: A suit is the obvious choice, as is your smartest denim, but just as long as you keep things minimal and put in some effort you’ll look great every time.

Honourable mentions: G-Star Raw Scuba, Timberland Cupsole Chukka, Diesel S-nentis Strap