First of all, let it be clear: I love Converse, since about forever. They’re like the Switzerland of athletic-y footwear: all kinds of folks wear them, whether they’re emo kids, punks, moms on the playgrounds, or kid-kids. They’ve always been classic, and cool, no matter what the trend is.
But sometimes you really need shoes to perform in some way, and sometimes if you’re on your feet all day — and chasing after a toddler — you need just a tad more support in terms of the heel and arch department.
For me, it was time for an upgrade. Plus, my trusty black Converse that I’ve had for about 10-plus years finally just fell apart, after years of being hole-y but still viable. I needed a casual, non-running but still active sneaker type of shoe that let me be on my feet a lot of the day, but were kind of cool and even elegant.
Luckily, we are in a very good footwear moment, when sneakers are once again very cool to wear beyond the gym. (Thank you, Phoebe Philo and athleisure in general!) A fashion sneaker is pretty simple: an athletic shoe that somehow looks cool with outfits that aren’t workout gear, athleisure notwithstanding. I don’t know what weird mind-shaping cabal out there confers the halo of fashion over some sneakers over others, but let’s face it — some shoes have it, and others don’t.
Despite the caprice and whim of the fashion angels, there are happily lots of options for many different aesthetics out there. (Though romantic hippie bohemians still probably look best with a simple, neat Converse to go with flowy blouses and skinny jeans or floaty little sundresses…thus underscoring the genius of Converse, really.) Here’s a little rundown of current and recent-past fashion sneakers — I’m pretty sure there’s something for anyone here, no matter what your fashion stripes (or plaid, or floral, or whatever!) may be.
These are about the same price point as Converse, but many reviews comment on their sturdier soles and arch support. Plus, they are Italian-fancy, and Italians do have an elegant take on sportwear in general. I can say after wearing them for a bit that I love them — they’re versatile, comfortable and fun, which is an A+ in my book. I ended up not keeping these because they were just too big — I have tiny feet! — but I do find they worked well with the French-y tomboy basic side of my wardrobe.
This is a French ‘heritage’ brand that some of my most fashion-savvy friends adore. Their shoes really do look very Converse-y — after all, they were designed for clay tennis courts back in the way — but with a pared-down, almost futuristic slant on the design. These seem very hard to find in the U.S., so if by chance you are in Paris and pick up a pair, you can be pleased with your fashion-forwardness!
I only mention these if you are loaded but into FASHION-FASHION. But Common Projects has that stealth-wealth and -cool thing going on. I can’t buy them, though, because they’re pretty spendy. But this is a G.I. Joe “knowing is half the battle” mention, I guess!
This is the most tomboy option on the list, IMHO. (‘IMHO’ = so old-school Internet slang!) What could be cooler than an old-school skater shoe? I’m thinking of getting a high-top pair for the fall — they’re super sturdy, very comfy and telegraph ‘I’m a mom but I know what I’m doing when it comes to street fashion.’ Which is sometimes a message you want to convey, when you have some time and energy! I think these will work well for the funkier avant-y side of my wardrobe. I think of Vans as the athletic ankle boot, in a way — if you are wearing something casual-sexy but a heeled ankle boot feels too Kardashian-like, wear Vans! That’s my theory, anyway.
This is another tomboy option, especially if you are hearting the retro-90s thing. I do love an old-school Adidas Gazelle, but the Stan Smith is always on point — and very Phoebe Philo-y as well. And if anyone does cool, elegant, chic practical mom well, it’s her! Now Gazelles come in a number of amazing hues, which makes them especially fun for the indie/waif/ingenue types out there. I have to admit, some of these colors are just wonderful.
Old-school and on the preppier side, Tretorns are great for classic and what I call summer-camp fashion types: sporty, basic, a touch Cali. A few fancy French types I know also love Tretorns for their very gently retro Americana-ness, so you know these are legit.
There is something pleasingly Euro-basic about New Balance that brands like Nike or whatever don’t really have. I’m not sure what it is — the charmingly basic logo and stripes and dots, the vague retrofuturistic lines and proportions that accommodate all kinds of color combinations? I don’t know, except that I see stylish people of all kinds adopt them: L.A.-ish sophisticates, 90s Japanese minimalists, preppy tomboys, indie rockish types.
Because, after all, they are classics for a reason! The ultimate Switzerland of athletic shoes, really.
I actually ended up returning the pair of Supergas I got…and now I’m wondering if I should get a pair of Vans or a pair of Adidas Gazelles. (Because those colors!) But I’m learning towards a pair of grey high-top Vans. Decisions, decisions…or, if someone wants to get me a pair for the holidays? Because they’re coming sooner than you’d think…!!!