[dropcap size=small]S[/dropcap]ome time ago, sneaker fans who paired said casual shoes with non-casual outfits typically fell into one of three categories: senior citizens with appropriately wizened feet requiring abundant cushioning; those with a wilful disregard for, or woeful ignorance of, a basic tenet of style; and Steve Jobs. Today, however, the man who completes his dressy gear with a pair of sneaks has a different classification: stylish.

But it’s not just any old pair of running shoes that can rise up to the (formal) occasion. While recent years have seen a resurgence of classic models by Converse and Adidas, pulling off smart sneaker-accented style is generally easier with the premium versions that have been emerging in greater numbers of late. These high-end sneakers are typically made from luxe materials like leather, which makes them look less incongruous with tailored looks.

Consider, for instance, Berluti’s Playtime sneakers (below). Crafted from a single piece of leather, and featuring the brand’s signature patinated finish, we reckon they look smarter than many dress shoes out there.


(RELATED: Fashion Trends in 2016: Men are accessorising and looking great while at it.)

Indeed, the luxe sneaker has come a long way since Gucci launched its first tennis whites in 1984. Today, there are a growing number of specialist sneaker brands, such as New York-based Common Projects, while just about every designer fashion brand out there has come up with its own rubber-soled shoes. What separates this category from mass-market brands: premium materials and construction (Common Projects shoes, for instance, are handmade in Italy).

According to Daniel Todd, buyer for popular men’s online retailer Mr Porter, the site’s sneaker sales have increased by more than 200 per cent from 2013 to 2015. With more than 15,000 pairs sold and counting, Common Projects is Mr Porter’s top-performing brand, although Todd adds that “other luxury brands’ sneakers are performing well these days”, singling out labels like Lanvin, Balenciaga, Valentino and Saint Laurent. The rise of the high-end sneaker is hardly surprising. After all, if there’s one thing that is as timeless as style, it’s comfort.

4 Names To Know

Some of the hottest premium specialist brands that are putting their own spin on the sneaker.

Sole Mates

The latest trends and how to wear them.

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Sneaker Stats

Facts and figures of a fast-growing category.

US$55 billion

Value of the global sneaker industry.

[dropcap size=small]Gucci[/dropcap] The first luxury brand to set foot in the sneaker world, with its tennis shoes in 1984.


US$4 million

What goes into the “most expensive sneakers in the world”. Proceeds from the sale will benefit non-profit organisation Soles4Souls.

US$75 vs US$400

The price of regular Adidas Stan Smith sneakers vs the price of Adidas Stan Smiths by fashion designer Raf Simons.

[dropcap size=small]2002[/dropcap] Year in which Adidas joined forces with designers Yohji Yamamoto and Jeremy Scott.



Sneakers account for half the sales of Christian Louboutin’s men’s collection.

US$10 million

Common Projects’ annual revenue in 2014.

[dropcap size=small]1[/dropcap] A single piece of the brand’s patinated leather makes up the upper of the Berluti Playtime sneaker.