The Case Against White Sneakers

Every now and then I like to take a step back and cast a critical eye on some of the darlings of menswear. You might call it complaining. You’d be right.

But my goal here is to save you money and time. If you spend any time reading articles or watching videos online, you probably come across lists of “Timeless Menswear Staples” that you must have in your wardrobe. Time and again, the same items are regurgitated and then it just becomes an accepted fact that those items are great and worthy of your hard-earned scratch.

They aren’t.

In the past, I have discussed how items like henleys or denim jackets don’t really deserve all the hype they get.

Today, I am going to tackle why you should avoid white sneakers. Or trainers. Or tennis shoes. Or whatever you call them.

To be more specific, I’m talking about white sneakers when they are worn in some sort of semi-smart situation, like a business casual office. Usually, you’ll see menswear articles talk about how versatile a pair of crisp white sneakers can be and how they are an acceptable alternative to other types of footwear.

And I don’t disagree, per se. I think that if you absolutely HAD to wear a sneaker with tailoring or khakis or an odd jacket then, yes, a plain, white sneaker would be your best bet.

But here’s the thing: You never HAVE to wear sneakers in those scenarios. There is always a better option. If you’re going for something a little bit more dressed down than an oxford, you could do a brogue…

or a derby with a rubber sole…

Or a loafer…

Or a Chelsea or desert boot…

Or even a boat shoe if your outfit is very casual…

I also find that they aren’t all that practical given their color. In order to look good, you need to keep them gleaming white which requires a level of care that I just can’t justify for sneakers, which are supposed to be utilitarian and used for exercise. I knew a guy once who would scrub his white sneakers with a toothbrush every night in order maintain their pristine condition. And since they are white, they need to be cleaned more often than a darker shoe since any level of dirt or grime will be obvious.

I’ll happily polish a pair of leather shoes, but there is no way I am scrubbing my sneakers with a toothbrush. That’s a level of fussiness I cannot handle.

If you need to clean them so often, why wear them at all? Doesn’t that kind of defeat the purpose of wearing something ostensibly easy-breezy like a pair of sneakers?

Here is another downside to their color: If you wear bright white shoes, your FEET will be the first thing people notice about you. Not your face. Your feet. Is that what you want? Are your feet your most interesting attribute? Gene Kelly wore white socks when he danced because he wanted people to look at his feet.

But I presume YOU want people to focus on your face. If you are wearing bright white shoes, your face is not what others will be looking at.

Here’s my final gripe with white sneakers. They only look passably good on very young men. The kind of men who have not yet moved on from the goofy, youthful enthusiasm that we all had at that age.

But now, you are well into your career. You might even be eyeing a promotion. You have a spouse and children. Maybe there’s some grey on your temples or in your beard. You should be wearing a shoe that reflects your position in life as a provider and a leader.

Sneakers aren’t going to cut it. You won’t be taken as seriously wearing sneakers.

Well-made leather shoes or manly boots both have such a higher coolness factor than sneakers.

To sum up, if you’re young, dressed very casually, and don’t mind the upkeep, then knock yourself out with your white sneakers.

If you’re like me, however, you’d rather look like an adult and go with any of the other superior options.

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