The grown-up guide to sneakers

— by Alyson Walsh

Photos: Claire Pepper


In the 1970s, wearing sneakers was a subversive act (Mick Jagger married Bianca Perez-Mora Macias in a pair). Now that dress codes are more relaxed and ‘Sports Luxe’ has gone mainstream, pimped-up trainers are a mainstay of many designer collections. The sports shoe has gone from casual outsider to modern staple – women are now buying more trainers than high heels, and that’s a fact. Soothing news to anyone who rates being able to walk the distance over Taxi Shoes.

I’ve always liked wearing trainers. Whether they’re in fashion or not, to me, a pair of neutral sneakers teamed with a tailored jacket and slim or slouchy pants is an essential part of dressed-down daywear. Moving around and being comfortable becomes imperative as we get older, making grown-up sneakers a footwear essential.


Go back to old school

If in doubt, opt for timeless sports shoes that look just as good today as the first time you begged mum to buy you a pair. It’s why I’m still wearing my Adidas Stan Smiths. A lot. There is a reason why this plain, simple style has been worn off-court for decades. They’re easy to wear and easy to coordinate. Plus, juxtaposing Stan Smith’s with smart tailoring gives office wear a modern edge (dress codes permitting). My other old school favourites are Adidas Gazelles, Superga Cotu classics, Converse all-stars and New Balance 373’s.


Choose environmentally-friendly

As seen on an Instagram feed near you… Veja has brought environmentally-friendly sneakers to the masses. I’m wearing the classic V-10 pair, above, a gift from Arket. Admittedly, they were a little stiff at first, but after a few weeks running around I’ve worn then in. Veja sneakers are made in Brazil, 1-in-4 pairs are vegan and the leather is sourced from regions which don’t deforest for cattle farming. Go for a classic Scandi vibe and trainers with smart tailored trousers and a slouchy, roll neck sweater or team with sporty side stripe trousers and layers, for everyday, ageless style. Another ethical shoe brand I’m seeing everywhere is AllBirds. Mr TNMA has a pair of slippers and my friend Adrienne describes her new pair of Wool Runner trainers as ‘just the funky side of remedial.’

Air & Grace trainers

Buy British 

As a sporty teenager, I spent my life kicking around in running shoes, up north. Unbeknownst to me, just down the M6 in Bolton, British brand Walsh (no relation/namesake bias) was manufacturing classic trainers. The ‘Tornado’ design was developed in 1983 for athletes competing in major marathons across the world. The midsole is made from shock absorbing EVA, designed to resist impact and this sporty style comes in eye-catching colour combinations. I’m a big fan.

Today’s local favourite is Air & Grace, founded in South London by Claire Burrows. Having worked for various international footwear brands for 20 years she launched her own company with the simple philosophy, ‘made beautiful for busy feet’.

Also worth a mention is Young British Designer Rose Rankin.


Say hello to hi-top heaven

I love a hi-top. Perfect in the winter for that extra bit of ankle coverage. Converse still look great, but the soles are too flat for me now, so I’m considering a new pair of Nike Air Jordan’s instead. Trousers with a cropped leg shape are a neat way to show hi-tops off, or go masculine-feminine by teaming with leggings, an oversized shirt and a mannish jacket. Try Georgina Goodman, Common Projects, Golden Goose Deluxe or Spring Court for alternatives.

Adidas skate shoes


Slip-on a skate shoe

Skate shoes are very much on my radar – sneakers that feel like slippers are a bit of a no-brainer, really. I’m still wearing the Adidas Everyn slip-ons I bought last year (above), and like the look of the Common Projects suede version and Primury’s camo print trainers and there’s always the more purse-friendly Van’s Classics. Go for the Grace Coddington approach and wear primary coloured skate shoes (Coddington wears Céline) with an all-black outfit. This time of year, switch to black cigarette pants or straight-leg jeans to help  eliminate a northwesterly up the nether regions. Or roll up the legs of a denim or khaki jumpsuit and skate on.


This feature is based on an extract from Know Your Style: Mix it, match it, love it available here.

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