Today’s fashion-forward man wants to make a statement, push the limits of modern style, and break outdated fashion rules. A smooth execution of the suit-with-sneakers combination is one way to grab attention and challenge style clichés. Classic and unorthodox at the same time, this paradox of a combination works on the runway, in the street, on the red carpet, and, under the right circumstances, in the office. By following the proper framework and avoiding potential pitfalls, you’ll be able to make this power pairing look effortless.
Learn Style from the Greats
To see how you can make the suit-with-sneakers combination work for you, start by gathering inspiration. Look to those who’ve brought this pairing into the public eye and pulled it off with aplomb:
This look is all over runways, with a particular standout example cropping up in Gucci’s Pre-Fall 2018 collection: a sage green wool suit paired with striped leather sneakers inspired by retro seventies basketball shoes. In 2015, Burberry launched an entire campaign highlighting their Field sneakers, which were again featured in their February Collection for 2018.
This roundup starts with Mario Sorrenti and Kate Moss in the nineties and ends in 2018 with Kanye. Pretty much every celebrity in between has worn a suit with trainers to a red carpet event; some, like Mark Ronson, have earned their own sneaker collaborations with major fashion houses. A proud example of a flawlessly-executed suit-with-sneakers combination was sported by Robert Downey Jr. at the 2015 People’s Choice Awards, in which he paired blue leather kicks with a bright blue tee and a slate grey suit in a subtle plaid pattern. That’s how you really make a statement.
You’ve probably seen guys opting to wear comfortable footwear during their daily commute, their gym shoes clashing with their suits and ties. This is not that look. On the street, this style statement should look effortless, but not like you threw it together to head to the office straight from the gym. Effective genre-mixing involves pairing the right suit with the right sneakers. Some examples: This bright blue summer suit would look great with crisp white high tops, or consider the visual impact of this classic charcoal two-piece suit with a pair of Adidas.
Choose the Right Suit—and the Right Shoes
While it’s possible to pull off a full double-breasted wool suit with a statement sneaker, this look works most naturally with a more casual approach. Consider starting with a summer-weight suit in cotton, linen, or a lighter wool blend. For an easier take on the traditional structured suit jacket, go for an unlined, deconstructed jacket with minimal padding in the shoulders. Don’t feel limited to the traditional suit format of pants crafted from the same fabric as the jacket—this look gives you the freedom to mix the colors and fabrics of your jacket and trousers, or even pair a blazer with chinos.
Consider deviating from the norm by mixing up a classic suit with casual details. Ditch the tie. Untuck your dress shirt for an editorial vibe. Switch your collared shirt for a light crewneck sweater or a solid t-shirt. Forgo socks and bare some ankle between your trouser hem and your low-top sneakers. The charm of this look lies in the hint of rebellion underpinning it, so feel free to break some fashion rules.
While suit choice is important, your success hinges on selecting the right footwear. Converse Chuck Taylor All Stars, a style staple since their debut in 1923, are a perennial favorite; they look especially great in clean, crisp white when paired with a dark suit. Stan Smith Adidas, which debuted in 1971 and flourished throughout the eighties, are experiencing a current fashion renaissance; their simple, clean lines and white leather exteriors make them an intuitive pairing with suits. Other classic sneakers spotted in the limelight include cap-toes by Lanvin and leather low-tops by Common Projects and Zegna.
Whichever brand you choose, look for sophisticated lines and upscale materials. Leather and suede are almost always good options. Fashion should triumph over function; if you could conceivably run a marathon in your sneakers, they’re unlikely to pair well with a suit. When in doubt, choose bright white or another light neutral, though if you really want to stand out, go for a multicolored shoe. Avoid the urge to err on the conservative side by matching a dark sneaker with a dark suit—a big part of the appeal of this look is the way it brings attention to your footwear.
Experiment with Sample Combinations
Looking for an example to follow? If you want to think outside the wing-tip shoebox, these four combinations will provide you with a good style template to follow:
White Adidas + Classic Blue Suit
Put together a classic blue suit with a white tee, no socks, and a bright pair of white Adidas.
Shiny Leather Sneakers + Skinny Black Tie
For a more formal occasion, don a perfectly-fitted skinny-cut black suit with a collared shirt and a tie. Complete the look with a pair of patent leather kicks.
White Converse + Blazer and Chinos
Colorful Kicks + Seersucker Suit
Step outside your comfort zone by pairing a platinum seersucker suit with a pair of multicolored Burberry Field sneakers.
Final Tips for Pairing a Suit with Sneakers
One major pitfall to avoid: Don’t look sloppy. This look is breezy, effortless, and just a bit rebellious—but the overall effect will be wrecked with dirty shoes or an ill-fitting suit. Make sure your footwear looks presentable, especially if you’ll be walking into a boardroom. As for the suit, we’ve got you covered.
Knot Standard provides style-conscious men with custom-made garments that last for years to come. Our modern bespoke process lets us create a personalized fit based on your precise measurements, as well as your preferences and personal style. We guarantee outstanding craftsmanship and fit for every garment that passes through our showroom doors. Reach out today to make an appointment with your own personal stylist and start building a wardrobe designed and sewn exclusively for you.