Not your grandfather's black New Balance
April 20, 2011 6:01 PM   Subscribe

Here's what I want: leather sneakers that are acceptable for a young man to wear with business casual clothing. I want them to feel and wear like sneakers, but look nice enough to wear with wool pants and a button-down dress shirt in a professional environment.

(My specific location/industry is investment management in San Francisco's Financial District, if that matters). I don't really care what they cost, but I do request that you link to specific shoes models, not just brands.
posted by 2bucksplus to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (35 answers total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
Golas. Keep them clean.
posted by sestaaak at 6:03 PM on April 20, 2011

I liked my Tsubos when I had them.
posted by rhizome at 6:07 PM on April 20, 2011

Styleforum might be a better place to ask this.

(although you will have a lot of people urge you to exercise extreme caution when pairing wool pants with sneakers, and I'd be among them)
posted by ripley_ at 6:27 PM on April 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Trippen shoes might work - see the 'Tram' and 'Toedi' for your purposes. These Camper sneakers are also nice.
posted by analog at 6:27 PM on April 20, 2011

Here's a few affordable selections from 6PM. All of which I think would be acceptable.
posted by rileyray3000 at 6:31 PM on April 20, 2011

My husband swears by these Skechers; he buys them over and over and over.
posted by Kronur at 6:31 PM on April 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

You should look at Cole Haan's line of shoes made in conjunction with Nike. I can't tell if you like a casual look; if so, try the Air Ryder Driver Oxford or the Air Jasper Low. (There are many others on that site too.)

You can also buy Cole Haan styles that are more formal but still have the same guts as the more sneakery shoes.

To try the shoes on in person, I recommend Nordstrom. They usually have a number of Cole Haan styles; you'll at least be able to see if you like the feel and fit.
posted by purpleclover at 6:32 PM on April 20, 2011

posted by fancypance at 6:33 PM on April 20, 2011

Response by poster: (although you will have a lot of people urge you to exercise extreme caution when pairing wool pants with sneakers, and I'd be among them)

That's the challenge, I'm not expecting something perfect, just something I can get away with.
posted by 2bucksplus at 6:35 PM on April 20, 2011

My husband where's the same shoes kronur referred to. He's required to dress business casual and those shoes really work nicely.
posted by Sweetmag at 6:36 PM on April 20, 2011

Just to be clear, OP, there are leather sneakers that you can wear with business casual clothes, but once you put on the sneakers, the outfit is no longer business casual.

I like Golas, personally.
posted by telegraph at 6:40 PM on April 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I came in here wanting to point to the Campers already linked (and other Campers, and I do think this is a thing where a brand will often suffice in lieu of a particular style) but I also don't want to be responsible for your 'getting away' with this sort of faux pas. I can see a particular kind of very modern wool pant, very slim and trim in the cut, going with a certain sneakerish leather lace-up like the Campers. But if you're looking at your old pair of grey flannels and trying to match them with sneakers, it's just not going to be a good look.

Would a shoe with comfort comparable to sneakers help? Desert boots, say. Desert boots are comfy and versatile...
posted by kmennie at 6:47 PM on April 20, 2011 [3 favorites]

I love my Keens. Perhaps the P-Towns or these Briggs will work for you? I work in the community and at a state capitol building, and these shoes work in both places for me.
posted by elmer benson at 6:59 PM on April 20, 2011

Cole Haan Air Conners. They have the Nike air soles yet a shoe like top.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 7:02 PM on April 20, 2011

If you just want comfort equal to sneakers, nicer all-leather shoes could deliver that and look better than any sneakers. See this thread on better-quality men's dress shoes.
posted by sninctown at 7:20 PM on April 20, 2011

Back when I cared about this, Rockports were the answer; still worth a glance I suspect.
posted by dpcoffin at 7:21 PM on April 20, 2011

If there's a The Walking Company near you, may I suggest a visit? They tend to have a wide selection of shoes that are comfortable to walk in, some that are also dressy. In my experience they also tend to carry a larger range of sizes and widths.
posted by Runes at 7:22 PM on April 20, 2011

Best answer: These Campers totally work with the right outfit. Stan Smiths work too - note the black sole which makes them stand out FAR less than the glaring white sole. I don't like the Sketchers above because I have A Thing against really obvious contrast stitching, but YMMV.
posted by barnone at 7:26 PM on April 20, 2011

No Rockports or Cole Haans, unless you'd like to look like a 30something dad.

If you're intending to use leather sneakers to look 'professional', spend a little (lot) more dough and pick up a pair of Common Projects, minimal yet sleek. Otherwise, you can't go wrong trying Maison Martin Margiela's German Army Trainer replicas. These options are considerably more pricy than Rockport/Cole Haan offerings, but substantially more sleek and of better quality.

Also I'd suggest browsing Superfuture over Style-forum. Styleforum is more middle-age guys wearing fedoras and ties while superfuture has a more comfortable, street aesthetic that goes well with what (I'm assuming) you're looking for. Especially if you're an ibanker and want to get away with wearing leather sneakers? Drop by The Archive in SF if you prefer a darker aesthetic that you might get away with.
posted by kurosawa's pal at 7:27 PM on April 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

This Bally model is not cheap, but I've seen them in person and they are gorgeous. They look great with straight black pants.

And I've definitely seen men in business clothes wearing Ecco shoes like this.

These Eccos are also stylish with the right outfit. These Eccos are not really sneaker-y but I've heard they are very comfortable and supportive and have a bit more presence than lightweight sneakers.
posted by barnone at 7:38 PM on April 20, 2011

These from Zegna.

Several from Paul Smith.

And any Prada.
posted by jeffamaphone at 8:10 PM on April 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Stay away from anything with a rugged sole. Skew trendy so it looks like a look and not like you're just wearing sneakers to work. You can definitely pull off more of a current, youthful, trendy shoe in SF office than a lot of other places. I suggest these Creative Recreation models: Cesario Lo (these shoes come in a lot of color combos, and here are some with leather and wool), and the hightop version. These could possibly work, but are edgier.
These Original Penguin shoes are pretty cool, but the super contrasty sole might read too casual.
Keep Company also has some cool models: Shaheen, Solis, Dorian.
posted by elpea at 9:19 PM on April 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Camper Pelotas.
posted by gyusan at 10:44 PM on April 20, 2011

These shoes from Land's End. Not terrible for $49.
posted by j03 at 11:56 PM on April 20, 2011

Best answer: I don't want to be negative, but in my opinion most of the shoes I've seen linked here would look pretty bad with wool slacks. I think you really need a dressy element to the shoe if you're going to wear it with dressy pants. I mean, I'm sure there are people out there who could make it look great, but if you have to ask here you're probably not in that group.

How about The Shuman by To Boot New York? It has athletic styling but also is shiny and sleek. I saw it at Nordstrom Rack a few weeks ago.

Or check out the Club Collection by Santoni for some more options (I can't link directly into it).

These are way more expensive than a pair of Rockports but you said you didn't care how much they cost.
posted by reeddavid at 12:30 AM on April 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

I agree with the recommendation above to visit The Walking Company; it looks like they have a number of stores in CA including San Francisco. I have found that all the advice you get on footwear is not as useful as trying the shoes on yourself.
posted by TedW at 5:25 AM on April 21, 2011

Best answer: Seconding kmennie above that if you're set on wearing inappropriate shoes, you should strongly consider something like crepe-sole desert boots instead of the sneaker-hybrid things that most folks are suggesting here. A pair of Clarks in beeswax leather would be totally passable in the environment you're describing, actually semi-fashionable, and - maybe most importantly - even more comfortable than sneakers.
posted by brozek at 5:58 AM on April 21, 2011

I've definitely seen men in business clothes wearing Ecco shoes like this

We've all seen it, but I assume they are on their way to their office where a pair of proper shoes lurks under the desk.

Which has been going on for a while...

In 1980, a New York City Transit strike prompted thousands of women to don their running shoes and, high-heeled pumps in hand, walk to work. This phenomenon out-lasted the strike and, for most of the decade, one could see a woman in a perfectly tailored power suit wearing a pair of Reebok running shoes.

So that's another OK compromise, to wear something neat and black and leather to commute in, but to change once you get indoors...
posted by kmennie at 7:11 AM on April 21, 2011

Converse has a few monochrome black leather Chuck Taylors that might work:

All Star Cup
All Star Leather
All Star Leather Slim

The reason why I think these are a nice option is because they're completely black from toe to heel (except the Slim which has dark grey grommets and trim), which makes them appear less sneaker-like.

For added comfort, consider buying them a bit too big and adding a good insole.
posted by at 7:21 AM on April 21, 2011

I really think it's a mistake to go with Ecco, Walking Co., etc. You want something uber-stylish. You could pull off some Converse, I think. But if nothing linked directly from one of the designer brands here appeals to you, walk across Union Square to Barney's of New York and see what they have in their men's department there (top floor). They will be happy to advise you.
posted by jeffamaphone at 8:29 AM on April 21, 2011

Merrel Jungle moc, available in leather and suede. I have worn these as my everyday shoe for 10 years: I think this is my 11th pair.
posted by lalochezia at 8:51 AM on April 21, 2011

Best answer: You see such a big range of suggestions here, and it really really depends on your body type, personality, and clothing style. If you're fairly svelte and edgy, smaller-profile Euro type shoes will look good. If you're a bit bigger, little shoes like that always look disproportionate with baggier pants.

And no, I've definitely seen men wearing Ecco shoes with straight, sharp black pants and something like a dark grey button up, and they actually look far sharper than guys with old pleated worn-out pants with scuffed up loafers.

It really depends on the environment though. Investment Management Business Casual with very little client-focused work (and more of a 'start-up' feel) in San Francisco is just going to be different than a business casual in a corporate environment in New York. Now that people have given you suggestions, make a point to notice what kinds of footwear are worn by your fellow employees and by the management. My #1 suggestion is to make sure the sole is dark - the white rubber around the edge makes any shoe look much more sporty, and if you can spend a bit of cash on the right pair, they'll probably go a long way towards tipping you into the more stylish side of things.
posted by barnone at 11:02 AM on April 21, 2011

Best answer: Hi there, I made a post on my fashion blog about this which incorporates images and prices of some of the suggestions here that I like the best, plus some others that I found for you. It might be easier to look at in that format.
posted by rmless at 11:45 AM on April 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Seconding desert boots!
posted by joshuaconner at 12:19 PM on April 21, 2011

Best answer: I get where you're coming from; I used to walk 15 blocks to work from Pac Heights over Nob Hill to the Financial District every morning, and I wore sneakers and carried my shoes in a shoulder bag. But yeah, nthing desert boots. Check out snuff suede Alden chukka boots at 170 Sutter Street during lunch; they may have them with crepe soles. If not, these Alden boots from j.crew are super comfortable and will look good with anything from jeans to wool trousers. Do yourself (and everyone with eyes) a favor and don't wear athletic shoes around the office.
posted by Mendl at 12:46 PM on April 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

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