If there’s one item that has bridged the divide between casual and formal in contemporary menswear, it’s the white sneaker. A shoe that was once strictly for athletic purposes has evolved into a true shoe-rack staple, lending a clean, modern look to almost any outfit.
Simple, stylish and versatile, these colourless kicks pair with anything from tailoring to tracksuits, making them an absolute must-have for the modern man. But not all white sneakers were created equal.
Of the thousands of designs out there, only a handful shine through as the true heroes, the classics, the best white sneakers ever made. These are the styles worth investing in because they are the ones that will stand the test of time.
Below, you’ll find our pick of the best white sneakers, along with the key buying considerations and answers to some of the most common white-sneaker questions.
Your choice of material is one of the big decisions when when shopping for a pair of white sneakers. What a shoe is made from affects how it feels, performs and looks, so consider how you plan to wear the shoe and where you intend to use it.
Affordable, low-maintenance and breathable, canvas is a great option when it comes to summer footwear. Sure, it gets dirty, but its rugged construction means you can quite happily throw it in the washing machine. It should come out as good as new.
There are few pieces of footwear more versatile than a simple white leather sneaker. The material is durable and easy to care for, and its classic look is unlikely to date.
Synthetic materials have been popular in sneaker design for decades due to their durability, lightness, breathability and athletic performance benefits. You’ll often find technical man-made fabrics in athletic shoes, but synthetic materials such as vegan leathers are also worth looking into.
Shop for shoes made using synthetic materials if you need high-performance white sneakers for things like running or hitting the gym.
There are many, many styles of white sneakers, and there is often some overlap between them. That said, for us, white sneakers can be broken down into the following categories. Here’s what they are and why you might want to consider them.
Clean, simple and endlessly versatile, minimalist white leather sneakers are one of our favourite types of footwear. Understated leather styles like the Adidas Stan Smith, the Reebok Club C and the Nike Cortez will always look great in white and don’t need to shout to be heard.
The emergence of the Common Projects Achilles Low in 2004 paved the way for a new dawn of white sneaker madness. The classic tennis shoe silhouette was reimagined in fine Italian materials, resulting in a shoe with sporting DNA that could legitimately be worn with tailoring. If you’re looking for upscale shoes that can be dressed up or down with ease, this is what you need.
Plimsoll is simply the name given in Britain to basic shoes with a canvas upper and a rubber sole. These sneakers are usually very affordable, timelessly stylish and excellent for the summer months. Look to brands like Novesta, Superga and Converse for inspiration.
Sneakers may be fashion items now, but in the beginning it was all about sport. Today, athletic sneakers are those styles geared towards some sort of athletic performance, whether it be running, basketball, tennis or something else. They usually feature a lightweight construction and technical fabrics.
Many of the world’s most prestigious designer brands offer their own white sneakers. Labels like Gucci, Maison Margiela and Alexander McQueen all offer their own unique twist on classic white sneaker styles and these designs have become iconic in their own right.
A classic, refined low-top sneaker handmade in Portugal using heritage shoemaking principles. Expect premium leather uppers and lining, a removable cushioned footbed and, interestingly, a cemented construction that ensures the original shape is kept.
Buy now at Axel Arigto
Paris-based brand J.C.Lutz offers luxury, made-to-order sneakers direct to the consumer. Its unique business model enables you to customise everything from the colour of the sole to the accents to the laces, meaning you can design your ideal white sneaker. Not only that, you can also add your name/initials to the upper or sole, making them truly one of a kind.
Each shoe is then 100% handcrafted to spec in the Le Marche region of Italy by master shoemakers using only the finest materials, including Margom rubber soles and buttery-soft calf leather, making these kicks of the highest quality.
Buy now at J.C.Lutz
For that premium minimalist sneaker style without the jaw-dropping price tag, the Oliver Cabell Low 1 is the ideal option. The direct-to-consumer brand use the same materials and factories as high-end competitors with the lack of bricks and mortar allowing them to pass the saving on to the customer. For a minimal, sleek dress up or down white sneaker, the Low 1 is a timeless classic.
Buy now at Oliver Cabell
Taking inspiration from high-end dress shoes, the Upton Wholecut sneaker from Crown Northampton is crafted using a single piece of leather – something very few shoemakers have the capability to do.
As minimal as it gets, this sleek and sophisticated kick features a soft padded collar, full leather lining (including the insole) and premium waxed laces.
Handmade in England using the finest calf grain leather, the craftsmanship would rival even the best pair of Oxfords.
Buy now at Crown Northampton
If you’re a fan of Vans skate shoes but feel they’re overdone, Cariuma’s Slip On sneaker could be for you.
Made by skaters for skaters, it’s environmentally-friendly and 100% vegan thanks to the organic cotton upper and natural rubber outsole. Not only that, a cork insert and bio memory foam insole ensures all-day comfort, whether you’re mooching around the city or hitting the half-pipe.
Buy now at Cariuma
The idea behind JAK is simple: to make simple, beautiful sneakers that go with anything and everything.
The bestsellig Atom model is a case in point: it’s about as uncluttered and restrained as a shoe can be due to it’s one-piece, tongueless upper, and it’s handmade in Portugal using the highest quality calf leather.
Buy now at JAK
Clae specialises in simple, stripped-back sneakers with a focus on environmentally-friendly production. It’s footwear that’s designed for versatility and immunity to the passing of trends – classic silhouettes, understated colour schemes and no excessive logos or detail.
The LA brand’s bestselling silhouette is the Bradley: a sleek, minimal silhouette available in a wealth of quality materials, including this 100% Vegan option made using recycled and traceable materials.
Buy now at Clae
A certified iconic sneaker that although predominantly white, offers a subtle flash of colour in its detailing. The Stan Smith is a fail-safe option that is chunkier than other plimsoll-inspired silhouettes but can still be dressed up with tailoring or down with jeans and chinos. Make sure they’re kept spotless.
Buy now at Adidas
The Converse Chuck Taylor sits alongside the Adidas Stan Smith and Superga Cotu Classic as a durable and affordable white sneaker for everyday use. A design almost untouched for over 80 years, this is a sneaker you can rest assured will never go out of style.
Buy now at Converse
A low-profile silhouette that’s dripping with skate legacy, the Vans Old Skool Low Top is great value for money and designed to withstand a battering. Light and breathable, the sneaker’s robust shape makes it a surprisingly versatile option that you will be able to count on for many years to come.
Buy now at Vans
Loved by the fashion crowd, detested by style purists but with a popularity (and aesthetic) that makes them unavoidable, the ugly sneaker trend is not for the faint-hearted – but chances are if you’re making the investment, you know what you’re doing. Alexander McQueen’s Wedge Sole sneaker has quickly become the industry insider’s choice, making its statement via shape and proportion rather than reverting to garish design.
Buy now at MR PORTER
This retro tennis shoe has remained unchanged since its launch in 1985. We’re glad. It’s a simple shoe with just the right amount of detail and its unassuming looks mean it pairs well with almost anything. It’s also one of those rare shoes that seems to get better the more beaten up it eventually becomes.
Buy now at END.
For affordability and style, it’s difficult to beat the Superga 2750 Cotu Classic. Streamline, unassuming and comfortable, the canvas upper adds breathability for warmer climates. The self-described “people’s shoes of Italy” are an understated classic that offer a timeless silhouette, working well with both wide and slim-leg trousers.
Buy now at Amazon
The Veja mission statement is “one foot in design and the other in social responsibility”, which means quality footwear whilst using sustainable materials (including organic cotton), respecting fair trade principles and championing upcycling. Their Nova White is a stylish vegan shoe that proves style can be sustainable.
Buy now at Farfetch
The Gucci Ace has been a permanent feature of the Italian label’s footwear line-up for several years. It takes inspiration from vintage shoes from the 1970s and is instantly recognisable thanks to the web stripes to the sides. Embroidery is also a key feature, with gold thread detail present on most models.
Buy now at MR PORTER
Understated, minimal and sought after – the cult New York sneaker company’s Original Achilles Low is a contemporary menswear icon. Made in Italy with a superior construction and trademark golden hot-stamped serial number, Common Projects have mastered the minimal white sneaker, creating a style that’s perfect for both smart and casual looks. Often imitated, never bettered.
Buy now at END.
Bored of making the best sneakers for everyone else, having spent 15 years designing for household names (some on this list), British footwear designers Uniform Standard decided to go it alone in 2018 – bringing their handmade minimalist leather sneaker expertise to the masses.
Now, with a stable of sleek minimal designs in a variety of colourways and materials the brand are a serious contender for your white sneaker needs. The Series 1 White Leather Vintage with its slightly off-white sole is a subtly refined take on a classic.
Buy now at Uniform Standard
Great design and products made to the highest quality specification. This is the promise of Swedish brand C.QP, and its philosophy is embodied in its original Racquet Sneaker – hand made from finest tumbled Italian white leather in a classic low top. Its deconstructed build ensures an extremely soft and breathable finish, with a properly constructed and supportive sole.
Buy now at C.QP
Still have a question? We’ve covered a few of the most common queries relating to white sneakers below.
In short, anything you want. The beauty of white sneakers is their versatility. You can team them up with almost anything and know it’ll work. Some favourites of ours include mid-wash denim, grey flannel trousers or crisp navy chinos. As long as you don’t wear them with a tux to a black-tie event then you should be good.
The best method for cleaning your white sneakers will depend largely on what they’re made of. Leather and suede should be treated to protect it from the elements, while canvas and synthetic styles can be thrown in the wash. There are also handy whitening pens that you can buy to help disguise stains, scuffs and wear marks.
There aren’t many sneaker brands out there that don’t make a white sneaker in some shape or form. A few of the most prolific are Converse, Nike, Adidas, Common Projects, Veja, Vans and Reebok.
It’s up to you, but we’d say yes. Wearing socks is always a good idea, but you can opt for discreet no-show socks if you want to give those ankles some air in the warmer months.
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