Wearing Sneakers with a Suit

It's no longer the rebel move it once was, but that doesn't mean it's easy to pull off.

Jack Purcell's and a suit = classic. Switched out laces = updated classic.

As we enter the warmer months of the year, we’re taking a look at some of the ways guys can give a suit a breezier, less buttoned-up edge—”dress it down,” if you will. One oft-debated method: pulling on a pair of sneakers instead of the weightier dress shoes you reflexively opt for.

Now, there are some serious caveats to this move. Never, ever should you do like Russell Simmons—nothing at all against the man, but the padded, clunky sneakers he favors on the red carpet belong only on basketball courts and skateboard enthusiasts. It’s a faux pas that’s only exacerbated when paired with a suit’s (generally) slimming silhouette. So stick with low-top canvas (or, maybe, suede) sneakers. You know the usual suspects: Superga, Spring Court, Converse, and Vans. Even Adidas and Nike’s slimmer varieties will work here. There’s a fine line of wear and tear you need to walk, as well. You don’t want your sneakers to look “fresh out of the box,” but you also want to avoid having to lean on one go-to pair of worn-into-the-ground Vans. Let’s go with a “lived-in” vibe, perhaps subjected to a wash or two. And when you’re wearing sneakers with a suit, forget any notion of wearing socks.

The suit you’re pairing with said sneakers should be of a lighter fabric, and on the slimmer side of the fit range. Remember, you’re adhering to summer casualness, not sloppy informality. Lighter wools and cotton twills work great. Wool flannel? That’s a big no.

Last point: “Dressing down” may be a bit of a misnomer. The sneakers shouldn’t be the focal point of your casualness. In other words, wearing sneakers with a suit is most appropriate on occasions when people aren’t expecting you to wear a suit at all.

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  1. Adam says:

    show me a dude with a suit on with sneakers and no socks that doesn’t look like a douchecanoe and i’ll think about this. coz i’m having a hard time imagining that dude right now.

  2. Brian says:

    Adam, you’ll be waiting forever

  3. Jared Flint says:

    @Adam – I’m gonna go ahead and suggest taking a look at some of Mark Ronson’s better efforts. Common Projects designer Prathan Poopat pulls it off in his own designs well. Then again, everyone’s definition of douchecanoe is different.

  4. Jonathan says:

    I’d agree that a suit with sneakers CAN look amazing. Which is why I’m asking, exactly which Jack Purcells are those?

  5. Jared Flint says:

    @Anonymous – Thanks for the feedback. I love sneakers. Canvas sneakers aren’t the only one’s worth wearing, just the only one’s worth wearing with suits, in our humble opinion.

    @Jonathan – These are Jack Purcell leather Racearounds. We offer them on Gilt on occasion but you could also go to Converse’s site and customize a pair to your own preferences.

  6. Vincent says:

    The the person who is anonymous and responded negatively to this blog…..interesting that you are reading this fashion fashion blog, yet you react to this blog as if you were someone that wears American Eagle and is offended by actual good taste. May I ask what you wear, or what your fav. brand is because I guarantee that you are intimidated and put off by true taste, so much so, that you have to comment the way you did. It is pure and simple…good taste is good taste and, lack of taste is well, no fashion…that is fact. So sad, too bad. Fashion is meant to be high-end tasteful/sophisticated clothing, American Eagle, A&F, Old Navy is not fashion that is just clothing. Again I am guessing you wear clothes, not fashion. If I am wrong then I wrong about you, but I have a feeling you just don’t know what good taste is. Stop reading this blog if it puts you off….most of these blog posts will.

  7. Christian says:

    Totally agree with this article. Though, gentlemen, don’t forget about Bensimon’s. Extremely hip. Euro. Hot. I’m wearing them to my next interview with a khaki suit and tie.

  8. david says:

    Ok I don’t feel so bad for doing this all the time. I agree with the comment of keeping it understated, I usually wear all black Vans or some of my Generic Surplus sneakers

  9. Adam says:

    eh maybe a light weight cotton/linen summer suit but you might end up looking like a high schooler, get some boat shoes/loafers if you want to do sockless casual

    also how can I tell myself apart from the other Adam?

  10. Mark says:

    Was just at the Basel show in Switzerland…the associate publisher of Vogue Gioiello (their jewelry quarterly) was rockin’ a pair of trainers with a suit…typical Italian style…like it’s in their DNA.

  11. Adam says:

    i agree with your statement, so no worries :-)


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