How rad was back-to-school shopping when you were a kid? Much more than a trip to the mall with mom (and that all-important stop at the food court Chick-fil-A), it was a mental restarter that encouraged some self-reflection. It became a yearly tradition unto itself: the annual opportunity to present the best version of you, anew.
Which is why I’m here to make the argument for a back-to-school shopping spree, adulthood edition.
To get you started in your seasonal style revamp and get you thinking about how you are best going to tackle the end of the year, let's start with a strong base: killer shoes. Leather sneakers, to be exact.
Luxe ones. Ultra-minimalist, buttery ones. Smart ones that will work with your best transitional cotton suit or slimmed-down jeans. These eight pairs are casual enough for a late-summer cookout but put-together enough for the office. They will get you through both morning meetings and happy hours well into fall.
Hydrogen-1 AR18 Low-Tops
This line of hybrid dress sneakers (sometimes referred to as just H1) has serious crossover appeal as a minimalistic color-matching design puts them on the dressed-up side of sporty. Wear these with a cotton suit—possibly your summer go-to khaki one: slim, with little to no break in the trousers—or a pair of off-white denim or fitted cargo pants. ($375, hydrogen-1.com)
Christian Kimber Cumulus High-Top
British-born men's accessory designer Christian Kimber has teamed up with another up-and-coming designer and brand to watch, Antonio Ciongoli of Eidos Napoli, the younger offshoot of established Italian tailoring house Isaia. (Check out their collaboration when it becomes available in September.) Until then, this two-tone suede and leather high-top is a luxe outfit-maker. Thanks to athletically technical insoles and padded cuffs, it's as comfortable as it is fashion-forward. ($495, christiankimber.com)
Greats Leather Royale Low
Classically designed shoes at a fraction of the cost of competing wares is the ethos behind Greats, a Brooklyn-based footwear brand going up against the Maison Margiela and Common Projects of the world. The Royale is a streamlined, low-cut sneaker style that is handmade of flat leather in Italy. Fronting an easy, casual spirit and versatility, it's guaranteed to become your weekend favorite. $159, greats.com
Mr. Hare Llewelyn Suede Slip-On
Designer Marc Hare, who launched Mr. Hare, his eponymous line of footwear, in 2009, is known for thoughtful, elevated flourishes. Here, in his Llewelyn slip-on sneakers, are elasticated inserts and cushioned leather linings, details that add hidden, ultra-comfort to the timeless silhouette. ($436, mrhare.com)
Koio Collective Primo Bianco High-Top
Legendary Italian cobblers, who use hand-painting techniques usually reserved for high-end handbags, add high-end finish to the supreme fit and comfort of these full-grain, pebbled leather high-tops by Koio Collective. ($300, koiocollective.com)
Brunello Cucinelli Suede-Trim Felt Low-Tops
Brunello Cucinelli (he of the perfect, unlined blazer) is the reigning king of casual formality. No surprise then that this pair of charcoal felt and suede trainers fits right in with his luxurious aesthetic. Be sure to add one of his cashmere and down puffer vests when temperatures dip, post Labor Day. ($830, mrporter.com)
Rancourt & Co. Court Classic Mid
Rancourt's kicks, all handcrafted in Maine, have a supreme throwback quality to them—and the Court Classic Mid is no exception. Design-wise, it's a sportier model inspired by actual retro tennis shoes, but it can also pair nicely with a pair of fitted, pleated trousers. ($275, rancourtandcompany.com)
Vans Leather Slip-On
Maybe you haven't worn a pair of Vans since you owned a BMX bike and rode it to impress all the ladies at the skate park, but it may be time to reconsider the brand's early retirement from your casual shoe rotation. There's still something laid-back and confident about their unisex slip-on style, seen here in leather—basically the equivalent of California cool for grownups. ($60, vans.com)
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