THE ESSENTIALS is an ongoing series where show you pieces that belong in every guy’s closet. By building a closet with these core essentials, you make it nearly impossible to ever put together a bad outfit.

The running sneaker infiltrated stylish men’s wardrobes outside the gym thanks to the perfect storm:

The casual shift in dress codes combined with younger, menswear-savy guys heading to the workforce.

There are still some challenges here of course. Appropriateness. Balance. Most of all, choices. The sneaker market is HUGE. Brands like Nike and Adidas are constantly churning out new colorways each month. It can get overwhelming.

But when done right, the running sneaker is a breath of fresh air. A perfect mixture of  comfort and style.

Done wrong, you run a huge risk of giving off 90s Dad Jeans vibes. (Sorry Mr. Seinfeld.)

Here, I’ve broken it down for you in three looks so you can make sure you’re running in the right direction.

the essential man essentials running sneaker 01

WHAT MAKES A SNEAKER A RUNNING SHOE?

First, let’s make sure you’re picking from the right shoe to begin with. Here are the main tell-tale signs of a running shoe.

1. Low top
2. Padded interior
3. Waffle or treaded outsoles
4. Elevated heel

 

Salted-Caramels-Recipe-2
SALTED CARAMELS ARE A LOT MORE DELICIOUS BECAUSE OF THE SALT (PHOTO VIA INSPIRED TASTES)

HOW TO PULL IT OFF PERFECTLY

The key word here is contrast.

Contrast is one of my favorite styling concepts to play with. It takes your look to a higher, sophisticated level.

Where most guys get it wrong is by pairing running sneakers with an outfit that matches too much. Like bright red sneakers with a bright red jacket. It’s like rolling sugar on a sugary dessert. What’s going to make it taste sweeter isn’t sugar, but some salt.

Let me show you what I mean by contrast with these three looks.

the essential man essentials running sneaker look 1
LUDLOW SUIT: J.CREW, $650 | COTTON JERSEY T-SHIRT: JAMES PERSE, $85 | WATTS EYEGLASSES: WARBY PARKER $95 | SILK POCKET SQUARE: CHARVET, $80 | FULL GRAIN LEATHER CARD HOLDER: SAINT LAURENT, $245 | WATCH: ROLEX OYSTER PERPETUAL 39MM $5,700 | SOCKS: UNIQLO, $12.90 | SHOES: AIR PEGASUS NEW RACER TEAM RED: NIKE, $90

THE OWNER, NOT AN INTERN
THE MONOCHROME TRAINER

Some dispute that classic saying that you can tell a lot about a man by his shoes.

But we can agree, though, that there’s nothing more embarrassing than being mistaken for an intern. Especially if you’re the one in charge.

Dressing with authority (translation: suit) is a good way to ensure this doesn’t happen. Considering we’re pairing the suit with sneakers, we can take down the formality of the look one step further. Swap out the button up for a luxe black t-shirt, like this one from one of my favorite brands for basics, James Perse.

When it comes to the shoes, we have to be careful. A running sneaker that has too much going on in terms of details and color will be too stark of a contrast and clash.

The goal for this look to contrast formal and casual. So choosing a monochrome/solid color running sneaker tones down the casualness of it, giving you the perfect balance. I highly recommend a monochrome/solid color running shoe be your first choice.

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the essential man essentials running sneaker look 2
CASHMERE CAMEL OVERCOAT: THEORY, $1,295 | DENIM JACKET: J.CREW, $130 | DAVIS SLIM-FIT COTTON CHINOS: CLUB MONACO, $90 | GREY STRIPE LUDLOW CUTAWAY COLLAR SHIRT: THOMAS MASON FOR J.CREW, $148 | SOCKS: UNIQLO, $12.90 | HILLTOP BLUE 998 SNEAKERS: NEW BALANCE FOR J.CREW, $180

THE MULTI-TASKING WEEKENDER
THE BRIGHT MULTI-COLORED RUNNER

Running shoes were designed to handle marathons, so they’re perfect for weekends when you’re running around.

In this look, I’ve mixed casual and formal pieces – the dark denim jacket by J.Crew under a beautiful luxe cashmere overcoat in camel. The fine grey stripe button up with the casual chino. The perfect look for a weekend out with your girl. Whether that’s a grabbing a oozing sandwich at Egg Slut or finally catching that movie.

The colorful sneakers are the star of the show, so contrast it by keeping your outfit mostly neutral in colors.  I opted for a black chino to further the contast, giving your look a much needed point of interest.

***

the essential man essentials running sneaker look 3
DOUBLE BREASTED WOOL PEACOAT: CLUB MONACO, $370 | HEAVYWEIGHT FLEECE CREWNECK SWEATSHIRT: REIGNING CHAMP, $114 | V-NECK COTTON-JERSEY T-SHIRT: JAMES PERSE, $55 | 484 SLIM-FIT JAPANESE DENIM: J.CREW, $125 | STITCH-EDGED BELT: J.CREW, $68 | CASHMERE BEANIE: UNIQLO, $29 | SOCKS: UNIQLO, $12.90 | EQT 2/3 F15 SNEAKERS: ADIDAS, $206

THE INSIDER
THE EXPERIMENTAL SNEAKER

Let me be clear: The Essentials is about having a solid core wardrobe.

That’s often made up of pieces that never seem to go out of style. But the fun part about style is trying out new things.

Experimental looking sneakers, like this cage and mesh number from Adidas, should definitely be reserved for your second or third pair.

Can you guess this look’s contrast theme?

I went with classic and new. How more classic can you get than a t-shirt, crewneck sweatshirt and denim look? Because the sneakers are already way out there, I went with an army green colorway. It fit perfectly in the “Classic Americana” color scheme of grey, white and denim blue.

If these were army green chucks, it would look like a solid, classic outfit. Of course, that would be boring, so don’t be afraid to step out the box a little!

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Now, I want to hear from you

I’m sure you have a pair of runners on your shoe rack.

What’s your go to pair?

Let me know. Leave a comment below.

Author

Hi, I'm Peter. I spent 11 years as a menswear designer here in NYC. Now, I help some of the most successful men look really good as a Private Personal Stylist and writer of The Essential Man. You can learn more about what I do by clicking here

  • Dave311

    Kinda off subject (and I do love all of the sneakers mentioned, esp the burgundy ones) but can you tell me where the herringbone topcoat in the first picture is from, it’s fantastic!