The Biggest Men’s Sneaker Trends For 2023 (& The Models To Buy)
Sneaker drops are constant these days, so we've picked out the hottest kicks for the coming 12 months.
The men’s fashion industry moves pretty fast, what with its multiple seasons, weekly drops and never-ending appetite for digesting the latest trends. But the sneaker world might just top it. Fashion’s biggest growth sector and an industry now worth tens of billions, the business of sneakers is a serious one.
Global juggernauts including Nike and Adidas have been going at it for decades now, battling it out for supremacy by launching new technologies, advanced materials and increasingly innovative approaches to design. But more recently the luxury fashion houses have got involved too, cashing in on the general public’s appetite to have the latest limited release model, regardless of the cost.
In a short space of time, sneakers have gone from being the leather shoe’s poorer, less socially accepted cousin, to the footwear world’s ‘IT’ child. Whereas before they were generally designed for a specific sport – whether basketball, athletics or tennis – now they’re worn predominantly for leisure, replacing ‘proper’ shoes as the default choice for the office, the club, the restaurant, and everything in between.
The sneaker’s acceptance into the wider luxury landscape means they are now as vulnerable to trends as any other article of clothing. And it can be tricky to keep on top of them. From the rise of the hiking trainer to a new take on minimalism, these are the men’s sneaker trends you need to know for 2023.
Hiking shoe hybrids
Traditionally, hiking shoes were chunky leather boots that offered plenty of ankle support and rugged protection from the elements. They were heavy and robust, often proving indestructible on a long rocky trail. But increasingly, hiking shoes have gone the way of trail runners, with lower cuts and more streamlined, sneaker-inspired silhouettes.
These may offer less ankle protection, and might not be as supportive when carrying heavy loads, but they more than make up for it in comfort. They’ve become particularly popular among hypebeasts of late, thanks to their futuristic designs and use of innovative materials.
Functional above all else, hiking sneakers are often made with Gore-Tex and boast ultra-light rubber Vibram soles that offer plenty of grip in all conditions. Occasionally colourful but always a statement, they are perfect if you want to reinvigorate your footwear collection.
When styling, try to complement their technical appeal by combining them with other outdoor and utility pieces like cargo pants, flannel shirts and fleece jackets.
Minimalist sneakers have been the default choice for years now. Popularised by the likes of Common Projects, these pared-back kicks were initially designed to bridge the gap between proper shoes and those designed for sports. That meant the quality was upped and production replicated the time-honoured processes used in ‘proper’ shoemaking.
Now, minimal sneakers are hand-stitched, made from beautifully soft leather and even boast steel shanks in the soles – something usually reserved for bench-made oxford shoes. They are smart too, looking just as good team with an unstructured suit as they do a hoodie and jeans.
The style has remained relatively untouched for two decades, but it’s finally being moved on by bulkier silhouettes. The likes of Stepney Workers Club and Good News have essentially reinvented the minimal sneaker with their signature chunky, oversized rubber soles, which give their designs a contemporary edge.
They haven’t lost their versatility either; they can still be paired with shorts in the summer or tailored wool trousers in the winter. Granted, the chunkier soles do give the them a feel more suited to casualwear, which is reflected in the materials used. Look out for clean organic cotton canvas in place of leather, and the occasional bit of contrast stitching which subtly distinguishes them from the homogeneity of this sneaker niche.
As with the wider fashion industry, parts many sneaker brands have been working on producing greener, more eco-friendly trainers for some time now. This is only right considering over 23-billion pairs of shoes are made every year, many of which go to waste. This is before we get into what shoes are typically made from: difficult to recycle materials including synthetic rubber, nylon and other plastics.
This is why brands like Veja, Everlane, Allbirds and Pangaia exist – they seek to improve the way we shop, providing sustainable alternatives to often disposable designs. And it helps their sneakers are among some of the best-looking on the market. It won’t be long before every brand has to follow these trailblazers, who often utilise organic cotton, recycled rubber and reused plastic bottles to create their lines.
If you’ve not gone eco with your shoe wardrobe yet, make 2023 the year.
Basketball high tops
Basketball shoes have always been cool. They essentially kickstarted the sneaker game as we know it with the launch of Air Jordans in the 80s and 90s, and they can be seen pounding the pavements in every city around the world today – the ubiquitous Converse All Star was originally designed for basketball, after all.
You wouldn’t necessarily wear modern basketball shoes off the hardwood today – they are far too specialised, what with their bouncy soles and loud colour schemes, which are virtually impossible to incorporate into sensible wardrobes. However, when it comes to vintage designs, they’ve never been more popular.
Classic styles are relatively narrow with flat soles, making them incredibly easy to wear as part of a contemporary wardrobe. The uppers were often simple too, made from panelled leather and suede, giving them a somewhat luxe appeal today. But basketball shoes have always incorporated colour in some way, whether through an accent or a team colourway, so if you want to spice up the bottom half of your look, you could do far worse than invest in your own pair.
It wasn’t long ago that you wouldn’t be seen dead in dad shoes. Hideously uncool and seemingly only designed for comfort, this style of sneaker has undergone one of the biggest turnarounds in the history of style. You know the kind we’re talking about: that late 80s, early 90s silhouette, with its chunky midsole and multi-panelled leather upper.
These kicks weren’t really designed for sport. They’re just practical, comfortable sneakers to be worn while standing over a BBQ or doing your groceries. They were even written off in the film Crazy Stupid Love when Ryan Gosling’s character throws Steve Carrell’s New Balance away.
So how did they become so popular in the 2020s? It’s difficult to pin down exactly when they underwent their glow up, but a strange and increasing appreciation for mediocre design and 90s fashion amongst Gen-Z and Millennials are the likely causes.
Either way, the style doesn’t look like it’s disappearing any time soon, with many of the luxury houses following Nike and Adidas’ route of introducing chunky, ‘ugly’ designs intended on turning heads. When trying them for yourself, keep the rest of your fit simple – one ugly accessory per outfit is more than enough.
The 90s wasn’t just about dad shoes, though. The decade spawned some of the most iconic sneakers of all time, from a series of Air Jordan models through to innovative running shoes like the Nike Air Max 95. The decade was so ripe for innovation and bold new designs that it might just be the finest 10 year period for shoes ever.
In line with the 20 year fashion cycle, the 90s have been hot for some time now and there’s no end in sight. While the 2000s were a fairly forgettable decade for style, the 90s just keeps on giving, with a number of archive designs being brought by Nike, Adidas and Reebok seemingly every week. It’s no wonder then that classics like the Air Max 95 were among the bestselling models last year.
While the decade may be known for its diverse designs – spanning the sports of basketball, tennis, running, football and more – it’s arguably the innovations that were created during this time that makes it the most impressive era. Nike’s Zoom Air unit was invented, the Huarache came out with its futuristic sock-like design, and the Jordan VI was the first sneaker to feature patent leather.
Many 90s sneakers remain classics today, so wear them like you would any other sneaker (think selvedge denim, hoodies and tees).