How To Wear A Suit With Sneakers: 15 Perfectly Balanced Outfits For 2023
It's not as simple as throwing on your battered Converse with your 9-5 two-piece. Here's how to nail this modern look.
We can almost guarantee sneakers aren’t the first shoes that come to mind when considering what footwear to wear with a suit. Traditionally, bench-made leather Derbies, Oxfords and loafers are the go-to silhouettes, and for good reason. For decades, the suit has given off an air of formality, worn to demonstrate the wearer’s professionalism and respect.
But with the breaking down of formal dress codes over past few years, something only accelerated by the pandemic, tailoring has become more relaxed. In 2023, the new suit is laid-back and unstructured, found in non-traditional colours and materials such as cotton twill, linen blends and corduroy. This dressed down nature allows them to be combined with sneakers without jarring, making the combination ideal for smart casual occasions or creative offices.
However, it’s not as simple as throwing on your battered Converse with your 9-5 two-piece. There are plenty of pitfalls along the way and if you don’t pay attention to the details, suits and sneakers can look sloppy and ill thought out. Here’s how to get it right.
When you should wear a suit with sneakers
Suits and sneakers don’t work all the time. In fact, for many situations they probably aren’t suitable at all. When it comes to occasions that specify a formal dress code, whether that’s a wedding, client meeting or interview, you’ll almost always be better off sticking to leather shoes or boots, which better complement shirts, ties, pocket squares and the smarter side of tailoring.
Sneakers should be consider on occasions where tailoring is a choice, not something that’s required. When you choose to wear a suit, in the same way you might decide to wear a T-shirt and jeans, there is often more room for creativity.
Smart casual settings are where this look works best – think fancy restaurant reservations, birthday nights out, beach weddings, awards ceremonies or just those times when you want to make an impression and show off your style kudos.
The types of suits to wear with sneakers
You can’t just throw on your business suit and a pair of sneakers and expect it to look good – they are poles apart in formality. The type of suit you wear needs to have a casual flavour to it and ideally work well with other laid-back garments such as tees, polos and collarless shirts.
There are two ways a suit can achieve this relaxed feel. The first is with the cut. Your jacket should be unstructured with little to no padding in the shoulders and chest, and a half or no lining. Unstructured blazers drape in a more natural way (almost like a cardigan) and don’t create that imposing, ‘power dressing’ silhouette like roped shouldered versions do. With the trousers, try opting for a turn up pair or having them tailored slightly shorter to clearly differentiate them from your dress pants.
The second way you can control the formality of tailoring is via colour and fabrication. Business suits are usually crafted from shiny worsted wool or flat fabrics with little-to-no texture, in a sombre palette of charcoal, navy and black. These type of suits have been the default corporate work uniform for decades, and therefore anything other than appropriately smart leather shoes would look odd.
Instead, prioritise tailoring crafted from cotton twill, linen blends or heavily textured wools like flannel and cord (all of which are more associated with casualwear staples), in non-traditional shades such as green, beige, brighter blues and pastels.
Both of these things will reduce the gap between your suit (formalwear) and sneakers (casualwear), meaning you fall into that smart casual/business casual sweet spot.
The types of sneakers that work with suits
Similar to finding the right suit, it’s crucial you seek out the right sneakers when looking to combine the two. This is a pairing that’s all about the details so if you gloss over them, it’ll show.
There are certain styles that work and others that look mismatched and like an afterthought. Here are the
The easiest style to combine with tailoring and one that in many cases actually enhances an unstructured suit, minimal sneakers are the perfect smart casual choice.
Plenty of brands produce high-end leather versions in pared-back designs these days, so you won’t struggle to find a pair.
Canvas low top sneakers
A style long associated with subcultures, from skaters through to punks, canvas sneakers are inherently casual and usually paired with jeans, shorts and T-shirts. It’s therefore slightly unconventional to wear them with a suit, and the results can be hit and miss.
Nail the details though and it’s possible to get it right: ensure the trouser hems are short, the suit is unstructured and the sneakers box fresh. They work particularly well in summer.
If you want to add a vintage twist to an otherwise modern tailoring look, consider a pair of retro runners. This throwback style has made waves in menswear over the past few years, with leading names such as Nike and New Balance raiding their archives and relaunching models from their respective back catalogues.
Retro runners often incorporate plenty of colour via contrast panelling, so if you want to eschew the minimal look and spice up a suit with tonal shades, this could be the way forward.
Suits with sneakers outfits
One way to wear suits with sneakers is by going bold with your colour choice. That could mean a more out-there suit shade like green or burgundy, or a more intense take on a classic, like blue. Go for the latter and anchor it with a simple white shirt and tennis shoes.
Another novice-friendly way of wearing sneakers with tailoring is to match the colour of your shoes to your shirt. In this case, the deep brown tones of the polo shirt and the leather sneakers are a perfect contrast against the lighter stone suit.
Keep it simple
Because suits and sneakers is a non-traditional look, it’s best to keep your fit as simple as possible. One statement is usually enough, so start with a pair of canvas low tops and further bring down the formality with a T-shirt or lightweight knit. Accessorise with a tote bag and classic sunglasses and you’re good to go.
While white sneakers might be the easiest to pair with suit, grey comes in a close second. Opt for suede grey retro runners and combine them with an unstructured blazer, drawstring trousers and matching grey knit for a versatile update on tonal dressing.
Tonal suiting and sneakers
Or you could try the opposite and opt for a full on grey outfit, finished with some contrasting white canvas trainers. Grey tailoring is usually reserved for the boardroom, so tone it down via the cut (soft, unstructured) and fabric (cotton twill instead of wool) for something better suited to smart casual occasions.
Sneakers with double-breasted tailoring
If you’re trying suits with sneakers for the first time, we’d recommend sticking with single-breasted tailoring for its simplicity. But for a next-level menswear move, try upping the ante with a double-breasted suit.
While usually more formal, if you go for an unstructured, slim-fitting version in a non-traditional colour – like green – it can easily be combined with leather sneakers, as pictured here.
Sneakers with oversized tailoring
For a streetwear-inspired look, try combining sneakers with oversized tailoring. Here, the suit’s unconventional cut, with its dropped shoulders and roomier waist, arguably works better with sneakers than leather shoes anyway, given that it’s more casual and laid back. You could go for chunky sneakers in this scenario, or keep things simple with minimal white leather kicks.
Workwear-inspired tailoring with sneakers
A workwear suit – one that’s made from study cotton with patch pockets and in an unstructured cut – is a natural partner for sneakers. Tap into its casual feel and opt for canvas trainers in off white, and you’ll have a surprisingly versatile look that’s as ideal for a creative office as it is a first date.
Look for texture
Suits and sneakers often fail because the former is too smart. As recommended above, avoid flat, business wear fabrics like worsted wool and instead opt for texture in the form of cotton twill, herringbone wool or corduroy, which better combines with casual pieces like sneakers.
Minimalist suits and sneakers
As is often the case with tailoring, it looks its best when the accessories are kept to a minimum. Allow the cut of the suit to take centre stage and try a tonal fit consisting of an unstructured blazer, open-neck polo and drawstring trousers, and finish with suede slip-on sneakers.
Whatever you do, avoid a tie
If there’s one thing you should take away from this article, it’s skip the tie. With a tie, this look wouldn’t work – the clash of formality with the laid-back feel of sneakers would simply be too great.
Instead, without it, this classic suited look, complete with bengal stripe shirt, pocket square, is just relaxed enough to combine with the suede kicks below. No socks is another example of addition by subtraction.
White and navy
If you want a foolproof suits and sneaker combination, try white and navy. Navy suits are easy to style and work with virtually every skin tone, while white sneakers are versatile and perfectly complement the deep blue shade.
What’s more, you can wear either one independently, further bolstering the versatility of your wardrobe.
Blue and green should be seen
A colour combination that often gets a bad rap, green and blue can work harmoniously together. To make it work, seek out an olive green unstructured suit and combine it with a mid-blue denim shirt and navy sneakers.
Keep the accessories to a minimum and you’ve got a look perfect for a summer wedding reception, or after-work drinks in the city.
Sockless suits and sneakers
While polarising for some, going sockless works especially when wearing sneakers with tailoring. The reason being, it further dresses down the suit while adding a summery feel to an unstructured cotton two-piece.
You could consider this fit for a casual summer wedding reception (dress code permitting); just ensure the trousers are hemmed slightly short so the move looks like a deliberate one.
Black sneakers are the smartest option available to you. Find a pair finished in leather and they reference classic Derbies and Oxfords, offering a slightly dressier take than white versions.
Team them with unstructured navy tailoring and a tucked in tee and you’ve got a sharp look that’ll work for a wide array of social occasions.