With the recent adoption of sneakers by suit enthusiasts, knowing how to wear a suit with sneakers can definitely reap those stylistic dividends! In this detailed guide, we cover how to style a suit with sneakers, the different types of suit and sneaker options, and more!
Advocating for a cause as benign as strutting sneakers with a suit even five years ago would have had our stomachs churning, our teeth rattling and an existential sense of dread surging through our bodies.
As anathema as water to oil, or Kanye to a well curated public persona (yes, the sweet irony of a ‘Ye reference to a sneaker article is not lost on us, believe me), wearing sneakers with suits has always been considered a stylistic faux pas. A definitive one at that.
But times do indeed change, and while Donald may still elect to go with the ever popular coif, the stylistic purists have decided to somewhat part ways with tradition of yesteryear and adopt what they once absolutely dreaded, heck, even mocked.
What was once considered sacreligious has now been adopted by the mainstream, and have to admit – it looks more than palatable! Courtesy of www.pinterest.com
While we typically focus on timeless wear on this sartorially focused blog that you find yourself on, sometimes trends stick long enough that we start to wonder if the cultural scape is shifting on a more permanent basis.
Or maybe its not, and this trend eventually vaporizes quicker than a cancelled celebrity’s endorsement deal. Either way, there is certainly a manner in which sneakers with suits can look palatable. They just, like anything else, have to be carefully curated so that the overall aesthetic looks harmonious, seamless, and above all else, exudes a sense of contemporary dapper.
So, as we reluctantly ditch the black or brown oxford cap toes, or even the slightly more casual oxford brogues that oh so beautifully used to provide the finishing touches to our formalwear ensembles, here are a few general guidelines that will undoubtedly help you choose the right sneakers to complement your suit the next time you decide to truly mix it up.
Dress Codes Appropriate For Wearing Sneakers
Any event you are attending that has been designated with formal or business dress code, should imply that said codes must be strictly adhered to.
Hence, whether you are strutting a tuxedo for black tie events or a dapper charcoal grey or navy suit for a more business formal setting, opting for your traditional dress shoes is absolutely imperative.
If, however, the event comes with slightly less (scratch that – much less formal!) connotations, the sudden thought of adopting the suit / sneaker trend may not be entirely blasphemous.
Whether it’s a more laid back wedding, relaxed office setting, or a party that you are looking to dress relaxed dapper for, wearing a suit with sneakers will allow you to mix things up for a more intriguing look.
A suit with sneakers can look great in a more relaxed setting. Courtesy of www.themanual.com
Who Should Wear Suits With Sneakers?
Anyone can pull off the look. Quite literally. While it was seemingly reserved for ‘dad style’ in years prior, now that it is considered a statement of intentional style means that it can be worn by anyone. Ultimately, whether a suit can be worn with sneakers boils down to the event, rather than the wearer himself.
How To Style Sneakers With A Suit
When strutting sneakers with a suit, one should strive to have it look intentional. You know, not that you rolled out of bed and haphazardly put your suit together in an absent minded fashion – with sneakers, nonetheless!
Hence, a well tailored suit with sleek sneakers will ensure that you were deliberate in your choice of shoes – and that it was indeed an appropriate one.
Furthermore, opting for slimmer fit pants (not tight pants!) will lend itself to a more streamlined look, that will pair perfectly with sleek, well fitted sneakers.
Slimmer pants without a break will help accentuate a streamlined silhouette that traditional dress pants with a full, half or even quarter break often fail to accomplish.
However, a few basic guidelines should be adhered to:
- Ensure that the type of suit is inherently less formal. Hence, single breasted suits with notched lapels work best (peaked lapels typically add to the formality of a jacket, while shawl lapels are almost exclusively reserved for black tie events). While double breasted jackets can work with sneakers, we would suggest sticking to a four button double breasted jacket if you absolutely insist on the combination.
- As with all things sartorial – fit is everything. Baggy pants and sneakers and you’ll appear clownish. Conversely (no pun intended!), tightly fitted pants with sneakers will also look deservedly out of place. We would therefore suggest a middle ground, opting for a slim cut suit, with the pants falling with no break, ensuring a clean line for the sneakers to be separated from.
Keeping that suit streamlined can help with maintaining a sleek silhouette. Courtesy of www.onpointfresh.com
- Keep things understated where possible. Sneakers with limited design work can work incredibly well, allowing for a more minimalistic style statement. If you are opting for patterned suits such as a pinstripe or plaid suit, a minimalist pair of sneakers is of paramount importance, helping balance the bolder patterns with a more understated piece.
Courtesy of www.aquila.com
- While not entirely necessary, wearing a t-shirt or dress shirt that is matches the colors of your sneakers can help create a harmonized look. This works especially well if a navy, brown or charcoal grey suit is worn with a white t-shirt and white sneakers.
A coordinated dress shirt and sneakers combination can help accentuate the entire look! Courtesy of www.thefashionisto.com
What Types Of Sneakers Can You Wear With A Suit
While there are proponents of pairing higher top and /or busier sneakers with suits, we prefer to keep things minimalistic and clean.
As a general rule of thumb, the smarter the occasion, the plainer, simpler and more fitted the sneakers should be. We would suggest the following general guidelines as they pertain to your choice of sneakers:
- Low top sneakers – versus higher top sneakers which cover your ankles.
- As mentioned above, sneakers with limited design can work exceptionally well in creating a more minimalistic style statement.
- Monochromatic one color or a subtle two tone sneaker with minimal branding.
- Sleek and fitted, with a similar silhouette to a more formal dress shoe
- Leather our suede, as synthetic fabrics will look out of place with that incredible suit. Keep note of the fact that textured sneakers, such as suede, can work incredibly well with textured jackets such as corduroy or tweed.
Of critical importance, is coordinating the color of your sneakers with your suits. While lighter colored sneakers can pair incredibly well with a darker colored suit (e.g white sneakers with a navy suit), and darker sneakers can work with lighter colored suits, a monochromatic or tonal look can defy such conventions and still result in an emphatic outfit.
Sneaker suit color combinations can work in a variety of ways: similar tonal (dark with dark), monochromatic (same color scheme) or contrasting (light with dark). Courtesy of www.thegentlemansjournal.com
As with traditional dress shoes, black sneakers generally go with black or grey suits, brown sneakers go with brown, grey or navy suits and in the case specifically of white sneakers, they go best with grey, lighter brown or navy suits.
- Brown Sneakers with Brown, Tan, Navy Or Grey Suits
- Grey Sneakers with Navy, Light Grey or Black Suits
- White Sneakers with Light Grey, Mid Grey, Tan, Navy Suits (can also be worn with black suits)
- Black Sneakers with Black, Charcoal Grey or Light Grey Suits
- Navy Sneakers with Grey, Brown or Navy Suits
Courtesy of www.realmenrealstyle.com
Styling The Right Suit With Sneakers
Discerning between which type of suit and aesthetic to embrace can make a huge difference to your overall suit & sneaker combinations!
Tonal / Monochromatic Look
Adopting a monochromatic look entails a suit, sneakers and shirt of the same color. This works extremely well for gentlemen looking for a sense of continuity throughout their outfits.
Alternatively, using tonals such as off whites with light grey’s or khakis can create a look that is somewhat monochromatic, but with more visual interest.
Choose pieces with different but complementary shades of the same color, with either tonal sneakers or neutral footwear.
A monochromatic look provides a great sense of continuity. Courtesy of www.xsneakercare.com
Take a traditional pattern such as pinstripe or prince of wales check, and modernize it with a sleek, well fitted pair of sneakers! Accentuate this look by matching the color of your shirt / t-shirt with that of your shoes e.g white shirt / t-shirt with white sneakers.
The Dark Knot Tip: A pair of two tone sneakers will sync well with a two tone pinstripe suit, helping create a sense of harmony within the ensemble.
Help reduce the contrast between your suit and sneakers by deciding on a slightly heavier suit fabric!
A traditional pinstripe suit, turned contemporary with this incredible white dress shirt and sneaker combination. Courtesy of www.lookastic.com
Neutrals During Warmer Months
Few ensembles provide an opportunity to introduce sneakers like wearing neutrals during the summer months. Pair that light, mid grey or khaki light woolen, cotton or linen suit with a white t-shirt and a pair of sneakers, and you are bound to have a look that will elicit a few head turns and then some!
A tan suit with white sneakers, perfect for the spring & summer months. Courtesy of www.hespokestyle.com
Colorful Suits During Warmer Months
Colorful Suits, such as a powder blue linen suit during the spring & summer season, are a great way to introduce sneakers to your suit game. A vibrant blue suit can instantly make the outfit appear more playful, especially when paired with a tee or a knitted polo!
That clean & dapper summer look featuring a powder blue suit and white sneakers!
Double Breasted Suits
While there has been a recent resurgence in double breasted suits, these should be used sparingly with your sneaker game. G
iven the formal connotations of a double breasted suit (think wider, peak lapels to draw attention to the wearer’s shoulders to create a ‘V’ shaped aesthetic, overlapping fabric given nature of suit etc), we would suggest choosing a less formal variant, including narrower lapels and one with a solid color.
A patterned double breasted suit with sneakers may risk appearing too loud, with simply too much going on at once.
While a double breasted suit can work well with sneakers, ensure that the jacket has narrower lapels than a traditional double breasted suit, and that the jacket has been tailored shorter. Courtesy of www.lookbook.nu
The contemporary double breasted jacket will help in this regard. These jackets are generally sleekly tailored and cut shorter. The jacket sits close to the body without hugging it, while armholes are cut higher to create a cleaner look.
In essence, the contemporary double breasted jacket retains its sense of elegance, while also entailing a minimalistic, modern look.
Dark & Classic
Instead of going for a monochromatic look, a dark and staple suit, such as a classic black, darker navy or charcoal grey suit, can create an incredible level of contrast with lighter colored or white sneakers. Compared to the monochromatic or tonal color scheme that effectively streamlines your silhouette, a contrasting look between white sneakers and a classic, darker colored suit makes a statement. With an emphatic punch to boot.
The Dark Knot Tip: Swap out your traditional silk tie and replace it with a knitted tie for a nonchalant style statement. Alternatively, you can drop the shirt and simply embrace a t-shirt matching the color of your sneakers.
Few combinations look as smart as a traditional charcoal grey or navy suit with contrasting white sneakers. Courtesy of www.themodestman.com
Looking to embrace texture as part of some sartorial variation? Whether your suit is cut from corduroy or tweed, nothing will quite emphasize the texture of the fabric like a textured sneaker. Suede sneakers, in particular, will pair extremely well with a textured suit, helping to create a polished, casual and dapper look all at once. Not a bad payoff for a fairly manageable decision!
And finally, how about trying separates? Separates are still perennially underrated when it comes to smart casual dressing. The key is to invest in proper separates that are more than just mixing pants and jackets from various suits. Classic combinations of grey and navy, or grey and black, paired with white sneakers, can work incredibly well.
Separates with a pair of white sneakers working to great effect. Courtesy of www.lifestyleasia.com
Accessorizing A Suit With Sneakers
If you are dressing for work and opting for sneakers is your way of approaching ‘casual Friday’s, then retain the shirt. We would, however, suggesting either not going with a tie at all, or replacing your traditional silk tie with a knit tie for a more relaxed dapper look.
Courtesy of www.pinterest.com
If, however, you are dressing for a situation, that is more laid back, ditch the dress shirt for a t-shirt or knitted polo. The key to a great ensemble is balance, and balancing out the formality of a suit with a t-shirt can be a great way to harmonize the entire look.
Ok, so that was a fair amount of suit & sneaker information to digest (maybe even more so than the recent ‘Ye debacle). So here we go:
- When assessing whether it is appropriate to wear suits and sneakers, definitely ditch the idea of wearing sneakers to your next black tie event. Sneaker pairings with a suit should only be reserved for more casual occasions, such as smart casual, business casual or relaxed dress codes.
- Anyone can pull off wearing sneakers with a suit, as long as it has been worn with intentionality and is well balanced with the rest of your outfit.
- When wearing sneakers with a suit, opt for a suit that provides a streamlined silhouette, and as a result, sleeker, well fitted sneakers.
- As a general rule of thumb, the higher up the ‘smart’ dress code spectrum the event is, the better fitted your sneakers should be.
- When choosing an appropriate pair of sneakers, look for the following (1) minimalistic design, allowing for a streamlined, clean aesthetic (2) low top’s that are not ankle covering, as opposed to higher top basketball shoes (3) monochromatic single color or subtle two tonal sneakers with minimal branding (4) sleek and well fitted and finally (5) leather or suede – avoid synthetic fabrics where you can!
- When choosing an appropriate pairing of sneaker color with your suits, lighter colored sneakers can work effectively with darker colored suits (e.g navy suit with white sneakers), as can darker colored sneakers with lighter colored suits (e.g brown sneakers with a khaki suit). However, opting for a monochromatic or tonal look can work incredibly well (white sneakers with a light beige / khaki suit, or brown sneakers with a navy suit).
- When discerning between different suit and sneaker combinations, some popular choices are (1) Monochromatic / tonal, allowing you to pair lighter or darker colors together (2) Contemporary look, pairing a contrasting pair of sneakers with a traditional suit (e.g pinstripe suit with white, two tonal sneakers) (3) A summertime suit with white sneakers, such as a beige linen or cotton suit, or a colorful suit (e.g powder blue) (4) Dark & classic suit such as a charcoal grey or navy suit with lighter colored or white sneakers) (5) A textured suit such as corduroy or tweed paired with textured, suede sneakers and finally (6) A look comprised of separates (separate jacket and pants that are not part of the same suit).
- Accessorizing a suit with sneakers largely depends on the type of occasion that you are dressing up for. A relaxed dress code day at work could allow you to ditch the dress shirt altogether and replace it with a plain white tee. Alternatively, try throwing in a knitted, linen or cotton tie for a more relaxed, nonchalant dapper look. If, however, you are dressing down for a more relaxed event, such as some weekend casual fun, replace the dress shirt with a tee or knitted polo!
And that’s a wrap for this one. We hope that you have enjoyed reading this article as much as we have writing it!