The Best Sneakers For The New Season

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The Best Sneakers For The New Season

Words by Mr Chris Elvidge

2 February 2017

Need a mood enhancer this February? The fresh white sneakers and two-tone high-tops to put some spring in your step.

Pulling on a cashmere sweater on a cold day, nailing a tie dimple at the first attempt, and buttoning your graduation suit trousers to discover, much to your surprise, that they still fit. Sure, there’s much pleasure and satisfaction to be had from all four corners of your wardrobe, but you can’t beat that walking-on-air feeling from a pair of box-fresh sneakers.

At MR PORTER, we like to think of a new pair of sneakers as a form of self-medication against the miseries of January, and a celebration that we lived through it; a way of introducing a little sunshine into an otherwise dreary time of year. It’s with this in mind that we present to you an endorphin-boosting selection of the best designer sneakers. You look like you could do with cheering up, after all.

Common Projects changed the game for men’s footwear. If you think that’s an overstatement, consider the evidence. Back in 2004, when the New York brand released its original model, the Achilles, the market for minimal sneakers barely existed. Thirteen years on, they are now considered a wardrobe essential – and the Achilles, a masterclass in Mr John Pawson-style stripped-back simplicity realised in pristine white leather, is the archetypal style. This Retro version breaks the tried-and-tested, all-white colour scheme to introduce an adidas Stan Smith-esque green heel tab: blasphemy to CP purists, no doubt, but a stylish choice for anyone looking to introduce a bit of colour – and we do stress the “bit” bit – into their footwear.

Hip-hop fans will recognise the Balenciaga Arena as an old favourite of Mr Kanye West; the rapper has been championing the brand for years. As he explained to GQ in 2014, he considers himself largely responsible for the brand’s success in the sneaker market. “Listen to what I’m saying – me, as Kanye West: I guarantee you, I’m more than 50 per cent responsible for every men’s shoe that they sell,” he told the interviewer. Granted, it’s hardly the subtlest endorsement from Mr West, but then the Arena is not a subtle shoe. Marrying the crisscross lacing and D-ring eyelets of a hiking boot with the profile of a mid-rise basketball sneaker, Balenciaga’s iconic sneaker is an eye-catching creation, bold enough to stand up to even the biggest egos.

As explained on the label inside each garment, Maison Margiela’s Replica range is a “reproduction of found garments of various sources and periods”. In the case of these running shoes, the source was Austria, the period the 1970s. Here is a shoe, then, that had already stood the test of time before Maison Margiela decided to recreate it. Now, as one of the brand’s most well-established and best-selling styles, it has effectively stood the test of time twice over. A classic in the remaking, the Replica has been rendered in all manner of exotic materials over the last few years; one of our personal highlights this season is a version made from a rich, burnished two-tone tan leather. For everyday wear, though, you can’t beat this white-and-grey model.

You don’t have to be a sneakerhead to note the striking similarity between these Saint Laurent SL10s and the original must-have basketball sneaker, the Nike Air Jordan 1 High. Designed in 1985 to be worn by their namesake, the Chicago Bulls rookie Mr Michael Jordan, the AJ1s were swiftly banned by the NBA for not having enough white on them (something Wimbledon competitors will be all too familiar with). Realising one of the universal truths of marketing – that the quickest way to make something popular is to ban it – Nike agreed to stump up the fine of $5,000 per game on behalf of Mr Jordan, on the condition that he continued to wear the shoes. The gamble paid off, and the AJ1 “bred” – that’s the lingo for black and red – went down in history as one of the most highly coveted sneakers of all time. The Saint Laurent SL10 pays homage to this iconic model, reimagining it in luxurious Italian leather while keeping its rebellious spirit perfectly preserved.

You don’t give your brand a name like “Athletic Propulsion Labs” without taking yourself, and your product, very seriously indeed. Luckily, the designers behind APL’s range of running sneakers know exactly what they’re doing (their dad created LA Gear – remember it?). Boasting a layer of the brand’s springy yet resilient Propellium foam, the midsole in these TechLoom Phantom sneakers is designed to absorb shock and return energy, while retaining its structural integrity for longer than conventional EVA foam – which, in layman’s terms, means you’ll get a better performance for a longer time. If you’re the kind of jogger accustomed to eating up the miles – and burning through running shoes – this will be music to your ears, as it essentially means you’ll be getting better value for money. Throw in a feather-light, seamless upper fitted with a neoprene collar for comfort around the ankle, and you’re looking a shoe that makes going for a run seem like quite an attractive prospect.

The house of Lanvin is to the sneaker what phonetics scholar Henry Higgins is to cockney flower-girl Eliza Doolittle in Pygmalion: it raises it up from its humble roots, softens its edges and makes it seem at home in the most elevated social settings. In the skillful hands of this illustrious Parisian brand, even the slip-on sneaker, a streetwear classic usually associated with skateboarders, can be transformed into an elegant, smart piece of footwear. In a range of tonal blues and cut from layers of beautifully smooth full-grain leather and suede, this is one slip-on you won’t want to slip off.