Sneakers are not just for casual wear anymore

Simple Style

Lately, I've been seeing a lot more sneakers and tennis shoes around town as part of everyday outfits.

Of course, sneakers have always been critical for activities like going to the gym or traipsing around the city where you're vacationing because you're afraid to take cabs or public transit. But recently, they've come back as part of dressier ensembles, akin to Keds with poodle skirts in the 1950s.

At first, I was totally unenthused about this trend because it started with the return of platform sneakers. This was surprising, since platform sneakers are universally regarded as one of the darkest developments in the history of footwear. I recall finding a $1,500 pair of bejeweled ones at Bloomingdale's last year and getting an overwhelming urge to burn sage.

Fast-forward a few years and I'm sitting in a brunch restaurant judging people's shoes while waiting for a table. A high-school or college-age girl rolls in with skinny jeans and high-top, retro-looking Nikes, and I immediately want them. The rest of her outfit is incredibly chic; the jeans were paired with a blazer, camisole and simple jewelry.

That's the moment when I started to believe in the return of sneakers and tennis shoes. Since then, I've been noticing them successfully paired with less-casual outfits, and even worn in the workplace. Here are some of the types of tennis shoes to look for, and how you can incorporate them into a pulled-together ensemble.


You've likely been buying Toms for a while, but this category is now expanded to include retro picks like Vans -- in modern colors and patterns, of course.

These are your best bet if you're actually going to pair your sneakers with a skirt or dress. Slip-on canvas shoes look great with an outfit where you're already juxtaposing dressy and casual, such as a pencil skirt paired with a patent leather skinny belt and simple pocket tee. If you're short, I'd go with a hemline above the knee. Since sneakers are totally flat and not typically the most flattering shoes you can choose, you'll probably prefer slightly more leg.

Another chic way to wear slip-ons is with a casual dress like a shirtdress. I love a slim chambray dress with a hemline above the knee, or a tennis-inspired dress with a full, pleated skirt. You're pairing casual fabrics and styles with the more formal aspect of wearing a dress, so it makes for the perfect combination.

Converse sneakers

I've been known to buy a pair of Converse sneakers in an "impractical" color or five, and I'm excited to be able to wear shoes I fell in love with in college in a professional environment.

My favorite look for Converse is with skinny pants and a blazer. Surprisingly, cropped pants work best in terms of figure-flattery, and they show off the shoe, as well. Try a monochromatic look with a pop of color from your shoes. You can also invest in white ones to wear with striped tees and chino shorts in the summer.

One thing to note is that in order to achieve the right dressy-casual look, your shoes must be in good condition. Converse in particular get better and more comfortable with age, but your look will fail if they're actually falling apart.

Classic Keds

We all remember Keds from our childhoods, but now with new colors and patterns and Taylor Swift as the new face of the brand, the simple sneakers are back in a big way. For the easiest pairing with more formal pieces, I would steer clear of the frou-frou touches like ribbon laces and eyelet fabric.

The best choices are simple patterns such as stripes or dots (Kate Spade has even collaborated on a few pairs of dot sneakers) or the classic style in a solid neutral or bright color. The plain white ones should still be part of your arsenal, too, as long as they're clean.

(E-mail Kristyn Schiavone at, or follow her on Twitter at @KKSchiavone.)


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