Every morning, my commute to work takes about 15 minutes longer than it should—mostly due to my poor choice of footwear. Schlepping to and from the office, you’d think I’d opt for a pair of practical sneakers, but that’s rarely the case. Instead, you’ll typically find me running to the train in my Cuban-heel boots or hefty Gucci lug-sole loafers, both of which very much slow me down.
Though I religiously wore K-Swiss runners in high school (sometimes even with mismatched shoelaces), I abandoned sneakers altogether by my college years. This was the era of 2010s business casual, after all, so you’d often find me strolling to my classes in a sleek black blazer and Chelsea boots. More recently, my sense of style has loosened up, but my go-to footwear hasn’t strayed from dressy territory. Whether I’m in jeans and a tee, or a full-on suit, I’ve always struggled to find a pair of sneakers that feel right; a polished dress shoe simply always completes the look better—or so I thought. This year, I sought to finally find the right sneakers for me.
My quest for the perfect kicks began with looking at my wardrobe in a more general sense. As someone who’s currently obsessed with all things ’70s—think: flared pants and leather blazers—I decided that my go-to sneakers would need to have a retro sensibility as well. Otherwise, they’ll never go with my look. Researching popular styles from the decade, I first came across the Adidas Gazelle—a streamlined low-top that comes with sporty stripes and fun suede colors. I instantly liked how clean and pared-back they looked: A big reason why I’ve avoided sneakers is because they often feel bulky or chunky, and these feel like a fresh solution to that. I bought a pair in bright green for spring, and have been wearing them nonstop with my go-to brown pleated trousers.
Enjoying the easy retro vibe of the Gazelles, I wanted to explore other sneaker styles that nod to the ’70s. Enter the Nike Cortez. Introduced in 1972, these have an aerodynamic feel; it’s like a pointy-toe boot, but in sneaker form. This pair looks best styled in a more casual context, often with my favorite light-wash Levi’s jeans and a Missoni zigzag top. Ditto for my Wales Bonner kicks, which reimagines the Adidas Sambas in a white crochet.
The lesson I’m learning is to make your sneakers work for you and your style—I just had to find the ones that fit with my groovy aesthetic. After giving my snazzy loafers and boots a rest for a while, I’ve found that a well-coordinated sneaker can even enhance a look. Knowing this now, I’m kicking myself for avoiding comfy sneakers for so long. You may now even see me sprinting to work in shoes that I can actually run in. Call me a sneakerhead in training!
Below, shop six kicks approved by a skeptic.