Business casual sneakers have found their place in the American office thanks to a post-pandemic culture that demands comfort. People have seen the light; many grew accustomed to the ease of working from home in their favorite joggers, cozy hoodies, and footwear of their choosing. But when it came time to head back into the real world, they were less than excited to button things up, and rightfully so — who wants to feel restricted?
Thankfully, dress codes are skewing lax as companies learn of the possibilities of presenting professionally through carefully planned outfits. This doesn’t mean sweats and slippers, but many guys are trading in their khaki pants for a pair of well-fitting jeans and unbuttoning their dress shirts in favor of comfortable polos or even crisp, slim-fit t-shirts that layer nicely under a blazer. But one of the earliest items cut from the roster in favor of comfort was the dress shoe.
What Are Business Casual Shoes?
Though men’s dress shoes are often powerfully stunning and men’s boots will work on occasion, neither comes close to the all-day comfort and shock absorbency sneakers can provide, especially for guys who work on their feet. But there’s a very fine line as to what makes a sneaker appropriate for business casual attire and what’s better suited for everyday life. Consider these four things when shopping for sneakers to wear at the office:
Style: The best office sneakers will have a slim silhouette without a lot of chunkiness and an overall low profile. Sneakers like this don’t make feet look small or oversized but somewhere in between. Slip-on sneakers tend to look too casual. Running shoes are an immediate “No.”
Material: Leather and suede are going to be the best materials for business casual sneakers. That’s not to say canvas can’t sometimes work, but anything fabric-based will make an outfit look even more casual.
Color: Men’s office sneakers should stay in the neutral color lane. That means black, brown, white, and gray. Subtle pops are also acceptable, like navy blue, oxblood, or forest green. Colorful office sneakers, though dependent on the work environment, are best worn on a limited basis or as part of a larger rotation of shoes. Avoid anything that’s too bright unless it’s spirit week.
Your Outfit: It’s a balancing act. If you’re still required to wear a suit and tie, opt for a slim-fit and add a sharp-looking sneaker or sneaker-soled dress shoe that allows the pants to drape properly. Better yet, tailor the pants right to the ankle. Former NFL tight end, Rob Gronkowski, always pulls this off as a sports personality. Otherwise, if you’re in a chino or jeans-wearing office that has all but denounced the necktie, the sky’s the limit on sneakers.
How Much Should You Pay for Business Casual Sneakers?
The price of business casual sneakers ranges — widely. While popular designers like Saint Laurent or Salvatore Ferragamo offer beautifully handcrafted sneakers at a very premium price, smaller brands, like Ace Marks and Taft, have started to emerge with special business models that allow them to cut out the middle-man and charge a fraction of the cost for similar-caliber products.
For the best business casual sneakers, considering quality, materials, and longevity, feel comfortable spending between $150-$250. In this price range, you can find Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese-made shoes that are just as incredible as higher-end designers (if not already manufactured in the same factory). Even if they’re not hand-made, many shoes in this range are of exceptional quality.
For sneakers outside this range, still, consider them. Many brands, like Cole Haan, Cariuma, and Todd Snyder still pay a considerable amount of attention to design, comfort, and usefulness.
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