When styled correctly, a pair of sneakers with a suit can be a great way to mix up an otherwise traditional outfit.
In the modern office – smart-casual is king, and a pair of plain white dress sneakers can help you add a relaxed touch to your well-tailored suit. But be careful; there's a fine line between stylishly casual and inappropriately dressed.
In today's article, I'll teach you how to walk that tightrope with confidence. We'll be covering:
- When Can You Wear Sneakers With A Suit?
- Can Anyone Wear Sneakers With A Suit?
- What Style Of Sneakers Can You Wear With A Suit?
- How To Style Sneakers With A Suit
#1. When Can You Wear Sneakers With A Suit?
I'll come right out with it – if a dress code has the word ‘formal' anywhere in it, avoid sneakers at all costs.
That being said, if ‘casual' is mentioned, then sneakers are fair game. Look out for the following term:
The list goes on, but you get the point. If a dress code appears to be on the relaxed side of things, you can probably get away with it.
If no dress code is specified, then use your best judgment. When attending a Christmas party at your office – sneakers are acceptable. Attending a funeral? Yeah, probably avoid sneakers in this instance.
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#2. Can Anyone Wear Sneakers With A Suit?
The answer is yes – anyone can wear sneakers with a suit, provided you follow the basic rules I outline in this article!
Are you a 56-year-old African American man with a dad-bod? Maybe a 30-year-old white guy with a matchstick figure? You could even be a woman who just wanted to read up on attractive men's style. It doesn't matter – anyone can wear sneakers with a suit!
It's not about age, race, or even gender. The determining factor of whether you can wear sneakers with a suit comes down to an event's formality, not the wearer himself.
#3. What Style Of Sneakers Can You Wear With A Suit?
The smarter the outfit or occasion, the plainer, simpler, and more fitted the sneakers should be. When it comes to dress sneakers, less is always more. You won't look good in a well-tailored blazer and bulky basketball sneakers – that's just a fact.
As a general guideline, opt for the following:
- Minimalist – with a monochrome or subtle two-tone upper and minimal branding
- Low top – rather than high tops which cover the ankle
- Sleek and fitted – with a similar silhouette to a dress shoe
- Leather or suede – mesh and synthetic fabrics are not formal enough
Color should also be a consideration. While I would usually opt for either black or white sneakers, there is nothing to stop you from mixing things up a bit (within reason!)
As with any style item, this needs to be approached with care. Color balancing is a tricky business – get it wrong, and your outfit could appear mismatched and unbalanced. To save you gents the trouble, I've gone ahead and broken down some great color combinations for you:
- White sneakers – light gray, tan, or navy suit
- Black sneakers – black, charcoal, or light gray
- Burgundy sneakers – brown, light gray, charcoal, or navy suit
- Gray sneakers – light gray, charcoal, or navy suit
- Navy sneakers – light gray or tan suit
- Brown sneakers – brown, light gray, or navy suit
#4. How To Style Sneakers With A Suit
For any kind of tailoring and sneakers, there are a set of conventions to keep in mind.
Throwing on your fluorescent track sneakers and hoping they'll look good just isn't going to cut it. As with any style choice, you need to be intentional in your choice of fit, color, and fabric.
What Fit Works Best With Trainers?
Baggy dress pants and sneakers DO NOT work together. Nor do super-skinny pants and sneakers.
The key to a balanced outfit is to find the perfect fit – so opt for a slim-cut suit. The more neatly tailored it is, the better it’ll look with sneakers.
The goal is to look intentionally styled. The last thing you want is for people to think you forgot to put your Oxfords on – so wearing a well-tailored, slim fit option with your sneakers demonstrates an intentional style choice rather than a fashion mishap.
Pants with a break are too formal and conservative to pair with sneakers. A better option is to crop the suit's trousers so the cuffs fall just above the shoe's tongue. See ‘no break' on the image below to get an idea of how dress pants should fall on sneakers.
Pro tip: Wear your sneakers to the tailor to show him where you want the trousers altered!
Should You Wear A Shirt And Tie?
If you're dressing for work and wearing sneakers as part of a ‘dress-down Friday' situation, then yes – wear a shirt. The idea of wearing sneakers to the office is to add a touch of personality while maintaining a professional aesthetic.
You may be able to lose the tie – assess your office environment and make an informed decision on this.
However, if you're attending a more laid-back event that calls for ‘smart-casual,' then I would advise lowering the formality of your outfit by wearing a polo shirt or t-shirt in place of a button-down.
Remember, the key to a great outfit is balance. When wearing sneakers with a suit, balancing out the formality with a t-shirt can be a great way to bring harmony to your appearance. It shows that, although you can appreciate the cut of a well-tailored suit, you also understand the necessity for informal clothing when the occasion calls for it.
What Style Of Suit Is Best?
Some would argue that you can wear any type of suit with sneakers. However, doing so and looking good is another matter.
Sure, any style has the potential to work well with sneakers, but that's not to say that every man can pull it off.
Here at RMRS, I always talk about timeless style. Today is no exception – so I'm not going to suggest a high-fashion, multi-colored suit is a style choice you should make (regardless of your footwear choice!)
To keep things classy, simple, and timeless; stick to one of the following:
- Monotone – Your suit, sneakers, and shirt are all shades of the same color. This works great for men who want to wear a suit with their sneakers while maintaining a sense of continuity throughout their outfits. With this style, your sneakers will not stand out – they should blend in nicely with the rest of your outfit.
- Patterned – There's no harm in incorporating patterns. A pin-stripe or checked suit is always an excellent option for fine tailoring. However, to help reduce the contrast between your suit and sneakers, opt for a heavier fabric suit and a t-shirt that matches the color of your footwear.
- Light Colored – Not everything has to be black and white. A light-colored suit (particularly in the warmer months) can be a great way to add variety to your officewear. A powder-blue suit, for example, pairs incredibly well with plain white sneakers and a white shirt. Once again, for continuity's sake, ensure the color of your shirt matches your trainers wherever possible.
- Dark And Classic – In contrast, a classic black or charcoal gray suit can look fantastic with sneakers. The contrast between the casual sneakers and the formal suit is striking – but in a good way. As opposed to the monotone look where everything blends in as one, this look aims to draw attention to the contrasts in your outfit. White sneakers against a black suit achieve this perfectly – it says, ‘yes, I'm wearing sneakers with a suit. Looks great, doesn't it?'
Dress sneakers aren't the only way to take your formal outfits to the next level – click here to discover my guide to taking your suit from ordinary to extraordinary.
Click below to watch the video – Wear Sneakers With A Suit & Look AMAZING!