An Ode to the All-White Sneaker
In the age of the maximalist sneaker, it’s good to take a step back once in a while. Sure, designers and brands are pushing the envelope when it comes to design conventions, ushering footwear into a new era of sartorial significance and technological evolution. However, when it comes to timeless style, it’s likely nothing will ever replace the understated all-white sneaker.
Whether you treat ‘em well or beat ‘em to hell, your favourite white sneakers never seem to lose their figurative shine – and it’s easy to see why.
To call the humble white sneaker a fashion ‘trend’ couldn’t be further from the truth. Once associated with the likes of nurses and, perhaps, your grandparents, the popularity of white sneakers dates back to about a century ago – hardly a modern footwear fad. While its look has been adopted by modern trendsetters, the essence of the white sneaker goes back to what ‘sneakers’ were originally conceived for: sport.
To many, the Converse Chuck Taylor All Star is the greatest sneaker on earth. For most, it encapsulates the everyday canvas crep, with white the constantly-popular choice since its inception. They may be neutral in tone, but a pair of white Chucks is one of the sneakersphere’s ultimate chameleons. Created during the formative years of basketball, the sneaker has evolved over the last 100 years, worn by Harlem Globetrotters in the 1950s, California’s ‘beach boys’ of the 1960s, and modern-day streetwear icons like Virgil Abloh and Tyler, The Creator – the one’s that move the needle when it comes to contemporary cool.
As showcased by the aforementioned Converse classic, white sneakers are pillars of versatility – the footwear fiend’s version of the Swiss Army Knife. Arriving later, legendary silhouettes like the adidas Stan Smith and Nike Air Force 1 also possessed the ability to be dressed up or down, while trying to keep them crispy clean was completely up to you – never an easy task, but one embraced by many.
Loved for their accessibility as much as their versatility, all-white sneakers began to take on a new meaning post-2000. Inspired by low-cut adidas classics of the past, brands like Golden Goose, Margiela, Alexander McQueen and, most notably, Common Projects ushered in a new era for the style, blending easy-wearing aesthetics with luxury materials and elevated craftsmanship.
Keeping branding (and advertising collateral) to a minimum, Common Projects have since become one of the most influential labels in the luxury sneaker game, building an empire on their understated white sneaker: the Achilles Low. It’s a simple formula – full-grain white leather upper, leather sockliners, and rubber outsoles – but it’s one that’s gone on to shape fashion as much as it has changed the economy of footwear.
Regardless of price or style, the reason the humble white sneaker will always be an unwavering force in the realm of footwear is the community’s love for the concept of ‘silhouette’. Take away colour, and suddenly, a greater importance is placed on the shape of the shoe itself – the true essence of what makes a sneaker great. There’s a reason why just about every sneaker ever created has come in white, and we’re sure that will never change!
Don’t forget to check out our feature on the All-Time Greatest White Sneakers.