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The Thread guide to trainers

The Thread guide to trainers

Not that long ago, a man would only wear trainers for actual training. Today, you’re more likely to find them outside the gym than in it. “They’re the most relaxed footwear you can wear,” says Thread stylist Alexander McCalla. “For days when you’re not worried about dressing up, you can just throw them on.”

But trainers aren’t just about comfort (although that is a big part of why they’re great). “In the last 20 years we’ve seen them cross over into more formal styles,” says Alexander. A new breed of trainer brands, most with no connection to athletics and many of whom specialised in traditional shoes first, have helped the style transition away from exercise. The sleekest versions are now not just office-appropriate, but will even get you past a nightclub bouncer.

To help you figure out where you sit on the scale, we’ve highlighted five of our favourite types of trainer, listed from smart to casual, to help you pick the kind that’s best for you. Better yet, invest in the whole set. Then you’ll have an option for any style situation.


Minimal trainers

Minimal trainers

Photographed: H&M Edition trainers (£79.99); Edwin jeans (throughout) (£140)

The style: “A clean, simple trainer that’s easy to match to whatever else you’re wearing. The best have little to no branding. If there are prominent logos, they’re more casual.”

Formality: “These are as smart as trainers get.”

What to look for: “Consistent colours. If you go for a white trainer, the sole should be white. A black trainer should have a black sole. It makes them smarter. You also want premium materials. Leather is more refined than anything else and means you can wear them smart.”

How to wear them well: “They work with jeans but also dress up really well. You can wear them with chinos or even a suit. If you’re think you’re overdressed, they’re an easy way to take your outfit down a step.”

Canvas trainers

Canvas trainers

Photographed: Novesta Star Master trainers (£49)

The style: “The uppers are made from canvas, which is light and breathable, so they’re perfect for summer.”

Formality: “Fairly casual. The plainer they are, the smarter.”

What to look for: “A chunky, forgiving sole. They were originally basketball shoes, so they should be comfortable. White is fine for the soles because rubber’s wipe clean, but darker canvas is a better choice as it won’t show up grime as quickly.”

How to wear them: “Keep it casual. Canvas trainers look best with jeans or chinos and a jumper.”


Sports heritage trainers

Sports heritage trainers

Photographed: Puma Suede trainers (£95)

The style: “These are shoes that were originally worn by athletes but now, as technology’s moved on, they’re for wearing off the pitch. That means they’re stylish but they’ve also got a story. They’re perfect if you’re not normally a trainers guy, because they have that authenticity.”

Formality: “Very casual. They’ve got branding on and they tend to make a bit of a statement.”

What to look for: “A history. They’re often associated with certain teams or players, so they’re a great way to nod to that side of your personality. These shoes were worn by athletes at the 1968 Olympics and, in the 70s, by basketball player Walt ‘Clyde’ Frazier, who had a special version, the Clyde, named after him. If you love athletics or basketball, they express that.”

How to wear them: “The trainers will make a statement, so keep everything else cool, clean and refined. Things like jeans, sweatshirts, Oxford shirts and denim jackets.”


Fashion trainers

Fashion trainers

Photographed: Gosha Rubchinskiy x adidas Copa trainers (£165)

The style: “Loud and attention-grabbing. These are often collaborations between the big trainer brands – Nike, Adidas, Puma and the like – and smaller designers. They’re often bold, but they can be a great way to buy into a brand you like, but which is maybe a bit out of your price range.”

Formality: “Very casual. You’ve often got a lot of colours, logos and details, which mean they don’t work smart at all.”

What to look for: “It’s all about the aesthetic, so go for something that resonates with you. Don’t just buy into the hype of particular brands. The best versions also have some authenticity. This pair is a collaboration between adidas and Gosha Rubchinskiy, a Russian designer who grew up skateboarding. So his trainers have a skate shoe feel in their DNA.”

How to wear them: “Keep them for dressed-down looks – jeans, t-shirts, hoodies. Fashion trainers make a statement, so let them do the talking.”


Running trainers

Running trainers

Photographed: adidas UltraBOOST 4.0 (£149)

The style: “Technical and often lurid. They tend to come from a handful of big brands and the focus should be on performance.”

Formality: “The most casual shoes you can get. Only wear them for sport.”

What to look for: “Comfort and whether they do the job. Aesthetics are less important, but it makes sense to get a fairly neutral pair. That way they won’t clash with any of your running kit.”

How to wear them: “Put them on and go for a run. Let them air out between sessions, to keep them fresh.”