You can never go wrong with a pair of classic white kicks—or can you? Sneaker trends, they are a changing, but that doesn’t mean you have to overhaul your whole footwear collection just yet. Here are ten “rules” (in the words of Captain Barbossa, they’re more like guidelines) to help you figure out the best way to wear your beloved sneakers in 2023, whether you prefer basic white Keds, old-school Air Jordans or super-colorful flatforms.
The 10 Rules of Wearing Sneakers in 2023
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1. Pair Sundresses with Minimalist Sneakers
There was a time when we loved wearing flouncy dresses with chunky athletic sneakers, but this year we’re more inclined to streamline our ‘fits with more minimalist kicks. Stick with simple sneakers (they don’t need to be all white, but keep additional colors or detailing to a minimum) that allow your favorite frocks to steal the spotlight.
2. Wear Bright Colorblock Kicks with Neutral Hues
Give your brightest, boldest sneakers room to shine by pairing them with neutral hues rather than other vibrant shades. Even better if you opt for a pair of cropped pants rather than longer lengths that cover part of your shoe. If you really want to add more color, do so with small pops, like a mini handbag or headband.
3. ‘90s Jeans Work Best with Sleek Sneaker Silhouettes
Loose, baggy denim is in for 2023, but rather than wear your throwback jeans with chunky sneakers or athletic styles, opt instead for something sleek, like classic Converse or Keds. Wearing voluminous jeans with thick-soled shoes will make your whole look feel heavy or bulky, whereas slimmer kicks help balance out all the material on your legs.
4. Pair Retro Sneakers with Posh, Modern Staples
Yes, you can wear your Nike Jordans or Onitsuka Tiger sneakers with other casual vintage staples (like a polo shirt, wide-leg jeans or even a crochet dress), but the freshest way to wear those throwback styles is with more polished pieces. Think tailored blazers, non-distressed denim, solid-hued crewneck sweaters or silk slip dresses.
5. Mini Lengths Work Best with Streamlined Silhouettes
Rather than pair your mini dress or shorts with exaggerated lug soles or chunky statement sneakers, opt for a more minimalist shoe instead. That doesn’t mean you have to limit yourself to just plain white kicks (as evidenced by the chic beige and navy Loewe sneakers above), but sneakers with a more streamlined vibe—thinner soles, minimal detailing, neutral hues—will look more proportional with leg-baring minis.
6. Don’t Be Afraid to Show Some Sock
The latest “used to be dorky, now it’s cool” trend to enter the zeitgeist is swapping no-show socks for longer pairs that are meant to be seen. White ankle socks, á la Kristen Stewart at the Oscars, and more colorful stand-out pairs are equally trendy, so choose whatever feels most comfortable for you. That said, don’t let your sock go higher than mid-calf or you’ll start looking a little too much like you’re rocking a school uniform.
7. Try an “Opposites Attract” Approach with Hiking Sneakers
Another dorky style that’s been unexpectedly popping up lately is the hiking sneaker. These super-practical shoes, intended to give you maximum traction on easier hikes, have been spotted on celebs like Emily Ratajkowski and Bella Hadid, as well as on the runway during the S/S ’23 Sandy Liang show. We think the best way to embrace this new trend is to swing hard in the opposite direction and pair your hiker sneakers with wide-leg trousers and a posh top. We recommend trying to incorporate the neutrals from your shoe throughout the rest of your outfit, as well.
8. You Can (Almost) Never Go Wrong with Sleek Platforms
We’re talking specifically about sleek, flatform soles that add one to two inches, not the super bulky athletic-inspired soles that were all the rage back in 2019 (like the Balenciaga Triple S sneakers). These elevated kicks go with everything from tailored suits to ‘90s baggy jeans to flouncy sundresses. The only exception might be curve-hugging mini dresses—the combination of tight fabric and platform soles feels too mismatched in our opinion—but you could always opt for a midi length instead.
9. When in Doubt Keep It Sleek, Keep It Simple
Some of the best outfits are those that stick to elevated basics—we don’t call them wardrobe essentials for nothing—for a supremely posh, though not particularly trendy, overall look. Timeless is the goal here, and as such we recommend opting for either clean, white kicks or classic retro styles for maximum effect.
10. Don’t Wear Gym Shoes with Fancy Dresses
Remember earlier when we suggested embracing an opposites attract approach with the latest hiking sneaker trend? The same does not apply for classic gym shoes. Wearing a true athletic shoe with cocktail dresses or elevated maxis ends up looking too out of left field and leaves us wondering what event you’re even headed to in such a combination—a wedding reception at Lambeau Field? A combination workout class/Oscars after party? Instead, wear those gym shoes with other athleisure staples, like leggings, tennis dresses or bike shorts for a more cohesive look.
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