The adidas Stan Smith is a popular white leather low-top tennis shoe. It features perforated leather “stripes” along the shoe’s upper, a contrast heel tab, and a vulcanized rubber outsole. The Stan Smith is, by any definition, a fashionable shoe. But if you’ve been within 100 miles of a population center since the shoe relaunched in late 2013, you likely know it as the next urban plague.
Perhaps I’m overstating: Yes, the Stan Smith is a good looking shoe. What’s more, it’s widely available at a reasonable price point for both men and women. The Stan Smith has even gained some designer cachet from collaborations with Raf Simons, Pharrell, and Yohji Yamamoto. Take one look down any city street, from SoHo to Ann Arbor, and you’ll see thousands of walking validations that this combination of traits produces a winning strategy. Maybe the Stan Smith is so popular simply because it’s a shoe worthy of organic praise. And yes, it looks great with your distressed jeans, black arctic parka, and heathered grey sweater.
But perhaps you’re looking for something distinctive. Not too distinctive, of course: you’re still looking for a minimalist white leather low-top tennis shoe. You just want one different enough to quell your Orwellian fears of dictated mass consumption overpowering human choice. Or one that your entire Chem lecture doesn’t also have. You’re in luck: here are 9 Stan Smith alternatives to calm your fears of mass consumption! Er, fit every budget.
$ - You Can Either Have Shoes and a Burrito or You Can Just Have Shoes
Starting off this list is a pair of Stan-a-likes from Target’s house brand, A+ by Aldo. Online reviews for the Jakob sneakers vary. Generally, it can be assumed that you’re getting what you pay for. And when what you paid is less than the cost of a modest lunch special, what you receive is a shoe that will last about as long as the bread appetizer. But hey, you look cool and saved money, right? Barring the Boots Theory of Socioeconomic Unfairness, the Jakob sneakers are a great choice. Expect to replace the shoes within 4 months, so if you’re unsure about sneakers in general, this 120-day trial may actually be perfect. Pick up your pair of Jakob sneakers here.
What can I say about H&M that hasn’t been said already? As it turns out, a decent amount. These creatively-titled “leather sneakers” hail from the brand’s premium line, and feature full-grain leather uppers on vulcanized rubber outsoles. That’s ad copy for “white leather shoe on skate shoe rubber.” Panache aside, they’re good looking shoes and dramatically higher quality than the Swedish brand’s typical footwear offerings. If you like the look of true monochrome minimalism, this is the first shoe for you on your list. Shop the premium sneaker at a limited-time 33% discount on H&M’s site.
Editor’s Choice, discount Stan Smith alternative. Vans makes exceptionally simple shoes that wear in just as well as they wear. I can’t tell you the last time I’ve cleaned my Vans, but I still get compliments every time I wear them. The Vans Authentic isn’t as slim of a profile as the Stan Smith, but I think it’s actually a stronger shoe because of it. It avoids what I call the “genie’s slipper” effect of thin sole/tapered toebox: you can wear Leather Authentics with straight fit jeans and not look *ahem* pointy, as opposed to skinny jeans-only Stans. The Authentic brings a certain versatility to the equation that the Stan simply doesn’t. Plus, the $10 you save versus adidas is enough for lunch. Mmm, expensive burritos. Pick up your pair from Vans.com at the link here.
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Or perhaps I’m not: The Stan Smith’s meteoric rise into cultural consciousness may be more intentional than it appears. It does seem rather serendipitous that a classic leather plimsoll silhouette would just happen to go mass market two years after being removed from the adidas line. What’s more, that everyone from A$AP Rocky to Ellen Degeneres would be spotted with a pair of the iconic-yet-unavailable shoes immediately before a “surprise” rerelease, with order volumes ready to meet demand. Surprise, indeed.
Jon Wexler, adidas’ Head of Entertainment and Influencer Marketing, gave a talk at a SHOPify speaking event about how his team used social media plants and influencer partnerships to make the once-canned shoe an object of desire. The adidas marketers used a clever series of shoe endorsements to plant Stan Smiths places where they’d be photographed, then leveraged social media sharing to build the shoe’s hype to a fever pitch. People wanted them because the cool kids had them, and so, a good-looking shoe was catalyzed to international sensation. I’ll cut to the chase: if you bought Stan Smiths after 2014, you did it because they were the “it” shoe.
Put down the pitchfork. That’s actually a great thing.
As someone who loves fashion (especially sneakers), I want people to buy fashionable, accessible shoes at a price that fits their budget. I especially want someone to use a simple silhouette like the Stan Smith to springboard their fashion interest into developing personal style. For many, the Stan Smith may be the first step (puns!) they take into the fashion world, a step they’ll use to explore more as long as their choice is met correctly. Without the encouragement of my peers, I would still be rocking Nike ball shorts to class. If you limit yourself to the adidas Stan Smith, you’re limiting your personal expression to something that Instagram deemed “attractive” for you. Be human, explore alternatives, and choose a shoe that you like. Or buy Stans here.
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Hey - this is a big step forward from the middle seat. Movin’ on up, it’s the Kent Wang leather sneaker! Kent Wang is a Styleforum-user-turned-designer who began selling handsewn pocket squares in 2007. Wang has since expanded his “modern haberdashery” to everything from suiting to polo shirts to, most recently, white leather sneakers. The $95 Benchgrade sneaker is pretty obviously an attempt to jump on the “minimalist designer sneaker” movement that began in 2004 with New York-based Common Project’s Achilles Low. The Wang sneaker gets my nod because of its price (cheaper than any others in the just-above-Stan set) and the company’s customer service focus. Just don’t expect heirloom quality – the leather is good, the shoe is comfortable, but you’re still looking at a 12-18 month lifespan. Get your Kent Wang sneakers on the brand’s e-shop here.
Pointer Footwear is a UK-based skate brand that began in 2004 with a simple mission: make shoes durable enough to skate but gorgeous enough to wear. The label blends art, design, history, skateboarding, and classical shoemaking techniques into what could best be described as “informed silhouettes.” The Seeker Low, Pointer’s white leather low-top, is a perfect example of this design ethos. Clean lines, sumptuous leather, thick stitching, and a distinctive toe cap bring to mind a whole range of shoes with influences as diverse as retro basketball sneakers and 19th-century derbies. For cash-strapped students with an eye towards fashion, Pointer’s Seeker Low is a great compromise between luxury and making rent. Even better: they’re stocked by Ann Arbor’s own Today Clothing (215 S 4th Ave), so try on is a cinch. Stop in to Today and tell them Alex sent you, or, shop them online here.
Ahh, the mid-price sneaker. Higher quality materials, first-world production, and gorgeous looks all around. The Low Sneaker from Axel Arigato retails at close to $200, but is available on sale at a measly $108. Your $33 extra gets you genuine calfskin uppers, Margom outsoles, and actual stitching between layers! Now we’re talking. While the Low is the A+ Jakob to Common Project’s Achilles Low, it’s also nearly 4x cheaper. I’d highly recommend the Low sneaker to anyone seeking a high-quality, all-white low top for the warmer months. Shop them on sale now.
$$$$ - You Use the Phrase “Refined Basics” to Describe Your Clothing Addiction
Raf Simon’s take on the Stan Smith is as much icon worship as it is a quality designer sneaker. First: the materials are actually higher quality. It’s Italian calfskin, and compared to the mainline Stan, you can just see the difference. Strangers on the internet can, too - the Rafdidas have gained a cult following on fashion forums and sneaker blogs alike. The embossed “R” on the side, plus distinctive colorways, are more than enough to set you apart from the average Stan. Whether that justifies a >$300 price tag is up to you. I'd pay that price in pennies just to rock the light pink ones above. Shop the Belgian designer’s homage to sneakers on Farfetch.
The Common Projects Achilles Low is arguably the most influential fashion shoe of the 21st century. In 2004, before Dior Homme paired suits and sneakers and way before adidas made low-top leathers cool again, a New York-based design duo introduced the world to luxury sportswear. The first “Achilles by Common Projects” was an instant success. The shoe’s ultra-minimal construction and superior quality defined the very idea of men’s fashion sneaker before the category even existed. Common Projects sneakers are many people’s first encounter with a “grail shoe”: a ludicrously expensive, borderline unattainable object of lust that’s right below new car on the Lottery Winnings wishlist. Every cent of the $410 MSRP is poured into dress-quality Italian calfskin, a handstitched last, and full-grain leather lining. The little gold numbers on the side are just a bonus. Don’t let you dreams stay dreams – pick up a pair at Mr. Porter here.
Do you like the classic tennis shoe silhouette and hate owning money? Does one other person in your greater environment own Rafdidas? Ensure your uniqueness with a pair of SL/01 Court Classic sneakers! Yes, they’re goddamn gorgeous. Yes, they’re handmade with Italian leather uppers (noticing a pattern?). I just can’t shake the feeling that I paid $410 for Common Projects and $135 more for the mere fact that I (hypothetically) could. Regardless: Saint Laurent knows how to make a standout designer sneaker, and the SL/01 is no exception. Check out a pair on Saint Laurent’s webstore here.