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Stan Smith

How to Clean Leather Sneakers


How to Clean Leather Sneakers

Congratulations on the purchase of your white leather sneakers! We’re so glad you made the decision to join Team Internet Fashion, your new social outlet. Included with your new sense of style and opinion on Bon Iver are the following mandatory perks of ownership:

  1. Denial of scuffs
  2. Anxiety in crowds
  3. A newfound reliance on the Weather app

Exciting, right?! Remember: these are all necessary parts of becoming the social media superstar you always wanted to be. Being a true fashion elite in the age of cleanliness is easy task - even the Wall Street Journal agrees. Even if every other part of your outfit screams “festival season slub,” your shoes must stay spotless.

I’m talkin’ bleach white.

Snow White.

“Leave it to Beaver” white.

You get the idea.

Despite their heavy toll, the three psychological dependencies packaged with your sneakers will indeed make sure your Stan Smiths/Common Projects/Greats Royales/minimal sneaker du jour stay as white as the day there were bought. If this mental burden sounds like too weighty a load, you’re always welcome to deactivate your Team membership and return the shoes. No one else has so far, but hey, that’s no sweat – competition is scary if you fall behind.

After all, you probably just weren’t cut out for this.

That’s right. This is a question of character. Like dog walking and fantasy football, keeping your white leather sneakers looking fresh is a lifestyle commitment.

Unless you know how to clean ‘em, that is.


As both Internet menswear dweeb and sane human being, I’ve often gotten my sneakers dirty in the name of *gasp* wearing them outside. Gamedays aside, they’re shoes: the occasional wear and tear just can’t be avoided. The visible dirt and stains, though? Those we can fix.

With just a little bit of work and some cheap products from your local drugstore, you can leverage your regulatory focus (Babin/Harris 92) to keep your white leather sneakers looking fresher, longer. Here’s how.

Materials (cleans one pair):

  • 1x Mr. Clean Magic Eraser Bar (sold in packs, 2 for $3)
  • 1x Leather conditioning cream (recommended: Allen Edmonds Leather Lotion, $10/bottle)
  • 1x Microfiber cloth or t-shirt rag
  • 1x roll of paper towels
  • Supply of warm (but not scorching hot) water


1. Wet a paper towel with warm water and wipe down the outsoles. From a side view of the shoes, this is the “rubber” bottom that’s stitched to the leather “upper.” Don’t worry about getting these squeaky clean with the paper towel – your main job here is to remove visible clumps of dirt or any abrasive debris.

2. With a new, damp paper towel, lightly wipe down the leather upper. Again, your job is just to remove visible dirt. That being said, go easier on the water than you did when wiping down the outsole – aggressive wiping or a saturated rag will peel the paint from cheaper leathers. If you’re cleaning Common Projects, the risk of peeling is dramatically lower than, for example, a pair of adidas Stan Smiths.

3. Let the shoes dry for 10-15 minutes. Suggested activities include idly browsing Facebook, idly browsing reddit, or Hungry Hungry Hippos. 

4. Wet the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser in warm water and wipe down each shoe’s outsole. Don’t try to scrub – wipe in long strokes instead. This reduces the amount the foam Eraser will break apart on the shoe, especially over textured “grip” surfaces. The eraser will shed through use, but smoothing out your technique means picking less foam out of your shoe afterwards. Which is nice.

5. Use a damp paper towel to wipe away any foam pieces left behind by the eraser, then let the shoe dry. The outsoles should be significantly whiter now.

6. Squeeze a quarter-sized amount of leather conditioner onto the toebox of each shoe. Just… do it.

7. Use the rag/cloth to work in the conditioner, wiping lightly in small circles. Pay special attention to work the conditioner into cracks, crease, and wear areas caused by the laces. A little rejuvenation in these “friction spots” will go a long ways.

8. Repeat steps 6 and 7 until the entire exterior of the shoe is covered in a thin layer of conditioner.

9. Let the shoe dry for 5-10 minutes, then evaluate. If any parts of the shoe look unaffected by the conditioner or visibly dry/distressed, add a second coat. Repeat. Remember: at the end of the day, leather is skin. Just like on your skin, conditioning creams should have an immediate visible effect when applied correctly.

10. Enjoy. Your white leather sneakers are officially back in action.

With this simple and easy method in mind, your kicks will stay fresh without fear.

Did you try this yourself? Any tips/tricks? Let me know on my Facebook or in the comments below. Until then, happy cleaning.



How to Clean Knit Sneakers


How to Clean Knit Sneakers

Ah, the future. Bright. Shiny. High-tech. Clean like an Egyptian priest’s hairless cat.

The recent invention of high-velocity knit sneakers has turned the footwear world on its head. From the Olympic track to fashion week, these cutting-edge ultralight wonders have stolen the show for both their performance and their looks. Whether it’s a wholly new silhouette (Nike’s Flyknit Racer) or an updated classic (adidas’ Stan Smith Primeknit), knit sneakers represent the future of footwear.

The Nike Flyknit Racer "Orca" (photo:  Tina Yu Photography )

The Nike Flyknit Racer "Orca" (photo: Tina Yu Photography)

There’s just one problem: the future gets dirty fast.

As a fan of everything Flyknit, I’ve experimented with many cleaning techniques that promise to restore my knit sneakers to their deadstock luster. After 3 years of trial and error, I’ve found a reliable way to clean the delicate yarn uppers without expensive branded sneaker soaps - everything you need for this method can be purchased at your local drugstore for well below $10. So, when it came time to give my Flyknits their end-of-summer touch up, I thought I’d document the process to help you, the reader, keep your own pair fresh. Here’s how to clean your knit sneakers:

Materials (cleans one pair):

Sneakers, top to bottom:  Nike Flyknit Racer "Orca" (2014)  and  Nike Lunar Flyknit Chukka  "Pure Platinum" (2015)

Sneakers, top to bottom: Nike Flyknit Racer "Orca" (2014) and Nike Lunar Flyknit Chukka "Pure Platinum" (2015)

  • 1x Mr Clean Magic Eraser pad (sold in packs, $3 for 2)
  • 1x bar of detergent-free soap ($1 per bar – recommended brands: Ivory or Jergen’s Mild)
  • 1x microfiber cloth or fine cotton rag
  • 1x roll of paper towels
  • Supply of warm water


 1. Wet a paper towel with warm water and wipe down the outsoles. Your goal is to remove any outside layers of dirt or particulates, not polish the foam.

2. Activate the Magic Eraser in warm water. Squeeze until damp. Then, scrub the outsoles in long strokes. You should see dark streaks on the Magic Eraser pad along where you’ve wiped.

3. Wipe the soles clean. It’s perfectly fine if the Magic Eraser pad ends up shredding; just use the paper towel to pick up the small foam pieces. If your pad is still intact after cleaning both shoes’ outsoles, use the Magic Eraser to wipe the underside of each shoe.

The Results of Steps 1-3: Before (top) vs. After (bottom) 

The Results of Steps 1-3: Before (top) vs. After (bottom) 

4. With the soles clean, it's time to focus on the uppers. Wet the microfiber cloth/cotton rag with warm water, then use the bar of soap to work up a lather. Squeeze this lather onto the sneaker’s knit upper.

5. Let the soap lather soak in. Then, use a damp paper towel to blot out the soap lather. You should notice dirt lifting off the knit, returning its original vibrant color.

Step 5: Letting the soap lather soak.

Step 5: Letting the soap lather soak.

6. Repeat steps 4 and 5 until all visible dirt is removed. Removing ~6 months of wear usually takes 3 washing cycles.

7. When satisfied with the color of the uppers, use a dry paper towel to blot dry any areas that are still visibly wet. Ideally, the whole knit should be the same dampness.

Step 7: Dabbing out any soap residue. The left shoe in the photo above has already been washed.

Step 7: Dabbing out any soap residue. The left shoe in the photo above has already been washed.

8. Stuff each shoe with newspaper, paper towels, cotton rags, etc. so that the knit of the uppers is snug but not stretched. No part of the shoe should look distorted.

9. Leave the freshly-washed shoes outside to dry for 2-4 hours. After their sunbath, the shoes should be dry to the touch without feeling brittle. If color has not returned or the knit uppers feel at all rigid, dab them again with a warm damp paper towel (similar to Step 5). If you've followed all the above steps properly, the final product should look so fresh/so clean, as below: 

And for the sake of perpetuity, here's a pair-by-pair comparison to show the effects of the deep clean. Before (left) vs. After (right):

There you have it: a cheap, reliable way to keep your knit sneakers looking fresh. For less than $10, your Flyknits stay fly and your Primeknits stay... Optimus(?) Doesn't matter. Point is, with some pocket change and a little scrubbing, your futuristic kicks will stay lightyears ahead.

Any tips? Did this work for you? Let me know on my Facebook or in the comments below. Until then, happy cleaning.



Pickup: Greats Brand Royale "Blanco" (2016)


Pickup: Greats Brand Royale "Blanco" (2016)

After 3 years of faithful service, the time came to retire my True White Vans Authentics. My Vans were the definition of "beater shoe": bleached canvas and a rubber skate sole had carried me trough concerts, parties, tailgates, and every combination of prefix and "game" imaginable. I had washed them 4 times, Magic Eraser'd twice, and even spot-treated for, ahem, a Hawaiian Punch-based ethyl solution. But enough was enough. My True Whites had become Unsettling Beiges, and with white sneaker season a month away, I needed an upgrade.

While I could have settled with Stan Smiths like everyone you've ever met, I did a bit of research, emphasizing quality-per-dollar and minimal branding. After weeks of Googling, I chose the Greats Brand Royale in "Blanco". That's Italian for "back at it again with the white shoes". 

Right off the bat, I'm blown away by how much Greats has packed into the "luxury" experience at a <$200 price point. The packaging, the construction, the detailing, all of it. According to Greats' website, the Royale is made of Italian calfskin, features a full leather lining, and sits on a stitched Margom sole. In other words, it's a direct formula output for "Common Projects alternative." Unlike Stan Smiths, Kent Wang Handgrades, or Axel Arigato Lows, however, the Royale is handmade in Italy. You pay ~$60 more over other CP Alternatives for a shoe whose greatest deviation from the real deal is just printed gold numbers. In my opinion, it was a small price for a big difference.

I've only had the shoes for a week at this point so it's too early to make any decisive calls, but I'm impressed with all that I got for my money. My only nitpick is the brown leather "G" branding on the tongue (so close to a true monochrome). I'd be much happier with white tonal leather, especially for Scandinavian-inspired minimalist fits. If it really bothers me that much going forward, I'll just seam rip it and still come out $100 ahead over used CP's.

Stay tuned for one month and end-of-summer updates as I wear the shoes more, but in the mean time, enjoy more high-quality pics below:


9 Stan Smith Alternatives to Fit Every Budget


9 Stan Smith Alternatives to Fit Every Budget

    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. 

New York Fashion Week 2014: a collage (source: )

New York Fashion Week 2014: a collage (source:

    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


Target Men’s A+ Jakob Sneakers ($24.99 MSRP)

    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.

H&M Leather Sneakers ($40 on sale, $60 MSRP)

    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.

Vans Authentic Leather Decon ($65 MSRP)

    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 at the link here.


$$ - Meme Shoes

Adidas Stan Smith ($75 MSRP)

    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.


$$$ - The Window Seat When You Wanted Aisle

Kent Wang Sneaker Benchgrade white ($95 MSRP)

    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 Seeker Low ($100 MSRP)

    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. 

Axel Arigato Low Sneaker ($108 sale, $175 MSRP)

    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

Adidas x Raf Simons Stan Smith ($310-$333 on sale, $455 MSRP)

    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.

Common Projects Achilles Low ($410 MSRP)

    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.

Saint Laurent SL/01 Court Classic ($545 MSRP)


    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.


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