It’s been said that the true test of good-looking sneaker design is the triple-black colorway. That is, if you’d really like to know if a sneaker looks good because it’s well-designed, imagine it in all-black—without the unnecessary distractions of color-blocking, all you’re left with is to judge the sneaker for its shape and materials. By tuning out everything else, you see the sneaker for what it is: lines, cuts, details.
This is true about a lot of classics. Many of Tinker Hatfield’s Air Jordans have “Black Cat” colorways, and they always look great. Even three-striped classics like Superstars look great in all-black, and so does the timeless Chuck Taylor All-Star. If it looks good in all black, you can be pretty sure it’ll look good in other colorways too.
But apart from serving as a spot-on metric for design, all-black sneakers are also an incredibly practical and versatile rotation staple: they’re easy to match and easy to beat up. You can wear triple-black sneakers with just about anything (with the general exception of browns and beiges), they look especially great with jeans or joggers in black or grey, and perhaps most importantly, scuffs and creases don’t show quite so easily, so you don’t have to be so careful with them.
Triple-black is a sleek, minimal, can’t-fail colorway that deserves a place in your current rotation. To get you started, here are a few of your best options.
Nike Air Force 1
There are a thousand and one different colorways of the AF1, but the simplest is often still considered the best: all-white. If, however, you’d like to be a little subversive, go for all-black instead: just as minimal, but different from what most people are wearing.
adidas UltraBoost 3.0
The adidas UltraBoost always looks best in simple colorways, including triple-black. These are especially cool because adidas’ Boost soles are known for being white and styrofoam-esque—colored Boost is particularly uncommon.
Nike and Jordan Brand have tried their hands on the whole “basketball-based lifestyle sneaker” thing before, but have never come close to what indie sneaker label BrandBlack has achieved in the Lando. This shoe comes in dress-shoe colorways like browns, blues, and of course: all-black. It’s just as street-ready as it is perfect for more dressed-up outfits.
adidas Superstar Boost
All-black Superstars, like all-black AF1s, are indubitable classics. The modern iterations, infused with Boost, aren’t much of an aesthetic departure—which is a good thing. They really are just more comfortable, more modern versions of the same beloved classic. All-black with the gold detailing on the tongue is a good bet.
Nike Air Huarache
The Huaraches are, without a doubt, timeless classics, but because of all the wild colorways they come in, people don’t always see it. Like the UltraBoosts, Huaraches are best in simple colorways. Triple-black is one that really gives them a chance to shine.
Puma Blaze of Glory Sock Tech
The Blaze of Glory is a widely underrated Puma sneaker that has yet to have its day in the sun. Instead of releasing faithful retros of the BoG, Puma decided to spin it off into modern silhouettes, the best of which might just be the BoG Sock Tech. In triple-black, you really see how they kept the original BoG shape from the sole, but with a more modern upper.
adidas Tubular Shadow
Here’s another sneaker that’s been spun-off to death: the Tubular. But like the Puma BoG Sock Tech, the Tubular Shadow is arguably the best of all its cousins. It’s been dubbed the suitable alternative (if not the better alternative) to the Yeezy Boost 350, because of the similar shape, but much more substantial materials. In triple-black, the Tubular Shadow lets its nubuck and suede upper do the talking.
Nike Flyknit Racer
Triple-black is always the most sleek colorway of any shoe, and rarely does it get any sleeker than the Flyknit Racer. Admittedly, one of Flyknit’s coolest properties is its ability to weave different-colored threads together to create interesting colorways. But that doesn’t mean it can’t look good in all-black; especially in a shoe that’s as slim and sexy as the Racer. All-black really accentuates that shape and brings it out.
The recently-released Monochrome Pack of the NMDs includes a triple-black colorway. Like the Flyknit Racer, NMDs are all about sleekness, but also with futuristic, quirky details. All-black is one of the best colorways to let those features shine.
Y-3 Qasa High
These are the shoes that, five or so years ago, were at the forefront of the “streetwear ninja goth” movement, in which the fashion set was obsessed with dressing in all black: black skinny ripped jeans, big black hoodie, black bandana, black snapback hat, and of course, all-black Qasa Highs. It’s the most iconic colorway of an incredibly iconic fashion sneaker.
Nike Air Presto
Here’s another Swoosh classic that’s known for its unique shape and sharp features. The all-black colorway brings those out, and is used for most of the modern iterations of the Presto, including the avant garde Air Presto Utility Mid.
Nike Lebron Soldier 10
The next Lebron Soldiers should be releasing sometime later this year, but that’s no reason to skip out on the Soldier 10s, which are definitely the best Lebron Soldiers (and indeed, one of the better Lebron silhouettes) of all time. In all-black, the Soldier’s triple-strap design makes it look more like a fashion sneaker than anything else you can wear on the court.
New Balance 247
Ever since NB’s corporate HQ in the States endorsed Donald Trump’s pro-American labor stance, it’s been difficult to endorse a New Balance sneaker. But in the spirit of apolitical objectivity, we must say that the 247s are actually pretty solid sneakers: they look like the classic NBs we all know and love, but they’re also modern. They’re an excellent way of pushing the heritage brand forward in time. But if you’d like to hide the big fat “N” on the side, opt for the triple black colorway.