We’re not sure what’s worse: seeing the same pair of sneakers on everyone’s feet over and over again, or the feeling of running into someone else wearing the same pair of shoes as you. Whichever one peeves you more, there’s no doubt about what’s to blame: bandwagoning and oversaturation. Because everyone’s so keen to hop on the latest trend, and because big brands flood the market with what people want, we all end up wearing the same shoes. At its worst, the sneaker scene can sometimes feel like a tedious campaign of one-upmanship between Nike and adidas—and as we all know by now, the two-party system isn’t an ideal set-up.
Take it from the man himself: Kanye West, in spite of his partnership with adidas, was recently spotted in a pair of Kahru Fusions—lifestyle runners by an obscure Finnish sneaker brand (that no doubt exploded in popularity thereafter). So if you’re looking to break away from the Ultra Boosts and the Flyknits and the Jordans, consider these alternative sneaker brands. They’re a bit more fringe than what the common man is used to, and while some are familiar and others are much less heard-of, all are solid options to add to your rotation.
Before going off on their own and starting Clear Weather as an independent sneaker brand, brothers Josh and Brandon Brubaker were both corporate footwear engineers. When they broke away, their goal was to “recreate classics for the future,” which is manifest in their range of designs. Clear Weather touts overhauled versions of familiar favorites: a Stan Smith-like white sneaker with a rounded Tubular-esque sole; Timberland-like boot; a Visvim-like mocassin—all with a skew towards skateboarding. Commonwealth carries this American brand locally.
Brandblack just might have the best-looking basketball shoes you’ve never heard of. But if you haven’t been totally blinded by your love for Lebrons, you might have already heard of them, or at least seen them, since Titan stocks them here. Brandblack’s sneakers are the futuristic-looking, fashion-forward performance shoes sharing the shelves with the likes of Nike, adidas, and Under Armour. Apart from looking like high-fashion sneakers, they’ve proven their worth on court as well.
Clae has been around for some time now, originally extending its arms to the local market via Greyone Social almost a decade ago. Today, the American lifestyle sneaker brand is still stocked by Sneak Peek and Commonwealth, and remains an exceptional choice for anyone looking for dressy sneakers.
Le Coq Sportif
How could you not like a brand with a cock for a mascot? It even has “Coq” in its name, and a rooster in its logo! Also, as you may have guessed from the name, it’s a French heritage sports brand, and it’s been around since the 1880s. Le Coq was most popular in the 80s and 90s, as it played an active role in football and golf throughout the turn of the century. But they’ve only really been making a comeback recently with a few fashionable retro runners that are definitely worth your attention.
If you’re looking for a more affordable option to the Common Projects Achilles, look no further. Also hailing from France, Piola is a brand of contemporary lifestyle footwear that puts out clean, simple silhouettes—the kind that are dressy enough to wear with a sportcoat or a blazer. What sets them apart is their advocacy: fair trade and opportunities for the people of Peru, as well as the restoration of its rain forests and the conservation of their rubber and other natural resources. Proceeds from their footwear sales, as well as the production of the shoes themselves, all support these causes. It’s always good to have a pair of shoes that’s both dope and conscientious.
Yes, this is the brand of colorful, ultra-light rain boots you’ve seen before. But over the past few years, the Canadian brand has taken its streamlined, lightweight designs to the realm of sneakers. A few of its more recent releases have seen Roshe-like chukka boots, and easy-wearing slip-on sneakers that look incredibly comfortable. Native even have their own knit fabric sneakers to keep up with the Flyknit Nikes that are all too popular. So you might say that Native is not just another fun, young lifestyle brand anymore—it’s become a great option for legitimate sneakerheads as well.
Here’s a much more well-known brand that still doesn’t get the attention it deserves. While it’s closing in on Saucony in terms of popularity, Diadora is still flying under the radar of most mainstream sneaker enthusiasts—largely because the shoes are pretty expensive, and only a few local retailers carry them. However, Diadora has been collaborating with its fair share of streetwear brands, and the results always speak volumes of the Italian brand’s attention to detail. Materials are always on-point with their retro runners—the N9000 being one of their most popular. Check out Diadora at Commonwealth and Sole Slam.
As much as we’d love to tell you that these are original Australian sneakers, they are, oddly enough, American. Kangaroos popped up in the '80s and '90s and were always known for having a zip pocket on the side of the shoes, usually for storing loose change and, well, whatever else can fit in there and needs to be transported discretely. But recent years have also seen a resurgence from Kangaroos, with a bunch of their retro runners and high-top basketball sneakers coming back into the market. Check out Planet Sports to see if these are your thing.
If you’re looking for a pair of canvas shoes that are simple and of top-notch quality, Doek should do you good. To date, they only have three designs: the Doek Court, the Doek Oxford, and the Doek Basket—all simple, classic designs, done up with the best craftsmanship. Doek hails from Japan, and operates out of a factory that’s been making footwear for over 140 years now. The name is Dutch for “fabric,” because their shoes are all made with high-grade canvas. You can check them out here at Signet Store.