Top Pick: Nike Air Force One | $90 | Nike
Reader, I have too many dang shoes. I will not say how many shoes I have but rest assured, it is too many. It’s a problem. It’s a problem I very willingly fuel once or twice a month when I pick up a new pair, but it is a problem nevertheless.
It became even more of a problem somewhat recently when I came to an embarrassing realization. For the last few years, I’d poured all of my sneakerhead funds into picking up my favorite kinds of shoes—loud, ostentatious joints with bright colors and, often, high tops. Nothing’s changed, mind you. I still love a good obnoxious colorway. But with the dregs of quarantine winter hitting and my wardrobe reverting more and more to monochrome sweats day-to-day (not to mention a month of snow here in New York that made wearing nice sneakers out in the streets a risk), I realized I didn’t necessarily have a great pair of shoes to just ... throw on. Like I said, embarrassing.
As such, I decided to refocus my efforts as a guy who buys a lot of sneakers. Rather than looking for the next hot thing, I started to look for shoes that would do away with my need for the next hot thing to begin with. I wanted an everyday shoe that would appease my sneakerhead nature but also meet some broader, more practical needs.
Neutrality: The shoe has to go with just about everything.
Comfort: It has to feel good on the foot.
Accessibility: It has to be relatively easy and affordable to pick up a new pair—can’t be running around afraid to get these shoes broken in.
Spoiler alert: I still haven’t found the One Shoe To Rule Them All. But I have built up a reliable smaller rotation that has me buying far fewer shoes than I used to, and as an added bonus it means all the more when I bust out one of my louder pairs. But if what you’re looking for is the shoe to cure your respective sneaker habit, or just a reliable everyday pair of kicks, here are some go-to pairs of mine you might find work for you as well.
Nike Air Force One | $90
The Air Force One is obviously a classic of the sneaker world. It’s simple, it goes with everything, and you can pick up a pair at pretty much any sneaker store any time of the year. If it has any downside it’s in that it scuffs pretty easily. This shoe shows every bit of wear and tear you put into it and while there’s a certain charm to that, anyone looking for a perpetually pristine pair of white kicks might be disappointed.
When it comes to wear and tear, the Triple Black colorway of the classic Adidas Ultra Boost has a notable leg up on some of its counterpart colorways—the shoe’s black on black getup stops it from showing scuffs, dirt, and wear quite as easily as those with white Boost foam in the sole. It’s a good thing too, because Ultra Boosts are some of the best kicks on the market these days. They’re insanely comfortable (truly one of the coziest shoes in the world) and go with a multitude of outfits. If there’s any downside to them, it’s that they don’t quite have the range of some of the other selections in this story. A crisp white pair of Forces, when worn right, can go with even the most formal of fits. These ceiling of these Boosts, unfortunately, is the upper end of casual.
New Balance 550 | Prices Vary
We’ve waxed poetic on the beauty of the New Balance Hoops line plenty here on The Inventory, and with good reason. Its 550, which was recently revived from the archive, is a certified banger, a clean and classic silhouette made from high quality materials and built to last. It’s also available in a variety of dependable colorways so it’s easy to pick a pair that best suits your wardrobe. The downside to these, however, is that they remain a bit trickier to track down than others. You can find a pair pretty easily on resale platforms like StockX but you’re at the behest of resellers at that point. It’s always more helpful when you can know consistently what a replacement pair is going to cost you—and knowing that it won’t be an arm and a leg. Fortunately, the 550 is hovering right around its original retail price on resale sites.
Nike Dunk Low Black & White | Prices Vary
Well, if the New Balance 550 gets points docked for accessibility we gotta dock twice as many for this pair, but it’s impossible to leave off. The Nike Dunk, in both its high and low incarnations, is one of the best sneakers of all time and it’s been rightfully having itself a Moment over the last year. While there are plenty of bright flashy colorways and retro vibes, the classic black and white low has proven untouchable. It looks good with anything, it wears in well, and it’s comfy as hell. The problem is just the price tag, which to be fair is well worth the money. You could get a pair of these and have it be your only pair of kicks for the year and be fine. That said, with resale being the only option with these nowadays, there’s no telling where the price is going as time moves forward. They may become entirely inaccessible. Still, if you only pick up one pair of shoes right now these are probably the ones to go with.