Tired of Converse? Try These Cooler Canvas Sneakers Instead

FRESH CANVAS Three great styles. From left: Asahi Sneakers, $165,; Shoes Like Pottery by Moonstar Sneakers, $81,; Novesta Sneakers, $99, PHOTO: JOEL ARBAJE/THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
FRESH CANVAS Three great styles. From left: Asahi Sneakers, $165,; Shoes Like Pottery by Moonstar Sneakers, $81,; Novesta Sneakers, $99, PHOTO: JOEL ARBAJE/THE WALL STREET JOURNAL


  • Converse Chuck Taylors dominate in summer. But some men find them too ‘young’ or obvious. Here, a few alternatives.

May to October is canvas-shoe season for guys. When it’s warm out, simple sneakers made of light cloth and vulcanized (hardened) rubber take on an air of inevitability. Or at least, one model does. So ubiquitous are Converse Chuck Taylors that the iconic, century-old kicks can appear to be the only canvas option on the menu. Their trademark five-pointed stars (or, in trendier neighborhoods, hearts from Converse’s popular Comme des Garçons Play collab) dominate sidewalks across America.

Want a change this summer? Maybe something quieter, preppier or more mature? You’re in luck: A bunch of cool, unobvious Converse alternatives are waiting to be laced up.

Just ask Kelly Harris, 34, a canvas-shoe appreciator who feels too old to be wearing Chuck Taylors. Harris, a production assistant at a clothing brand in New York, has done online digging in search of his ideal sneaks. His criteria? “No logo, discreet details and a low-profile build." Or put another way: “No screamers." He’s turned off by lots of luxury fashion brands’ attempts at canvas designs. Instead, he favors slightly obscure legacy brands like Japan’s Moonstar, whose designs have well-defined, rubber-tipped toes; and Slovakia’s Novesta, which offers charming, chunky-soled takes. (Styles from both companies are pictured above.)

When shopping for canvas kicks, focus on looks and price rather than agonizing over quality. Most canvas shoes are interchangeable in terms of construction, noted Derek Guy, a California-based menswear aficionado who runs the blog “Die, Workwear!" “There’s only so much build quality you can put into a canvas sneaker: It will never be the shoe that you re-sole and keep for 10 years," he said. (Also, white canvas can only stay presentable for so long—but to extend its lifespan as much as possible, see “How to Care for That Canvas," below.)

Guy, 49, wears the sleek, inexpensive Superga 2750 ($69). Its “anonymous" look goes with most anything in his wardrobe. That versatility gives it a leg up on Chuck Taylors, he said, since the Converse shoe doesn’t work with preppy outfits. If you enjoy mixing sport coats and chinos with sneaks, he said, Chuck Taylors are “just a no."

For an undeniably preppy shoe, look to Sperry’s Cloud CVO Deck Sneaker. These $80 clean-lined examples are Stephen Goldberg’s summer kicks of choice. The New York-based music producer has size 13 feet, and Sperry can accommodate him. (Indie brands, he said, rarely go past size 12.) Other selling points: They come in nine colors, including muted pastels that grant wearers a breezy Chuck Taylor-on-the-Cape vibe. And Goldberg, 38, has found them surprisingly hardy: he has tallied three summers with his current pair.

Even so, he’s open to upgrading to a spendier pair from a niche brand. “They just have to start making them in my size!"

How to Care for That Canvas

If you want to squeeze more life out of your well-worn white kicks, Guy recommends getting a sneaker cleaner kit (complete with brushes and solution) from a company such as Jason Markk. Lightly brushing dirty canvas helps brighten it up. Do this rather than tossing your shoes in the washing machine, he said—that’ll just leave you with grimy-gray sneaks.

The Wall Street Journal is not compensated by retailers listed in its articles as outlets for products. Listed retailers frequently are not the sole retail outlets.

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