With an unprecedented focus on material innovations and a number of daring trends in the forecast, Autumn/Winter 2019 promises some exciting moments for men’s footwear.
From streetwear to performance, casual and dress, modernization is central to the season’s most prominent trends.
For those possessing only tepid enthusiasm for the “Dad” sneaker, Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America’s Jasmine Pendergrass foretells an evolution of the popular style that incorporates outdoor-inspired elements like lug-soles, chains, belts and hardware.
The Hiker Sneaker is “the Dad Sneaker done right,” the FDRA director of marketing and events says, preserving the signature chunky outsole that has defined the look and adding rugged elements like lacing hooks and multi-material uppers. Gucci’s flamboyant Flashtrek sneaker is a quintessential example, with a two-inch, platform lug sole and mesh and leather uppers. In a multitude of color ways that range from muted greens and browns one might find in a forest to bright yellows and blues more likely to be found in a candy store, the style offers something for every sensibility.
Streetwear veterans Converse and Timberland are poised for a fall takeover with their interpretations of the Hiker Sneaker, touting collaborations with Feng Chen Wang and Christopher Raeburn, respectively. Wang revamps Converse’s signature Chuck Taylor All Star high-tops, adding height to a white or gum-colored ridged outsole that complements the sneaker’s neutral canvas uppers. Raeburn challenges Timberland’s traditionally rugged aesthetic, lending a bit of sporty sleekness to his interpretation of the Hiker Sneaker. Black and grey multi-material uppers are offset by bright orange laces for a look that truly hybridizes sneaker and boot.
The outdoor or “hiking” influence will make its mark on men’s casuals as well, Pendergrass assures. Exaggerated outsoles define the overall aesthetic of the season, lending an edge to workwear and weekend staples like boots, loafers, casual sneakers and more.
Tod’s leads the pack with its Gentlemen’s Flow menswear collection, which adds a dose of overstated functionality to the brand’s luxe aesthetic. The collection features loafers, Chelsea boots, Derby lace-ups and sneaker hybrids. Punched up with thick, black rubber soles and eye-grabbing details like a hint of flyknit sock peeking over a shiny leather topline, the resulting line is equal parts wearable and innovative, polished and unexpected.
With new creative director Hedi Slimane at the helm, Celine brings a slightly punk lens to the heavy-outsole trend, leading with high-shine patent and tons of black. Loafers take center stage in this collection, supplemented by lace-up boots—all with a visual weightiness spurred by the chunky silhouettes and the unrelenting darkness of the palette.
Men’s dress shoe makers hope to seize their moment this fall by putting a modern spin on time-honored designs, citing renewed consumer interest in classic styles. The recent high fashion resurrection of the brogue, with its multi-piece leather uppers and delicate detailing, promises an opening for heritage brands intent on bringing classic dress styles back to the forefront of everyday wear.
Clarks-owned Bostonian is planning a fall relaunch, promising a return to the New England shoemaking tradition. Others, like Allen Edmonds and Rockport, are also gunning for a wingtip revival and a departure from the sneaker-dress fusion (a la Cole Haan Zerogrand) that has dominated the space in recent years.
Now, classic men’s dress brands are focused on seamlessly integrating comfort features into traditionally-crafted styles, hoping that increasing wearability will help dispel the category’s staid, stiff reputation. And with workplaces becoming increasingly casual, today’s dress shoe pairs with more than just the standard suit. Shoemakers are hoping to bridge the gap between work and weekend-wear by creating comfortable, versatile updates to classic styles that consumers will truly want to wear.
Innovations in sustainability from industry power players and startups alike will dominate the conversation this year, especially among millennial and Gen Z consumers whose purchasing habits favor the environmentally-friendly.
Perhaps most vocal in the discussion is Silicon Valley upstart Allbirds (which hit the scene with its ultra-comfortable and sustainable wool sneakers). The brand is forging new material frontiers with fibers derived from eucalyptus trees, used to make the uppers on their latest collection of lace-up sneakers, slip-ons and high-tops. Additionally, Allbirds’ SweetFoam outsole is developed from Brazilian sugarcane, a fully-renewable resource that grows quickly and relies on rainwater instead of irrigation.
Ethical leather-sourcing is an issue that Nisolo, a Nashville startup with factories in Peru and Mexico, is choosing to tackle by using hides from nearby slaughterhouses and from third-party-certified tanneries. The brand offers a myriad of contemporary styles, from lace-up desert boots to loafers, slip-ons and sneakers, along with complementary product lines like briefcases and weekenders.
Under-the-radar cult favorite Veja is seeking to redefine almost every aspect of the shoemaking process. With a handful of casual sneaker silhouettes, Veja sources rubber from tappers in the Amazon for their outsoles, rather than employing the synthetic compounds favored by most shoemakers. The brand’s crowning accomplishment is its proprietary waterproof bottle mesh, made from bottles collected throughout Brazil where the bulk of materials are sourced. The resulting fiber is used to create the uppers for many of Veja’s designs, lessening a dependence on leather or other environmentally-harmful materials. The brand will release a fully-vegan performance runner in collaboration with Rick Owens this fall.