How to Wear Men’s Dress Sneakers Correctly (2023)

Wondering how to wear men’s dress sneakers and incorporate them into smart casual outfits? This detailed guide goes through what they are, what they’re not, and how to style them.

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Thanks to Ace Marks for sponsoring this article!

You’ve probably noticed that men’s dress sneakers are everywhere these days. These leather, minimalist shoes are staples in men’s smart casual wardrobes, and they’re an excellent choice for a variety of outfits.

Here’s everything you need to know about what dress sneakers are, what to look for in a good pair, and how to wear them correctly.

What are Dress Sneakers?

Dress sneakers, as the name implies, are a hybrid of dress shoes and sneakers. What may immediately come to mind is a very literal interpretation, where a classic dress shoe upper, like a brogue, is paired with the outsole of your Nike running shoe.

While these are considered by many to be dress sneakers, and they do fit the definition of, “a hybrid of dress shoes and sneakers”, for the purposes of this article we’re not going to consider these dress shoes.

(A few friends of mine refer to those more literal combinations of dress shoes and sneakers as “Frankenshoes”, and I tend to agree with their sentiment).

So what, then, is a dress sneaker?

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A dress sneaker is a minimalist, leather sneaker with a low cuff, relatively slim soles, flat laces, a slim profile, and a simple leather colorway like white, black, brown, or another muted, neutral color.

For a visual example, most quality dress sneakers will look something like this:

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As you can see, this style of dress sneakers leans much more toward the sneaker end of the spectrum than toward dress shoes.

So, what makes a dress shoe like Ace Marks’ Lopro Dress Sneaker (shown above) different from a pair of Adidas Stan Smiths?

At a quick visual glance, they look very similar. However, the difference is in the details.

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Stan Smiths fit the general definition of a minimalist, leather sneaker with a low cuff, a slim sole, and flat laces, but their stitching, perforations, logos, and metal eyelets give off a more casual vibe. Truly minimalist, sneakers are somewhat of a blank slate, like see with something like Ace Marks’ Lopro.

Dress sneakers rarely have any visible branding, and if they do it’s just a small bit of text, not a full logo like you see on the heel cap of Adidas Stan Smiths.

It all comes down to the details when distinguishing between a regular sneaker and a dress sneaker. Dress sneakers are made with premium construction materials, like full-grain and calfskin leathers, waxed dress laces, and Italian rubber outsoles.

The simplicity of dress sneakers and the premium construction materials allow them to be paired with more formal elements, like chinos, slacks, and even casual suits.

What Makes a Good Pair of Dress Sneakers?

As you may have already guessed, a good pair of dress sneakers is defined by the quality of its materials and construction process.

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Not all dress sneakers are made with full-grain calfskin leather. I’ve worn some that are made with “action leather,” which is suede cow leather covered in a thin Polyurethane plastic.

The underlying suede leather usually isn’t the best piece of leather available, and combined with the Polyurethane plastic you get a stiff, hard upper that will take some time to break in, and also may not be as durable.

Look for dress sneakers with full-grain, calfskin leather uppers, and calfskin leather linings. These features ensure a comfortable and luxurious sneaker that is durable over time.

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Dress sneakers should also be exceptionally comfortable. I’m talking a pillow-padded tongue and collar at least, and maybe some sort of memory foam insole so that you can wear these sneakers without discomfort for an entire day.

I’ve worn cheap dress sneakers with very little internal padding, bad arch support, and a rough, suede leather lining. It wasn’t an enjoyable experience.

A quality dress sneaker like Ace Marks’ Lopro has full-grain, calfskin leather used throughout, a cushioned insole, and a padded collar and tongue that all together is surprisingly comfortable.

Dress sneakers often have such a slim profile that it’s hard to imagine them being comfortable, but if you get yourself the right pair you’ll know what I’m talking about.

The DOs and DON’Ts of Dressing Up Sneakers

It was initially difficult for me to wrap my head around pairing sneakers with more formal outfits. However, after some experimentation, I quickly got used to the comfort and style of dressing up minimal leather sneakers.

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Like most areas of men’s style, there are some subtle rules to be aware of when dressing up sneakers in order to do it right. Here are just a few:

Pair Dress Sneakers With Nice Jeans, Chinos, and Casual Slacks

Dress sneakers are technically sneakers, but for a smart look, you could pair them with quality, dark-wash jeans, nice chinos, or casual slacks. It almost goes without saying that your ripped sweatpants from high school are a no-go here.

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Many outfits that leverage dress sneakers are technically smart casual outfits, which is a relatively new dress code that blends casual and formal elements.

Smart casual outfits can go between formalities with ease and can be equally appropriate for business casual environments, happy hours, and date nights all at the same time.

For example, it’s difficult to overstate the versatility of an outfit comprised of a good pair of dress sneakers, dark wash jeans, a quality Oxford button-down, and a light, quilted jacket. Any other pair of sneakers would look “off” in this scenario, but since dress sneakers are more formal, it works.

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You can go so far as pairing dress sneakers with casual, summer suits. In this case, instead of wearing a button-down shirt and tie as you’d normally wear with a suit, swap those out for a clean, white t-shirt that you tuck into the suit pants.

Put the suit jacket over top and you’ve got a simple, comfortable, European look for a more casual wedding. I recommend complimenting the color of your dress sneakers with the t-shirt, so if I was wearing white dress sneakers, I’d wear a white or off-white tee.

Don’t Pair Dress Sneakers with Formal Pants or Suits

While it’s possible to wear dress sneakers with a casual suit, avoid pairing dress sneakers with a suit that’s too formal.

Trying to rock dress sneakers with formal dark wool trousers or tuxedo pants will almost never work, so it’s best to steer clear entirely unless you really know what you’re doing.

Certainly, any event that you’re attending that calls for a tuxedo will likely be quite formal, so it will only be appropriate to wear dress shoes that match the part.

Have a Balance of Formal and Casual Elements

Smart casual outfits are all about balancing formal and casual elements, and the same applies to dress sneakers since they’re most often used in smart casual outfits.

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Take the earlier example of a casual summer suit with dress sneakers and a quality t-shirt. The dress sneakers are more casual than they are formal, as is the t-shirt, and they’re balanced by more formal elements like the suit pants and jacket.

Consider another outfit with dress sneakers, clean, slim-cut jeans, a tucked-in button-down shirt, and a sweater over top. The dress sneakers lean casual, as do the slim-cut jeans, while the button-down is more formal and helps to balance out the casual elements.

Men’s performance wear is popular with smart casual outfits as well, and simple outfits with dress sneakers, performance chinos, and a polo shirt are common to see.

Performance chinos are a bit less formal than regular cotton chinos, and create a nice balance of dressy casual elements with the dress sneakers and polo shirt.

Don’t Pair Dress Sneakers with Overly Casual Outfits

Similar to the point above, don’t pair dress sneakers with overly casual outfits like baggy sweatpants and a t-shirt. You’ll see a lot of people do this, but it’s missing the point of what a dress sneaker can be used for, and you might as well be wearing normal sneakers with a casual outfit like that.

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Personally, I think that the same applies to an outfit consisting of jeans and a sweatshirt. Will the fashion police jump out and haul you away for wearing dress sneakers with an outfit like that?

Of course not, but I think it’s better to save your dress sneakers for semi-formal and smart casual outfits, especially since they’re often more expensive than your everyday sneakers.

Then again, you could argue that you might as well get the most use possible out of your kicks.

White minimal sneakers, in particular, can be worn in so many different ways.

However, if you want to wear them with a casual suit, for instance, you want them to be really fresh and clean so you might want a pair just for dressing up and another beater pair for everyday wear. It all depends on how you want to wear your shoes.

How to Wear Dress Sneakers

Now that you have some of the dos and don’ts of wearing dress sneakers, let’s look more in-depth at some outfit examples.

Outfit #1

This first outfit is great for more casual office environments, a first date, or going to a dinner party.

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My dress sneakers here are the Ace Marks Lopro, which are relatively new in the brand’s lineup of Italian leather offerings.

Ace Marks has a long history of providing quality men’s dress shoes and works directly with a 4th generation Italian shoe factory to provide extraordinary quality at affordable prices compared to the competition.

The Lopros are more minimal than many of Ace Marks’ other dress sneakers and are made by hand from soft, Italian leather. This is their Crema colorway, which is slightly off-white.

I paired these with brown, cotton chinos and a stretch-collared shirt for an effortless, comfortable outfit. This is great for spring and summer nights when the weather is cool.

Outfit #2

This next outfit bumps up the formality, but still keeps things smart casual overall.

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Starting with Ace Marks’ Lopro Dress Sneaker in black, I paired these with a gray, casual suit and a quality black t-shirt.

This European look is great for casual summer weddings, or casual winter weddings if you live in a warm place.

The Lopro Dress Sneakers keep the relaxed overall look but are sleek enough to look neat and presentable when paired with a suit.

Up next, this outfit is great for fall nights on the town to check out the new cocktail bar or restaurant.

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Here, I’ve paired brown dress sneakers with a good pair of jeans and finished the outfit with a turtleneck sweater and brown shirt jacket.

The dress sneakers and jeans are slightly more casual, and the turtleneck and jacket give a good, formal balance to make a stylish, comfortable outfit.

Outfit #3

The last outfit example here is great for fall and early winter outings.

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This time I’ve taken brown Ace Marks’ Lopro Dress Sneakers and paired them with black cotton chinos, an untucked button-down, and a brown sweater over top.

Leaving the button-down shirt untucked keeps things comfortable and more casual since the chinos and sweater are on the formal end of things. This outfit keeps a good balance of casual and formal elements and is great for a variety of environments and activities.


Here are answers to a few frequently asked questions about dress sneakers:

Can you wear dress sneakers with a suit?

Yes, you can wear dress sneakers with casual suits, especially suits in lighter colors.

What socks should you wear with dress sneakers?

For a European, laid-back style, wear no-show dress socks with dress sneakers.

Can you wear sneakers to a wedding?

The only sneakers that are appropriate to wear to a wedding are dress sneakers, and that’s only in the event that the wedding is somewhat casual. For more info about what to wear to a wedding, check out this article.

Can you wear sneakers to the office?

If you work in a casual office environment you can wear sneakers or dress sneakers. For business casual environments, sneakers are usually not appropriate.


Dress sneakers are a great way to bring a little casual style and comfort to otherwise formal outfits.

Whether it’s a date night or just another day at the office, dress sneakers are the perfect complement to tons of outfits, and after reading this article you have all the knowledge you’ll need to wear them correctly.

Questions? Comments? Leave them below!

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