Fashion Sneakers - Lead
Credit: Courtesy Laura Lajiness

I would never describe my style as “cool." I cling to the feminine midi dresses, walkable heels, and tailored pieces that make up most of my wardrobe. And even though I work in fashion, where new trends are constantly tempting me to try them out, I typically lean on accessories as a low-commitment way to shake things up. But there’s one accessory bandwagon I’ve been too timid to try as it's reigned supreme for years: sneakers.

I know, I know. Sneakers, they’re so easy, right? But there’s that fashion girl way to wear sneakers that I’ve found intimidating, and difficult to pull off. I wear trainers for working out and running errands. I’ve worn classics, like Chuck Taylors, Keds — even going so far as Supergas, and Adidas Superstars at one point or another. But unless the rest of my outfit is decidedly off-duty (which lately revolves around a pair of Outdoor Voices leggings), I just don’t feel comfortable in sneakers. I wear my midi hemlines with puffy sleeves, and kitten heels. Logically I understand that sneakers provide a simple solution to downplay my too-sweet wardrobe.

I simultaneously feel like a cool sneakers outfit requires head-to-toe styling, and I also loathe an overly styled ensemble. I want to appear polished, but hate feeling like a try-hard — it’s a sartorial catch-22.

Lately, sneaker trends have taken a turn for bold with both futuristic and nostalgic styles (we can thank bigwig designers like Louis Vuitton and Balenciaga for this). You can imagine how intimidating I find a chunky “Dad” sneaker or ‘90s heritage styles, when I can’t even do a Superga with a sundress (which some might say is entry-level fashion sneakering). If you follow the street style scene or celebrities like Bella Hadid and Hailey Baldwin, you’ve likely noticed them juxtaposing overbuilt sneaks with tailored separates, graceful dresses, or biker shorts (which are only gaining traction for Spring/Summer 2019). While you won’t catch me in bike shorts any time soon, I am all about modern suiting and dresses of all kinds.

So, as a personal style challenge, I decided to take the season’s latest sneaker trends for a spin. While I hardly consider myself a sneaker convert, I do feel like I finally hit my stride. Read on, to see how I cracked the fashion-girl sneaker code.

Fashion Sneakers - Embed - 3
Credit: Courtesy Laura Lajiness

First up, the Louis Vuitton Archlight Sneakers — total street-style fodder. Yep, I really went for it on my first go with this $1,090 pair of kicks, but I learned a lot right off the bat. Mostly, that these sneakers, while incredibly cool, hit me at an unflattering point. I styled the futuristic sneaks with an airy maxi dress by Nanushka in a tiger motif (fall is all about animal prints, FYI) so as not to make the awkward fit so obvious. To play up my sporty-but-in-a-fashion-way vibes, I went with a belt bag (also by Nanushka) in a croc-like leather. If you’re going to try the chunky sneaker dress combo, my biggest tip is to pair your sneaker of choice with fluid fabrics to balance the heft of a substantial silhouette.

Fashion Sneakers - Embed - 2
Credit: Courtesy Laura Lajiness

My second sneaker outfit revolved around a pair of knit Adidas Ultraboost Shoes. First thoughts: These sneakers are crazy comfortable and light as air — a real treat for the feet when I was literally running around the city during Fashion Week. Because they’re technical sneakers designed for performance, I ran into trouble making them feel fashion. I would have probably felt more comfortable wearing these off duty with leggings or joggers (or actually running). But alas, I was aiming for a more put-together look and settled on a Levi’s denim midi skirt, a puff-sleeve top from Veronica Beard, sculptural earrings, and a Gucci bag. I think it works, but this was not my favorite outfit of the week. Perhaps a different dress or a cropped pair of trousers with a blazer could’ve made the knit sneakers feel work-day-cool.

Fashion Sneakers - Embed - 6
Credit: Courtesy Laura Lajiness

Another day, another animal print. This time, a bold, green leopard number by Diane Von Furstenberg that I cinched with a black ribbon. My natural tendency would have been to pair this with sleek white mules, but instead, I went with a classic trainer by New Balance (the X-90 sneaker). I have to admit, I felt a little clunky in this outfit — I think I was wishing I had worn the super-comfy sneaks with a cropped jean and T-shirt with a trench over top. I guess I’m still getting used to the fancied-up fashion-girl way, even if my Janis Studios bag is totally killing it.

Fashion Sneakers - Embed - 7
Credit: Courtesy Laura Lajiness

I bought these classic Nike Cortez sneakers on sale earlier this year and had yet to wear them. But there's nothing like a personal style challenge and Fashion Week to encourage me to bust out all those never-worn purchases. My lace wrap dress (by Goen J.) is definitely on the dressier side, so I thought sneakers were a perfect balance. And they were! Yes, I still felt slightly out of sorts in sneakers instead of heels, but the slingbacks I would normally pair with this dress would have definitely made the outfit a little too spiffy for daytime. The bag is a Danse Lente. I was even street-style snapped in this outfit during NYFW, which means I nailed it, right?!

Fashion Sneakers - Embed - 5
Credit: Courtesy Laura Lajiness

First of all, I’ve been dying to try a suit. But, I’m a freelance writer and work from home, which leaves me with few occasions to do so. For NYFW, the look was perfect, and these Aura chunky sneakers from Brandblack x Maison Kitsuné (they’ll be available in October for $280) made my Aritzia suit all the more comfortable, whereas heels would have had me hobbling home by the end of the day. The important thing to consider when pairing a heftier sneaker with tailored bottoms is cut — I recommend a wider leg to flow over the shoes or an ankle-length style if you’d prefer to spotlight them. (By the way, that cute bag half-hiding behind my leg is the Cameron Street Pippa Bag by Kate Spade.)

Fashion Sneakers - Embed - 1
Credit: Courtesy Laura Lajiness

Okay, I know some people find FILA’s famous Disruptor sneakers to be, um, unsightly. And before putting them on, I wasn’t so convinced myself. I have to say, though, I love them — in fact, they ended up being my favorite sneakers of the week. First, they’re much lighter than I anticipated; and second, the raised soles gave me a little extra height which I’m often in need of. What’s more, on a rainy day running between fashion shows, these kept me slip-free and totally comfortable (I would have otherwise worn a patent leather boot with less tread). My biggest advice with these heritage sneakers is to balance with floatier fabrics or cropped hemlines to avoid too much bulk around the ankles. I paired them with a leopard skirt, a Ganni navy-blue cotton jacket, a cashmere turtleneck underneath, and a mini bag from Yuzefi. This look also garnered the attention of a street style photographer — I must really be getting the hang of things.

Fashion Sneakers - Embed - 4
Credit: Courtesy Laura Lajiness

I ended my week with good ol’ classic Vans. But not the mundane sort — I chose a chartreuse shade I presume is most people’s last resort (fair warning: neon is another big trend for fall). Because I went with a double-breasted blazer (another style from Aritzia) that I cinched over a Vince slip dress with my reliable black ribbon, this felt like the most “me” outfit of the week. My go-to midi hemline? Check. A tailored topper? Check. Unique accessories? Check, check, and check. I was so surprised by how comfortable I felt in these skater sneakers — it just goes to show how a distinctive color can really change things, especially if you’re angling for a pop against darker neutrals.

At the end of the week? My sneaker experiment was a runaway success.