My sisters and I wore Keds canvas sneakers growing up. They were almost always white and they had what can only be described as a magnetic attraction to grass stains. Mine always became streaked with green immediately upon wearing. When they got especially dirty my mom would throw them into the washing machine and then the dryer, which made the crepey soles curl up on themselves, just a little, but enough to notice. By the end of the summer, no amount of washing could clean them up. My childhood summers were marked by the passage of worn-through sneakers with curled up soles.
I can’t remember precisely when I got my first pair of high-top canvas sneakers. The ones I remember best were from the Land’s End catalog and if memory serves, I wore them, nearly exclusively, in the year that I was 8. They were navy blue with a ditsy floral print—pink and white and green all over. I’ve kept a pair of high-top canvas sneakers in my closet ever since.
In my view, they’re the perfect shoe—sturdy and comfortable and understated enough for wearing most any time. I wear mine year-round, even in weather that perhaps calls for something more than a bit of cotton canvas, but it’s in springtime that the niggling itch for a fresh new pair is strongest.
Here, a round up of canvas sneakers—high-tops and low—that I’ve been admiring lately. They’re all made with the classic vintage styling that I like best. Full disclosure: Classic Converse Chuck Taylor All Stars sneakers are still some of my favorites (especially the monochrome white ones), but they’re not made with any particular nod to environmental or worker well-being that I know of, and so in this roundup, I’ve tried my best to seek out some others that are.
Good News London: These unisex British sneakers aren’t currently available in the US, but they remind me a bit of French Spring Court sneakers and they tout an ethical supply chain. Specifics on their site are slim, but the company derives its name in part from their intention to donate shoes to folks in need—specifically migrant and refugee populations in Europe. Good news, right? (I like the Bagger White Hi best.)
Ethletic: Also currently only widely available in Europe, I’m tempted to start a petition to get these guys more easily available in the US. Their Fair Trainer White Cap Hi Cut is a pretty, pretty good looking sneak and it’s made from sustainable, fair trade-certified materials. According to the company, they pay an additional 15% of production cost to folks who work in their production facilities; money that’s used primarily for health insurance, retirement benefits, and to support local education.
Evam Eva: I spotted a pair of beautiful black-soled Evam Eva canvas beauties on the Rennes shop instagram (one of my favorite shop feeds to ogle) recently and had to ask shop owner, Julia Okun, more about them. She imports them from Japan and has only a few left at the time of writing, but will restock for fall!
Novestas: These classic beauties have been made in Slovakia since 1939. The company uses certified natural rubber and 100% cotton and linen to make their sneakers. They have a handful of US stockists, including Shop Boswell (which you might also remember is owned by Brookes Boswell, makers of some of my favorite hats.)
PF Flyers: When I bought my current pair of well-loved high-tops a few years ago, I opted for PF Flyers instead of Converse All Stars. Not all of their sneaks are still made in the US—and of course that’s not always a sure sign of environmental stewardship or stellar worker conditions—but the company does still produce some of their classic sneakers in Boston, Massachusetts. The white Made in the US Center Hi is a serious contender for replacing my current pair (photographed here).
Shoes Like Pottery: As the name suggests, these beautiful Japanese sneakers are made by hand and fired in a kiln which “causes the sulfur mixed inside the raw rubber to chemically react, returning the rubber to its natural elasticity and creating a soft, flexible, and durable sole.” Science! If you’re swayed by a pop of color, these are your shoes. The soles are turquoise! Available through Need Supply in the US (among others).
Vejas: This French sneaker company has made sustainability a cornerstone of its brand, committing themselves to making sneakers where raw materials have been sourced from organic farming and ecological agriculture and workers are treated with dignity and respect. I bought a pair of hemp Veja’s last spring. They’re classic and cute, though I admit that they feel a bit large for me and have been slow to break in. Done over, I might opt for these ones, though I’d love to see a high-top option.
What about you guys? Are you canvas sneaker wearers? Any favorites to share?
PS. If slip-ons are your preferred style of canvas sneakers, I’m a particular fan of Spanish-made Cienta sneakers, especially for little kids.