As a new season approaches, retailers have a lot on their minds.
From recession fears and soaring interest rates causing shifts in consumer spending, many retailers are cautiously moving into next season. But with improving inflation and price increases stabilizing, most are hopeful that next year will see a return to growth.
Market improvement can already be seen in the men’s shoe category. According to recent data from Circana (formerly IRI and The NPD Group), men’s footwear sales in the first quarter of 2023 have seen growth in drivers and loafers, with the fashion segment up 14 percent compared to both last year and pre-pandemic. Oxfords were also up 4 percent in Q1, primarily driven by hybrid styles featuring dressier uppers with sneaker soles. And while sneakers remain an important part of the men’s business, retailers are saying loafers are what’s driving newness, as more people return to events and the office.
And with next month marking the beginning of the spring/summer 2024 market for the men’s industry – as buyers head to Europe for runway shows and showroom appointments – FN caught up with top retailers to discuss what’s selling now and what they expect to see trending for next spring.
With so much debate about the designer sneaker and the return of dress, what is driving sales right now?
Bruce Pask, men’s fashion director at Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman: Sneakers continue to be a strength for us, but we’re also seeing interest in other casual and comfort components, like the loafer is also really taking off. And the dress category has really been incredibly strong. I think the customer is really interested in having a broader footwear wardrobe and choices for different occasions.
Justin Berkowitz, men’s fashion director at Bloomingdale’s: Dress shoes – inclusive of formal styles, lace-ups, monk straps, and loafers – were a key focus in building our assortments this spring, and we’re seeing strong performance in these styles as the customer is looking for more polished footwear options. On the more casual front, streamlined sneaker shapes, rubber sole venetians, and clogs are showing resonance.
Reginald Christian, men’s fashion market manager at Saks: This spring, clean sneakers are performing well, such as the Prada Downtown in vibrant and fresh colorways.
Jian DeLeon, men’s fashion director at Nordstrom: Sneakers are still strong across the board. From lifestyle runners by brands like On, Salomon, and Hoka to retro models ranging from “dad” shoes like the New Balance 900 series to basketball sneakers from Nike alongside silhouettes like the Adidas Forum and New Balance 550. The soccer-inspired shoe continues to have a moment too, with the Adidas Samba continuing to prove popular as well as similar models like the Gazelle, especially in suedes and saturated colors.
Mytheresa’s menswear buying team, led by director Chris Kyvetos: Loafers are having a great momentum throughout the year. Moreover, with regards to the spring/summer season, we notice a robust showing for espadrilles and mules.
Diego Abba, CEO of Italist: Despite the style’s familiarity, Golden Goose sneakers are still a top-selling brand for men’s footwear. Dark streetwear luxury shoes, from the likes of Rick Owens and DRKSHDW, are also perennially popular and going strong this spring.
Designer sneaker aesthetics have gone through quite a shift since the pandemic. What type of luxury sneakers are men buying now?
Pask: We’re seeing a focus on the classic streamlined styles, like the classic white leather sneakers are doing incredibly well. The Common Projects Achilles Low continues to do well as does Prada’s hit America’s Cup shoe in the new rubber version. But then, for statement making, we’ve got some great exclusive projects with Christian Louboutin for the season.
Berkowitz: Over the course of past several months, we have begun to see a bit more balance; while sneakers are still a very important part of the business, we’ve seen dress come back. There is an important shift is the kinds of sneakers we’re seeing prove the most popular; by and large the trend is about more minimalist, lower profile court sneakers which are office appropriate. We’re also seeing traction in more Y2K-inspired trainer styles, athletic styles, and outdoor styles, being driven by New Balance, On Running, and Salomon, respectively.
Christian: Sneakers continue to drive a significant percentage of our men’s footwear business. Our customers are responding particularly well to the clean sneaker trend and incorporating these styles into their work and everyday lifestyle wardrobe.
DeLeon: Our business in sneakers continues to grow year over year, with running styles outpacing many other models. The so-called “quiet luxury” trend reflects an increased appetite in minimal lifestyle models in white-on-white leather and creamy suedes and equally versatile off-white shades, as well as the rise of hybrid dress sneakers that offer comfort for our customers.
Abba: Sneakers are still very popular and are consistently about 65% of all our men’s footwear sales. This season, Kiton’s knit sneakers have been selling well, while classic low-top leather sneakers like Maison Margiela’s Replica and Common Projects’ Achilles have also been trending.
Loafers have quickly and quietly taken over the conversationg in men’s dress shoes, but what are you seeing your stores?
Pask: We’ve definitely been doing well with occasion-based footwear. And I think the interest in the dress shoe world now has a lot to do with statement-making and artisanal things that are special. This can be seen with exclusive brands to BG like Bontoni, which features hand patinas and treatments.
Christian: As our customer continues to live a more balanced lifestyle, we have seen an uptick in dress styles, with loafers being a top performer. Our customers gravitate towards dress styles that are comfortable yet elevated enough to take them from day to night, such as the Loro Piana Summer Walk loafers.
Kyvetos: Loafers have always been a big focus for us, and we’ve seen this category experiencing continuous growth, particularly driven by brands such as Loro Piana, Christian Louboutin, Gucci, and Prada. Louboutin specializes in dress styles, while Gucci offers a wide range of staple loafers, and Prada features more fashion-forward chunky styles. Bottega Veneta and The Row are also noteworthy brands this season, offering more luxurious versions of loafers.
Berkowitz: The loafer has been an incredibly popular style this spring; we’ve seen interest in a range of styles from more classic iterations of iconic shapes to updated novelty takes that feature color, special hardware details, or lug soles.
DeLeon: We’re seeing wins in more versatile styles like plain-toe derbies that can be dressed down or up, reflecting that desire for multi-purpose footwear that can work in a variety of contexts. Similar to how our customers mix tailoring with more elegant sneakers, these styles let him dress more casually while elevating his footwear game.
Abba: While sneakers remain the most popular shoe style, classical footwear like loafers and oxfords are coming back. Everyone’s talking about “Succession” and its array of quiet luxury brands, which may be part of this return to tradition. We’ve recently boosted our classical luxury footwear offering and have an impressive selection of John Lobb, Edward Green, Tod’s, Tom Ford, Christian Louboutin.
What will be the 2023 men’s shoe of the summer?
Pask: Our customers want summer shoes that are definitely a little more sophisticated. We’ve seen the migration from the pool slide to more sophisticated styles like all versions of the loafer. I love Zegna’s Lasola loafer, which is totally unconstructed, unlined, flexible, and is really elegant. And brands like Santoni and Bontoni, the pale suedes that they use are becoming really important in the loafer category. The Loro Piana Summer Walk and the brand’s new Babouche Walk, those are incredibly important. We’ve also added fisherman sandal styles from Grenson, which can be dressed and lends well to versatile dressing.
Berkowitz: Clogs and mules are driving the conversation here and have been a focus with both luxury and premium partners.
Christian: We anticipate novelty slides to be a major trend as the season progresses, as well as mule-style sandals like the Gucci River Horsebit Mule.
Kyvetos: Sandals have become a staple for the spring/summer season and this is mirrored in our sales data, which shows a consistent upswing in the demand for sandals over the past few seasons. Mules and slip-ons are popular too, but this is more of a “all year long” style for us.
DeLeon: Mules are continuing to have a moment for us, speaking to our customers’ desire for elevated options that are very easy to wear.
Abba: Mules and clogs are having a moment, what with brands like Birkenstock being so popular again. But by far, Bottega Veneta is the top brand for men’s sandals.
Do you think these trends will continue into spring ’24? What are you expecting to see in Europe next month?
Pask: I think the mule is picking up traction and should be watched. I also think the lug sole, kind of a more substantial fashion shoe, is really important as more clothing becomes more oversized and voluminous.
Berkowitz: Lighter neutral color palettes and casual dress styles are both on my mind at the moment. We’re all intrigued to see what the evolution at Gucci will look like. Daniel Lee presented some really interesting footwear ideas in his debut at Burberry, and I’m curious about what’s coming next.
Christian: We expect to continue seeing elevated sneakers remain relevant in the luxury lifestyle wardrobe. We are keeping our eyes open for innovative yet functional styles, as well as timeless footwear across all categories.
DeLeon: Thinking about what we have coming in for fall, I imagine we’ll continue to see a return to classic dress styles on the runways in June, with the double monk having a few key moments on the runway like Miu Miu, but also from heritage labels like John Lobb. Colorful suedes and softer materials that take a bit of the stuffiness out of men’s footwear in the same way chunky lug soles added an edge a few seasons ago seem like they’re poised to make a comeback.
Kyvetos: We believe that we will keep seeing more and more dress styles reflect on the runway. Loafers, boots and knitted sneakers – for a more formal and luxurious look. The brands we have on our radar for the next season are: Loro Piana, Gucci, Brunello Cucinelli, Zegna, and John Lobb.
Abba: If fall/winter 2023 men’s footwear trends are any indication, we foresee Western-style boots a continued interest, as well as focus on activity sneakers from brands like Hoka, Salomon, New Balance, and On Running. We’ll also continue to see futuristic sneakers—from brands like Balmain, Botter, and Givenchy—pushing the design discussion forward.