Luxury ready meals. Luxury water. Luxury bleach. The human race has transformed plenty of everyday products into fancy, pointless abominations. But one thing it did get right was turning the humble athletic trainer into a piece of art worthy of a streetwear king (AKA someone with a six figure Insta following).

The high street may be failing, but high-end brands are continuing to flourish – especially those that make luxury sneakers. Brand sales by the likes of Gucci, Louis Vuitton and Balenciaga are continuing to soar, proving that today’s generation of stunting, brand-conscious consumers is investing in premium, well-made fashion rather than wear-once-and-throw-away pieces. And the luxury sneaker is at the heart of it all.

Every brand worth its salt has created one – from traditional Northampton shoemakers to century-old Parisian fashion houses, and it’s been a key contributor to the casual direction menswear is firmly committed to. In short, you need a pair. But if you don’t know your Jordans from your John Lobbs, you might want to get your feet stuck into our guide to the slickest luxury sneaker brands you can invest in right now.

Gucci

The world’s biggest trendsetters kicked off the embroidery revolution about four years ago, and it hasn’t slowed down since. Made in Italy, its most popular low-top white Ace sneakers feature either the brand’s iconic bee emblem – introduced in the 1970s – or a snake in the red, green and gold Gucci colourway.

These much-imitated shoes are the eternally on-trend sneakers that go with virtually everything in your wardrobe, from raw selvedge denim jeans and a plain white tee, to dressing down your summer suits.

CQP

Nice shoes from Stockholm. Surprise surprise. CQP’s (Conversations & Quintessential Products) premium kicks are designed in Sweden, and handmade in Portugal, and certainly fit the bill. You’ll most likely spot its Racquet collection, low tops commonly featuring a canvas side panel, 100% Italian suede toe and tongue, and waxed cotton laces.

Alternatively, there’s the Tarmac line, a smarter quarter-top style made with the same quality suede but with a 100% calf leather lining and arch support with several layers of cushioning. The next best thing to wearing pillows on your feet.

Axel Arigato

Some brands stick to one shape and that’s that. Not Axel Arigato. To this Swedish brand, variety is everything.

From the uber casual basketball-inspired Court hi-top, the signature Clean coming in zip-up and laceless options, to the futuristically functional Tech Runner, Axel’s lavish leather-infused lineup is a one-stop shop for all sneaker lovers, bringing art students and sports nuts together in perfect harmony. They did it. World peace at last.

Balenciaga

A brand immersed in history, with trainers from the future. It’s an unusual combination, and for a company nearly a century old Balenciaga is continuing to shock the world with its innovative designs.

The oversized Triple S sneakers are the most iconic of the Spanish fashion house’s footwear styles, manufactured with superior nubuck and mesh, proudly boasting the brand logo towards the back, with that divisive triple-stacked sole jutting out. They are kings of the chunky trainer trend.

This isn’t the only avant-garde style the brand has though, as they’ve also jumped on the sock-meets-shoe hype with the Speed trainer. This alternative silhouette showcases more practical properties, with a memory sole and comfortable shock-absorbing technology.

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