How to Wear Sneakers to Work: Outfits & Styling Tips

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This post will show you how to style sneakers for the office.

Fashion is fun. Styling an outfit is a fantastic way to get your creative juices flowing. But, sometimes (and for some of us), it can be overwhelming. Look, I get it. It’s a fast-paced, ever-changing industry. Trends and styles come and go in the blink of an eye. It can be too much to handle if you are dipping your toes into the pool of fashion for the first time.

I’m here to help.

In this series, I’ll give you styling advice for some of the most confusing and difficult styling areas. I’ll outline all my tips, tricks, and hacks to help you create amazing outfits. Also, I’ll exemplify everything in three degrees of difficulty so it can be easier to see what you can do.

This week, I’ll give you all the tips and tricks for wearing sneakers to work.

What *is* up with sneakers and office wear?

For years now, office wear has slowly but surely become less and less stiff and formal. More and more workplaces have adopted a relaxed and casual style, which is great for comfort and individuality. This is especially true if a corporate outfit doesn’t fit with your personal style.

But, as much as I love my own workplace’s flexibility on the dress code, there’s still an unspoken set of rules of what’s “appropriate” for an office. Personally, I believe in bringing as much of your personal style to the office as possible, but always trying to be more formal than casual and appearing as put-together as possible.

{RELATED POST: How to Wear Leggings to Work (+ Outfit Ideas!)}

Sneakers are a unique item for this specific subject. They are easy to throw on and make something look casual, but they’re also difficult to wear when you don’t want to bring the outfit down too much.

All that said, you CAN wear sneakers to work and still look professional. Here’s how.

How to Wear Sneakers to Work: Tips, Tricks, & Hacks

So, how to pair sneakers with office wear? How can we wear our most comfortable shoes without steering our look too much into the casual zone? Can they *actually* elevate an outfit?

The answer to all those questions is: YES! Absolutely, yes!

But, there’s a big but here: Not every sneaker works with every outfit.

We’ve all heard that having a pair of white or black sneakers is *everything* you need; they work with every closet. This is, I think, the biggest misconception there is about sneakers. Yes, they can integrate into any closet, but not into every outfit.

So, here are my tips and tricks on how to pair your sneakers with the right outfit to elevate it:

  • Formality is your friend. The most formal items or outfits are usually the ones that look the coolest with sneakers. The contrast will work in your favor.
  • Accessorize to the nines. When wearing sneakers with less formal items, like looser dresses or skirts, one way to elevate everything is to use your accessories to balance the casualness of the outfit.
  • One pair does not rule them all. One pair of sneakers might work for many outfits, but not for every outfit. With sneakers, you have to consider the type of shoe it is, the laces, the height, and the material, too, just like you would any other item.
  • Soles might make or break your look. Depending on the rest of your look, the sole of your sneakers might be the perfect accessory or a color mismatch that breaks an otherwise perfect palette. Be aware of your soles’ color, height, and cleanliness before using them to elevate a look.
  • Low or high, which one could it be? High and low-top sneakers can serve different purposes for the same outfit. In general, consider wearing low-top sneakers with maxi hems and extremely formal items. High-top sneakers work amazingly to help elongate your legs and work best with midi skirts and dresses.
  • Play with height. Platform sneakers have been everywhere for the last couple of years. I’ve had mine for seven years, and I still wear them all the time. Platform sneakers with a clean line, in an overall neutral color, with low contrast between the sole and the shoe, are your best options.

Sneaker Outfits for Work: Fashion Guide

Easy – Outfit #1

Sneakers & Officewear - Brown knit top, brown suit, platform sneakers, gold jewelry

So, let’s start with an easy sneaker outfit for work, creating a look with our most formal items. For me, that’s my brown suit. It is the most formal suit that I have, both in fit and color. As you can see, this is a very simple, old-school type of suit.

To create my look, I wore a brown knit shirt as a top. Then, I put on the brown suit. Monochromatic outfits tend to look extra put-together, which is why I decided to go with an all-brown ensemble. Then, since the pants are longer, I decided to add a pair of beige platform sneakers. The longer hem of the pant covers most of the shoe, which means that the only thing you see is a sneak peek of the sole.

Now for accessories. I kept it simple with dainty gold jewelry to bring a bit of sparkle to the look. Finally, I kept my hair up in a low bun.

As you can see, the suit does most of the heavy lifting here. It is so formal that it’s hard for the sneakers to make the outfit too casual. The platforms help me get more grounded and not lose myself within the squareness of the suit.

Easy – Outfit #2

Sneakers & Officewear -  Black shirt, black pinstripe pants, white knit vest, white belt, black and white Nike Cortez sneakers

For my second sneaker outfit for work, I’m keeping it monochromatic. These items are less formal than the pieces in our first look, but here we’re balancing that with color and accessories. We’re also challenging ourselves with a more obvious pair of casual sneakers.

For this look, I wore a black button-up shirt. Then, for pants, I grabbed a pair of black pinstripe pants. For my sneakers, I went with a type of sneakers I think most people have: a pair of black and white Nike Cortez. These sneakers look cool, but they also look informal.

To help with that and bring the whole thing together, I focused on the white details of both the shoes and pants. I threw on a long white vest and a white belt. For accessories, I changed my earrings for a pair of pearl studs and left the rest of the gold jewelry.

Clearly, these items are not as formal as a suit. The short sleeves of the shirt and looser fit of the pants create a different type of challenge to balance the sneakers’ casualness.

The key for this type of outfit is to either stick with a monochromatic look that matches your sneakers OR play with the different colors in the sneakers. Here, I decided that bringing in the white would add a different focal point to the look, and the sneakers wouldn’t stand out.

Medium – Outfit #3

Sneakers & Officewear - Beige shirt, brown patterned pants, white sneakers, gold jewelry

Kicking it up a notch, I wanted to do a typical office look, consisting of a button-up shirt and trousers. This one is an easy outfit that almost all of us have worn to work at some point, and it’s a great example of how to wear sneakers to work in a simple way.

Bringing in a pair of sneakers to this classic look allows for a lot of comfort, but maybe you have a meeting or something you’d like to be more formal for. That’s where this outfit comes in.

To create this look, I started with a pair of brown patterned trousers. For the shirt, I chose a loose, oversized button-up shirt in beige. I tucked in the shirt to define my waist and make everything look more put together.

To challenge myself, I went with a pair of classic white sneakers. Since the shoes are very obviously casual, I used my accessories to elevate the look without compromising comfort or the base of the look. To do this, I added a gold chain necklace, gold cuff bracelets, and gold earrings.

Accessories are your greatest ally in this case. When you’re working with an outfit like this, try to go for accessories that call out details from your items. For example, I went with heavy gold jewelry because the shirt has gold buttons. Additionally, the heaviness contrasts the simple lines and slim fit of the rest of the look.

Medium – Outfit #4

Sneakers & Officewear - White shirt, vermillion pants, silver belt, silver jewelry, orange slip on Vans

Now, let’s tackle color in the office. Now, people aren’t just wearing neutral colors to go to work. Bright colors, pastels, and neons have made their way into the office, and they’re a sight for sore eyes. But, instead of going with a brightly colored suit or full-on neon, as I would usually do for myself, I decided to take it easy and start with one item in a bright color.

For this casual work outfit, I started with an oversized white Oxford shirt and tucked it in a bit. Then, for pants, I chose a pair of loose trousers in a bright shade of orange.

One of the most difficult sneakers to wear to work are checkered, slip-on Vans. So, for this look, I wore my own pair of white and orange checkered slip-on Vans. Finally, to bring a bit of shine to the look, I used silver accessories, like a silver belt, silver cuff bracelets, and a silver chain necklace.

This look is casual but still office-ready. It would work for a casual Friday type of situation at a relaxed office. When you are wearing a pair of checkered sneakers, use those colors as a guide for the primary colors in your outfit. For me, the colors were white and orange. By bringing the sneakers into the look in that way, they won’t look out of place and will blend in perfectly with the outfit.

Difficult – Outfit #5

Sneakers & Officewear - Black balloon sleeves blouse, leopard midi skirt, black vest, black belt, platform sneakers

A midi skirt is the most difficult item to pair with sneakers without immediately making your whole outfit less formal. In general, midi skirts and sneakers read as very casual. So, how do we avoid that?

For this outfit, I started with a black balloon-sleeved top that has a square neckline. Then, I wore it with a leopard print midi skirt. The first thing I did to elevate the look was to hide the elasticated waistband of the skirt with a wide black belt. Next, I threw on a black blazer vest. Finally, the sneakers. I chose my beige and gold platform sneakers because they blend in with my skin tone and because of that, my legs get are elongated AND the sneakers blend into the look. Finally, I added my gold cuff bracelets to tie in the sneakers and belt with the rest of the items.

As you can see, details matter when you are trying to bring very casual items into a put-together look. For example, a pair of black high-top Converse would work color-wise with this outfit, right? But, my legs would appear shorter, the outfit would appear in general less thought-out, and we would lose the gold thread that ties in everything from top to bottom.

With a simple switch to beige sneakers, all those issues disappear and help elevate the look.

Difficult – Outfit #6

Sneakers & Officewear - White shirt, black floral midi dress, black vest, silver belt, silver jewelry, black Vans

Now, a floral midi dress is another type of item I find difficult to elevate for the office. As with midi skirts, floral dresses are generally seen as casual. The same is true of lace-up Vans. This one is definitely a challenge.

For this look, we will be focusing again on the details. First, I wore my favorite floral dress, which I think most of you are familiar with by now: a black and white floral midi dress. Underneath, I wore a white Oxford shirt to add the collar and cuff details to the look. I wore the same black blazer vest I had on for the previous look.

Now, time for accessories. I cinched the dress at the waist with a silver belt and elongated the sleeves with a pair of silver cuff bracelets. For the shoes, I put on a pair of black Vans. To make the vans look more put together, I made sure to hide the laces after tying them.

Final Thoughts

In general, work dress codes have gotten more flexible, which I think is a step in the right direction. I understand that certain workplaces and jobs demand a stricter dress code or something completely different from what I’ve showcased in this post. (See our post on business dress codes for more on this.) But most of us do work at places that now allow us to dress a bit more casually.

Sneakers are comfortable, so the fact that we can wear them almost everywhere now is a win. But when you’re thinking about how to wear sneakers to work, be conscious of how the fit, material, color, and height of sneakers influence how casual or put together your outfit will look.

I do believe that certain sneakers are staples in almost everyone’s closet: white low-top sneakers and a pair of black sneakers. Depending on your own style, you’ll decide which ones work best for you. I would recommend staying away from very trendy pieces, like massive chunky sneakers, for example, if you’re investing in a pair.

Remember that no matter what you’re wearing, that doesn’t dictate how you or your work should be judged. Present yourself how you want to and do your work to the best of your ability, free of what others expect you to wear to look “professional.”

What do you think of our guide to how to wear sneakers to work?

Would you wear sneakers to the office? Do you already do it? What are your tips if you do? Do you have any styling questions you want me to tackle next? Let us know in the comments below!

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