Allbirds might be a fine shoe. But they’ve quickly become all reputation and type rather than footwear, very much akin to the cursed Patagonia vest. Or as the redditor regul recently wrote in r/MaleFashionAdvice (MFA), “They’re part of the Silicon Valley uniform now. I used to take Caltrain to my job in Mountain View. Allbirds and branded fleece/puffer vests as far as the eye can see. Like ‘em or not, they have a connotation, much like Crocs.”
I know this firsthand. I received a pair for Christmas from a step-sibling who works in finance (but of course). That wasn’t exactly why I ended up returning them, though. It was more because they try to cover too many bases — in an algorithmically-developed Netflix movie kind of way, to boot — another common complaint amongst those on the MFA. “They look too athletic to be a minimalist shoe like Authentics or plain white sneakers; they don’t have the classic-rock-skinny-jeans vibe that makes Chucks work; they aren’t athletic enough or techy enough to work with athleisure or tech ware; and they don’t look retro, which is what makes those Sauconys and New Balances work,” argues redditor ManateeSheriff.
They’re also not the only knitted shoe out there, if that’s your thing. By my count, there are at least six quality alternatives that will give you the same feel without you having to become the Allbirds type. Those shoes…
If your argument is that you prefer Allbirds because they’re more environmentally friendly than other sneakers, I can’t argue with that. But according to one MFA subscriber, the wool on Allbirds is less durable than Nike’s Flyknit since the Nike knits are made from polyester yarn, which dries faster and is cheaper to produce than Allbird’s merino wool. And so, although Nike has its fair share of environmental issues, there’s reason to believe that their sneakers last longer, and therefore could be viewed as somewhat more sustainable.
As another MFAer puts it, the Stan Smiths “simply have better silhouettes and colorways that can be matched with a wider range of outfits.” Not to mention, as the name indicates, the “Made to Be Remade” version is built in such a way that when you’re finished wearing your pair, you can return them to Adidas and they’ll “turn them into something new.”
Commonly cited as a less expensive alternative to every minimalist’s favorite Common Projects shoes, Greats’ take on the knit shoe is a good option for those who love plain-looking shoes. With the addition of a few simple details that help differentiate it from the Allbirds foamy sneaker aesthetic, Greats are sure to be a high-quality sneaker since they’re made in the same factory as Common Projects. Another added bonus is that each shoe is made of seven plastic bottles.
Ideal for the summer season, Rivieras Leisure Shoes are more or less built for lounging by the pool. More importantly, they’re the least “Silicon Valley” looking shoe on this list.
If having a pair of shoes you can toss into the wash is at the top of your list, Rothy’s sneakers are the way to go. They’re 100-percent machine washable, so simply slip out the insoles, toss them and the shoes into the washing machine, and let them air dry when they’re done.
They’re not exactly a knitted sneaker a la Allbirds, but this Italian shoemaker (est. 1911) produces one of the more classic pairs of canvas shoes. The quality, per a few different members of the MFA, is on par with Converse and Vans. Most importantly, when they’re swaddling your feet, you’re much more likely to be mistaken for European than tech bro.