Ah, the minimalist white sneaker. It's essentially the vanilla ice cream of footwear: simple, reliable, but most importantly - incredibly versatile. It's without question that every well-dressed gentleman should have a pair of white sneakers in his wardrobe, especially during the warmer months (they're a Spring/Summer staple). With the surge in popularity of the Common Project Achilles and low-profile white sneakers in general, many different brands offer their own take on the shoe. Today, we're going to be taking a look at the Kent Wang Handgrade Sneaker, which has stirred up some curiosity in the men's fashion community. Do note that I was sent these sneakers at no charge for review purposes.
Kent Wang is a pretty interesting designer/retailer and here are a few reasons why:
- Operated by only two employees
- Steers clear of discounts/sales - lowest price available year-round
- Direct retailing keeps pricing low
- Minimalist branding - no obnoxious logos to detract from item's appearance
Inside the Box
The sneakers are shipped in a deep navy blue shoe box with reflective silver branding. Inside the box is a note depicting the company's return/exchange policy and a recommendation for shoe trees (worth every penny!).
The sneakers themselves come with plenty of packing paper stuffed inside the actual shoe to ensure no warping of the leather occurs during shipment. My pair arrived with no scuffs and very minimal leather creases, which occurs naturally.
One thing to note is that these are from the "handgrade" line retailing for $145. A "benchgrade" line is also available at $95 but lacks features such as stitched soles (better durability) and higher-quality leather. Both lines look essentially identical, but the handgrade version undoubtedly boasts superior longevity.
Out of the box, the sneakers are very clean. They're definitely more of an off-white than true white, but the minute difference doesn't bother me. They're by no means a shade of yellow despite some other online reviews claiming otherwise. The laces and stitching are a shade or two whiter than the leather itself. The leather is soft and supple to the touch; however, it's rather thin in the sides and tongue. Initially, this was very concerning to me but after a week of daily wear through different conditions, this concern has deviated to just a minor gripe. Regardless, I think the thin leather is the shoe's biggest con, though it's really not that bad.
The thing I love most about these sneakers has to be their sheer simplicity and minimalist silhouette. The only visible branding is on the insole. The bottom of the sneaker is a basic zig-zag design. I've noticed no errors in stitching or visible glue on the rubber soles. The sizing is true-to-size, but the shoes are only available in whole sizes (it's recommended to size up if you're in between). The sneakers are equipped with a pretty standard set of synthetic white shoelaces, which can easily be replaced if stained with questionable fluids.
On the Feet
So, I've worn these sneakers daily for about 2 weeks now and I'm pleasantly surprised at how much I actually ended up enjoying them. They're low profile, yet provide enough cushioning for long days of walking. Like I've mentioned, I thought the thin leather tongue and sides would be an issue, but it's easy to see past it considering these work best as a Spring/Summer shoe (that breathability, man).
The shoes actually provide a nice amount of cushioning and heel support, which in return amounts to an all-around comfortable sneaker. Comparing them to my white Vans Authentics, they're considerably more comfortable and come off less juvenile in my opinion. However, the Vans are made of canvas and these are made of leather, so the only comparable attribute is the fact that they're both low-profile sneakers.
Here are a couple fits incorporating the Kent Wang sneakers. Notice how the style of each is totally different, yet the versatility of the minimalist white sneaker allows it to work in a variety of looks.
To sum up, I think the Kent Wang Handgrade sneaker is an excellent contender in its category. If you love the look, but not the price tag, I'd recommend the Benchgrade at $50 less. Though I haven't worn them too long, I find these sneakers to meet all the criteria I look for in minimalist white sneakers including silhouette, comfortability, and leather quality. At more than 60% cheaper than Common Project Achilles, the Kent Wang handgrades are a very solid alternative in my opinion. I will be updating this review as I wear the sneakers more.