Canvas sneakers are an absolute summer essential. White, beige, navy – but my favorite, gray, pair with every color of shorts, and look equally sharp with slim chinos or denim.
J.Crew regularly does collaborations with brands to create J.Crew exclusives. Playing off of the long traditions of brands like Barbour, Alden, and Chippewa, J.Crew’s reworked versions have all the best parts of the originals, with updated design elements for a more modern fit and style.
We’ve been praising the canvas sneaker for as long as Primer has been around. I had picked up a pair of beige Pro Keds at Gap 6 years ago, and showed the dramatic style difference of just swapping in leather laces for the the athletic ones.
Those have still been treating me well, a simple clean up at the beginning of each summer gets them ready for action.
But I had been eying the gray Vans for J.Crew since the moment I saw them. They’re certainly not expensive, only $60, but since I already have a couple summer shoe options like my beige ones and my absolute fav’s Adidas Stan Smiths, it didn’t make sense to drop that much.
So instead, I went searching for a frugal alternative.
This simple hack will give you the exact same look as the J.Crew collaboration for half the price.
First let’s dissect what the look is. A gray canvas plimsoll, with a black bordered low sole. Orange and tan laces instead of the standard thick white athletic ones. And a distressed, worn in texture for that perfectly effortless summer feel.
I found a very comparably shaped gray plimsoll on Amazon (with Prime shipping and free returns) for only $24.56. It’s the Levi’s “Jordy 3” sneaker. The only real difference between this and the Vans version is the back seam is flipped, but that doesn’t bother me or really change the look.
You can also get the standard Vans Lo Pro sneakers, but they ring up at $45, so it’s not much of a savings from the J.Crew variant.
We’ll also need a set of 40″ round work boot style gold and tan laces. You can get a 2 pack for $7.
Once you have those, swap in the laces. Use the “store display” lacing method to get the same pattern. From there you have 3 options to get the faded, worn-in look of the Vans for J.Crew kicks. First, simply wear the heck out of them. Second, take some sand paper to them. This option gets the look, but it’s a lot of work to do both shoes all over, and in my test, wore through the canvas a little too far in some spots. It’s also undoable if you mess up or don’t like the result.
The third option may sound strange, but it’s really easy and nails the look. The solution? Pat baby powder onto them. What? Yep. Simply rub a little bit of powder between your hands and pat onto the shoes in different spots. If you get a little too much in one spot, you can smack the shoes in that area and the extra will poof off. As you know if you use baby powder for chafing and sweat control, it can stay on fabric easily unless you actively wipe it off. So this faux method will give you the uneven, faded texture you’re looking for until the shoes have actually worn in.
A word of caution, don’t try to apply the powder directly from the bottle onto the shoes, you’ll end up with spots and will have to wipe it off and start over.