Drop culture is weird. The hype machine around sneaker releases today makes sensible, logical people lose their minds (and a good chunk of their bank balances) desperately trying to get hold of what are, let’s remind ourselves, sports shoes. It’s three parts marketing to one part sneaker design. Yet it’s spawned a cottage industry of resellers who can charge comical sums of money on sites like Depop and StockX for limited edition Yeezys and Jordans.

But what if you just like the look of a new sneaker that’s either sold out before you’ve had your breakfast or costs more than a month’s rent? In most cases, you don’t have to go hungry to get a shoe that looks as good as the ones making sneakerheads hyperventilate. To prove it, we challenged our editors to find alternatives to some of the most coveted, influential or just plain expensive shoes of the past few years. This is what they found.

Balenciaga Triple S

One of the most hyped and divisive shoes on the market, the Balenciaga Triple S is patient zero of the ‘ugly’ sneaker trend that has netted high-fashion brands millions in recent seasons. First shown in January 2017, described by as “a visual composite” of three different types of sports shoe, it has since spawned a legion of imitators all trying to replicate the same stick-it-all-in-a-blender-and-see-what-comes-out magic.

What To Buy When You Can’t Get The World’s Most Hyped Sneakers

How To Get The Look

The swollen elephant in the room when it comes to ‘ugly’ design, there’s no denying the Balenciaga Triple S was the catalyst behind the ballooning chunky sneaker trend. But who really wants to spend the same as their rent on a pair of shoes that are probably going to go out of style in a few months? You can’t even live in a shoe, no matter what nursery rhymes tell you.

The secret to replicating the look on a shoestring is knowing the key details to look for. In this case: a mixed material upper comprised of mesh, leather and nubuck, an oversized tongue and an exaggerated shape.

Chosen by: Luke Todd, deputy editor

What To Buy When You Can’t Get The World’s Most Hyped Sneakers

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Yeezy Boost 350 V2 Butter

When Kanye West announced plans to channel his (self-declared) genius towards fashion, the masses scoffed. But, despite the haters hating hard, Yeezy’s brand of post-apocalyptic, scuffed up futurism sent sneakerheads into a tailspin, with fans queuing around the block at old-fashioned bricks and mortar stores to get their hands on Mr West’s footwear designs.

The most memorable of the rapper’s forays into footwear remains the Yeezy Boosts which are instantly recognisable thanks to their trademark primeknit uppers and ribbed soles. Curiously too, they’ll be most frequently attached to a teenager who you can’t for the life of you fathom how they have enough dosh to splash out on eye-wateringly expensive shoes.

What To Buy When You Can’t Get The World’s Most Hyped Sneakers

How To Get The Look

If you don’t have the dollar or inclination to put more money into the already bulging coffers of Mr West, you can get Yeezy(ish) by copping a pair of kicks which nod to the design’s basic premise. Sure those wadded and judgemental teenagers will probably spot your knockoffs a mile-off, but for those less consumed by sneaker purity your choice of trotter coverers will be a win.

The original design’s primeknit uppers (made from a single digitally knitted piece of material) aren’t exactly wallet-friendly, so mimic the effect by choosing Yeezy-esque trainers with textured panels. Your choice of sole is important too, look for designs whose bottom portion splays gently outwards. As for colour, your best bet is sticking with white or some variant off off-white; go logo and colour-free too to keep this trainer tribute tasteful.

Chosen by: Luke Sampson, associate editor

What To Buy When You Can’t Get The World’s Most Hyped Sneakers

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Off-White x Converse Chuck Taylor All Star

Ah, the power of branding. It’s a skill Virgil Abloh has pioneered in the social media age. His technique? Stick a plastic red cable tie onto any shoe design he sees fit, and watch the resale value soar. The average sale price of the Off White x Converse All Star of 2018 according to StockX is £718. The retail price? £109. OK, so other design details were altered, including the attractive blue gum sole and translucent upper, as well as a few quotation marks here and there, but there’s not much you can do to justify that sort of spike.

What To Buy When You Can’t Get The World’s Most Hyped Sneakers

How To Get The Look

With a bog standard All Star though, not only are you saving money, you’re getting maximum versatility – it’s quite literally a shoe you can wear with anything. And it’s only £70. Think of all the burgers you could buy with the spare cash. You could always add a cable tie yourself…

The original All Star put high tops on the map, and the ubiquitous style is nothing short of a menswear icon. But, as a result there are plenty of alternatives out there with differing designs, from chunkier soles to the addition of leather and suede.

Chosen by: Charlie Thomas, senior editor

What To Buy When You Can’t Get The World’s Most Hyped Sneakers

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Nike Killshot 2

The Killshot 2 doesn’t fit the mould of a typical hype sneaker. A faithful revamp of a 1980s athletic shoe, it’s not particularly bold, nor particularly edgy and is sold exclusively at J. Crew, which few people would call a hypebeast honey trap. So why the rabid appetite for this retro-preppy trainer? Well, to begin with, it’s perfect.

Retro running shoes are the sneaker trend that won’t quit and this is the one they all want to be (even though it was originally designed for tennis). A harmony of easy-wearing colours, symmetry and nostalgia for vintage sportswear, it’s shoe design that would make Wes Anderson weep. Plus, the deliberately limited runs that Nike and J. Crew drip-feed to the world only stoke the interest: a new colourway dropped this week, but it’s probably sold out by now.

What To Buy When You Can’t Get The World’s Most Hyped Sneakers

How To Get The Look

If you analyse the Killshot 2, the standout features are quite easy to find elsewhere. There’s the gum sole, the ivory-white leather uppers smooching with the soft grey suede trim and the brand’s insignia in a deep primary. Add a throwback logo tab on the tongue and you have a formula that most brands have dabbled with more than once, Nike included.

Chosen by: Ian Taylor, editor-in-chief

What To Buy When You Can’t Get The World’s Most Hyped Sneakers

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Adidas Futurecraft

While you’re still trying to work out what you’re going to have for dinner, Adidas have been busy concocting the future of footwear in the form of its Futurecraft model. The original was first released in 2016 and came with a prime-knit upper and the big sales point, a 3D printed sole. Subsequent versions have updated that innovative sole even further (science, baby) and it’s the mind-boggling tech that has seen it become one of the most sought after sneakers in recent memory.

What To Buy When You Can’t Get The World’s Most Hyped Sneakers

How To Get The Look

While other sportswear brands have dabbled in 3D printed technology, it’s still only ever been available in limited releases, which virtually wipes out that avenue for mimicry.

Instead, search for something that imitates the two main visual stand-outs of the shoe – the knitted upper and the space-age looking webbed sole. The former is relatively easy to get hold of having been one of the biggest sneaker trends of the past couple of years while the latter is a regularly occurring motif in contemporary Adidas styles. Look to the popular and readily available Deerupt model and a recent collaboration with rapper Pharrell Williams that never really exploded among the sneakerheads for starters.

Chosen by: Richard Jones, staff writer

What To Buy When You Can’t Get The World’s Most Hyped Sneakers

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Gucci Ace

The Gucci Ace first became a must-cop for millennials in 2016, when creative director Alessandro Michele began putting his retro-cool footprint on the Italian fashion house. Fast forward a few years, and what started with the label’s striped webbing on the sidewall of a classic tennis sneaker is now a whole family of footwear designs, spanning appliqués of everything from snakes to flames, paving the way for high fashion and streetwear to come together in the process.

What To Buy When You Can’t Get The World’s Most Hyped Sneakers

How To Get The Look

Sometimes — okay, so a lot of the time — fashion is about selling people something they can’t necessarily afford and don’t necessarily need. The Gucci Ace is a prime example of this. Sure, the white leather used for the uppers is smoother than Barry White in silk pyjamas and the grosgrain webbing has been synonymous with the luxury brand for almost a century, but they are still just sneakers.

No one should have to skip a few meals in order to look good. So what if we told you it’s possible to get the same effect without living on the dust between your office keyboard? All you need to do is look out for the same ’70s-inspired low-top profile finished with key details like a motif applied to the sidewall and a contrast heel patch. Just don’t say we told you.

Chosen by: Luke Todd, deputy editor

What To Buy When You Can’t Get The World’s Most Hyped Sneakers

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Common Projects Achilles Low

At some point during the last decade it felt like Scandinavia’s tasteful brand of minimalism would kill off fashion altogether, with men choosing solid, pared-back simplicity over anything that was so much as suspected of being trend-led. Common Projects’s Achilles Low trainers aren’t a hype sneaker in the same way as some of the others on this list, but they are the definitive shoe of the minimal trainer movement; all functional luxury and stealth wealth with a price tag to match.

Though the design spawned later iterations crafted from suede, perforated leather and all manner of brand-appropriate pastel shades, the white leather sneaker remains the brand’s quintessential design, given away only by the metallic numerals on the side.

What To Buy When You Can’t Get The World’s Most Hyped Sneakers

How To Get The Look

The beauty (and indeed the universal appeal) of the Common Projects Achilles trainers lies in their simplicity. This means if you’re not wadded or fiscally irresponsible, getting the look for less is pretty straightforward. Go for all-over white, logo free low top designs that riff on the Achilles’ no-nonsense appeal. They won’t have the same luxury build but by god they’ll look good in photographs.

Unlike other low-cost takes on hype sneakers, the brand you choose is inconsequential as high street brands not known for their specialism in trainers have plenty of options which more than measure up to the original design. Although, it goes without saying that leather uppers and inners are preferable to pain-inducing pleather.

Chosen by: Luke Sampson, associate editor

What To Buy When You Can’t Get The World’s Most Hyped Sneakers

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Dior B23 Oblique

Part of Kim Jones’s first collection as Dior’s don of menswear, the B23 high-top was hyped before anyone had actually seen it. When it arrived, it was Instagram catnip for sneakerheads everywhere. The repeat-pattern logo, known as ‘oblique’, has just the right amount of subtlety for people who want to flash their brands (ie, none whatsoever) and the the transparent panels add some futuristic styling to a classic silhouette.

What To Buy When You Can’t Get The World’s Most Hyped Sneakers

How To Get The Look

The B23 is a high-top that was designed to be noticed. Those see-through panels haven’t been as widely copied as you might expect (at least not yet) but there are other ways to turn heads. One is simply with branding as JW Anderson knows with his take on the classic Chuck Taylor. Or, if you’re not inclined to go designer, find yourself a shoe finished with some texture, metallic gloss or – screw it – sequins.

Chosen by: Ian Taylor, editor-in-chief

What To Buy When You Can’t Get The World’s Most Hyped Sneakers

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Vetements x Reebok Genetically Modified Trainer

Everyone’s so busy trying to keep their kicks box fresh, that all it took was a purposefully dirty shoe to subvert the whole culture and blow sneakerheads’ minds. It came courtesy of a long-running relationship between Reebok, whose parent company Adidas knows a thing or two about big-name collabs, and one of the most in-demand fashion labels of the decade, Vetements.

The result took the chunky trainer trend to its natural, overly exaggerated conclusion. Of course, there was the distressed and cracked leather panels, but also a Frankenstein-esque approach to detailing resulting in a high fashion monster that would achieve the goal of every chunky trainer ever – getting noticed at fashion week.

What To Buy When You Can’t Get The World’s Most Hyped Sneakers

How To Get The Look

There’s something slightly unpalatable about charging several hundred quid for a sneaker designed to look as beaten up as your 10-year-old running shoes, but the distressed trend isn’t going anywhere just yet. Designer labels and sportswear favourites are at it and if it’s good enough for your denim, who are we to argue.

There is another way to mimic this genetically modified monster, however, and that’s in its proportions. Go for the original hulk of a sneaker, also made by Reebok, the Instapump Fury.

Chosen by: Richard Jones, staff writer

What To Buy When You Can’t Get The World’s Most Hyped Sneakers

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Stella McCartney Loop

Stella McCartney has become known for its Loop sneaker, which in line with the brand’s values, is impressively sustainable. They’re made entirely without glue, instead relying on the old fashioned stitching method, and no leather is used to avoid hurting animals. When it comes to the end of its shelf life, the shoe’s stitching can be removed, allowing them to be dismantled and fully recycled, although we hope that’s at least a few years down the line considering the price tag.

What To Buy When You Can’t Get The World’s Most Hyped Sneakers

How To Get The Look

Technical trainers are nothing new, but they have only relatively recently snuck their way into fashion’s consciousness. Whereas previously only used for running or hiking, these chunky soled, mixed material shoes have been adopted by famed luxury houses the likes of Prada, Balenciaga and of course Stella McCartney.

If you don’t have a spare £500+ in the pocket to burn though, you won’t struggle to find a similar silhouette on the market, albeit one with not quite the same planet-hugging sensibilities. For a similar looking shoe complete with a built in sock and hard wearing overlapping cage, look no further than the Nike Air Huarache, the original cross runner.

Chosen by: Charlie Thomas, senior editor

What To Buy When You Can’t Get The World’s Most Hyped Sneakers

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What To Buy When You Can’t Get The World’s Most Hyped Sneakers

What To Buy When You Can’t Get The World’s Most Hyped Sneakers

10 huge drops and the cheaper alternatives you can get today

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