The Common Projects Achilles is one of the most important sneakers to come out in the last 15 years. The minimalist shoe with the size and model stamped in gold foil on the heel inspires cult-like devotion even though the brand and the shoes themselves maintain a decidedly low profile.
Common Projects, which was founded by Peter Poopat and Flavio Girolami, has never created a glossy ad campaign. On Instagram, the brand has only posted 74 times and doesn’t follow any other accounts. Still, Common Projects has established a loyal and diverse following that ranges from Ellen DeGeneres to Drake.
The low top sneakers have a simple elegance that is rare in a world where many shoe models announce their high-tech innovations loudly. The Achilles is just a leather upper atop a rubber sole. That’s it. But having such an understated design really allows the wearer to style them in a multitude of ways. No sneaker has ever looked better with a suit, but the kicks are just as stylish with a pair of shorts on your way to the beach.
Even though they fall in the essentials category and rank alongside the Nike Air Force I in the list of top white-on-white sneakers, there is one problem with the Common Projects Achilles. They’re damn expensive. They start at $410. Even if you run the numbers on a cost-per-wear basis, that is far from cheap.
Fortunately, a new crop of brands has recognized the power of the Achilles and is trying to tap into the sneaker’s style but not its price. We found nine alternatives to the Common Projects Achilles that won’t break the bank. The best part is you could buy two pairs of these shoes below and still not exceed what you’d pay for a single pair of Common Projects.
ADIDAS STAN SMITH
The Common Projects Achilles owes at least a nod of gratitude to the OG Stan Smith. The tennis star’s signature shoe is a classic, whose enduring appeal has inspired countless imitators.
ONITSUKA TIGER LAWNSHIP
Onitsuka dug into its archives to revive this vintage tennis sneaker, that has gold foil branding on the heel just like a pair of Common Projects.
Children of the ‘80s will remember Pony fondly. Now the company has rebranded as Product Of New York and the design of this Greenwich managed to out-minimal the minimal Achilles in a very cool way.
NIKECOURT TENNIS CLASSIC AC
The Nike Swoosh is one of the most recognized logos of all time. But it is toned down perfectly in the perforated version on this retro tennis sneaker.
The Royale strikes a great a balance between classic basketball and tennis sneakers. The vegetable tanned calf leather used on the lining is similar to what you find in luxury bags and the sockliner is printed with the names of the coolest cities around the globe.
Originally launched on Kickstarter, OneGround’s Edgar is handmade in Spain with a pebbled calf skin leather on the exterior and a smooth calf skin leather lining.
EPAULET TENNIS TRAINER
The gum sole and black heel tab provide a nice color contrast on these sneakers, which use a leather from a renowned tannery in Italy.
AXEL ARIGATO LOW SNEAKER
The design on these sneakers is so similar to the Achilles that it can almost be considered a straight rip-off. But clever details like the ostritch embossed leather give them a character all their own.
RANCOURT COURT CLASSIC
Rancourt has been handsewing moccasins in Maine since 1967. Now the company is applying that same level of American craftsmanship to its minimal sneakers, which feature super durable Vibram soles.