About the Author: Adam Terry is a thirtysomething salesman in the heating and manufacturing industry. He enjoys bourbon, boots, sneakers, denim, and working on his
dad bod father figure.
Banana Republic is an enigma. It feels like they’re going through their second, third, or even fourth rebirth over just the past few years and their recent slate of new arrivals range from a $500 suede western shirt to relaxed fit double knee carpenter pants. While I can’t say that I share the same vision that Design Director Nathaniel Freeman has, I think they’re certainly trying a lot of new ideas and hoping at least some of them stick. Today we’re checking out their Nicklas minimalist leather sneakers to see if these fall into that vision for stylish casual wear.
The Nicklas. BR’s classic take on the white, minimalist sneaker.
The Adam Review Scale of Excellence (A.R.S.E.)
- 5 – Outstanding! Very nice and well worth the price of admission. Highly recommended.
- 4 – Very satisfactory. Above average, may have very minor issues but still worth it.
- 3 – Satisfactory. Average at best. May have notable issues, may be OK for some.
- 2 – Unsatisfactory. Below average due to defects, flaws, or other imperfections.
- 1 – Poor. Significant issues, not worth purchasing at any price. Avoid!
- Brand: Banana Republic
- Style: Minimalist Leather Sneaker
- Size: 10.5
- Last: N/A
- Construction: Bonwelted and sidewall stitched
- Upper: Leather
- Sole: Rubber cup sole
- Details: Contrasting heel tab, flat white laces, elastic tongue straps
- Extras: Spare laces
- Country of Origin: China
- Price: $128
Silhouette reminiscent of a cross between Adidas Stan Smiths and Common Projects.
This pair of sneakers was ordered on a Thursday afternoon in July via the B.R. website. The package shipped out the next day via LaserShip and was delivered on that Sunday afternoon. Other than having to answer the door in the middle of the Formula 1 race, no complaints!
FYI: Gap’s family of brands, including Banana Republic, have a standard 30 day return policy with free returns and exchanges by mail (with their prepaid label) or in person at your local brick and mortar store. They also take advantage of third party companies like Express Returns and Happy Returns where items can be dropped off at a local Staples location nearest you.
Score: 5/5 Stars – Simple ordering, laser quick shipping, and dead simple returns. Nice!
Simple unboxing. Not unexpected at this price point.
They do include spare laces, and the laces are nice.
This pair arrived in the standard Banana Republic shoe box, which is honestly nothing impressive or anything to write home about. No, this wasn’t an achievement in creative design, sustainability, or evocative packaging. Each sneaker was wrapped in a plastic bag and a few layers of tissue paper and stuffed with a handful of fluff. While no one will be impressed with your Banana Republic sneaker unboxing videos online, the sneakers arrived in one piece and they even managed to toss in a spare set of white, lightly waxed shoe laces. At this price point, the experience is on par with other budget friendly sneaker brands. No complaints.
Score: 4/5 Stars – Simple and straightforward. Won’t blow your socks off, but it’s decent.
Fresh out of the box, this silhouette reminds me heavily of a cross between a pair of Adidas Stan Smiths and a pair of Common Projects. The white leather upper, white cupsole, and navy blue heel tab are all hallmarks of this generational aesthetic that seems to persist in the face of other sneakers popping into and out of popularity. That’s not a dig at the design, these do look nice.
The upper leather looks and feels like slightly corrected grain, chrome tanned leather. It’s a little softer and more supple than the regular Stan Smiths but not quite as nice as the hides used by Common Projects, Gustin, or Beckett Simonon. Overall it’s a decent leather for the average, non-sneakerhead person and it should patina or age a bit better than the cheap sneakers on Amazon that are made with heavily corrected grain, plastic coated leathers.
Taking a look at the other details, this is a typical six eyelet sneaker design and they filled those empty holes with lightly waxed cotton laces. These laces are surprisingly nice to use and I’m glad they tossed in an extra pair, although I don’t think you’d actually need them for a while. The upper panels are neatly stitched together; the single needle stitching looks clean and tidy throughout and there are no mishaps or loose threads to note. The vamp and tongue is a single piece of leather and it is lightly embossed with the Banana Republic brand text graphic up top, and there’s an embossed banana and star logo on the blue heel tab.
Peering inside, we have a real mixed material mishmash on our hands. Starting at the very back of the shoe, the heel cup is lined in a navy microsuede-like fabric instead of flesh out leather. The middle section is lined with a thin layer of natural colored pig suede instead of a higher quality, thicker lining made from vegetable tanned cow leather. Finally, the toe box is lined with a brown twill fabric. All of these choices were made for cutting costs down and directly impact the durability of the sneakers. The two possible bright spots are the elastic tongue keepers and the OrthoLite multi-layer foam insoles that are glued down to the lasting board. This particular OrthoLite model is a three layer sandwich design with a slightly thinner layer of closed cell foam at the bottom, a thicker layer of open cell foam in the middle, and a paper thin layer of breathable mesh material on top that acts as the interface with your foot. This upper most layer also contains some sort of microencapsulated wax from the Outlast brand, which is supposed to cut down on sweaty feet during warmer days or heavy activity. I’m not a wax expert and I don’t exactly understand the wizardry, but you can read more about Outlast here. While all of these layers do have some initial squish and bounce, it’s well-known that they break down and shrink over time. As they compress, your day to day comfort gets worse and worse. Keep this in mind when shopping for sneakers and look for more durable insoles. For example, Superfeet’s aftermarket insoles are my go-to recommendation for most.
Flipping the sneaker over reveals a Banana Republic branded facsimile of the classic Margom rubber cupsole. This sole is glued and stitched to the upper, which is a nice surprise at this price point. It also has 18 LPI checkering (yes, I counted!) at the heel and across the forefoot. I’ll note that this checkering isn’t very deep and I noticed some initial slip on a concrete floor during my “walk to the vending machine and back to my desk” test. If you pick these up, be careful in adverse weather conditions as there isn’t too much texture or added grip here.
Score: 3/5 Stars – Average at best. Lots of cost cutting where it can’t usually be seen.
In terms of fit and sizing, I recommend trying your true-to-size Brannock measurement. I tried this pair in my typical size of 10.5 and that size feels accurate if not a hair roomy. With my heel in the back of the heel cup, I have about a finger’s width of space in front of my toes for growth and expansion throughout the day. The width feels OK; I don’t notice any hot spots across the top of my foot or pinch points on the outside edges. The toe box feels shallower than the Nikes I just kicked off, but that’s not unusual for minimalist sneakers like these.
For size reference, I am a 10.5 D/E on a Brannock device and usually take a 10 D in most roomy dress shoes, including Alden’s Barrie last and Grant Stone’s Leo last. I take a 10.5 E in Allen Edmonds 65 last, as that last runs too narrow for my tall instep. I also take a 10.5 in Converse/Vans and an 11 in most athletic sneakers from Adidas or Nike. Have a size question? Email us!
Comfort is always subjective, but the initial out-of-the-box comfort is pretty good. These OrthoLite insoles are putting in the work because there’s not much else to the shoes. The ankle collar is also lightly padded but not so much that it’s too tall and cuts into your ankle bones.
Score: 4/5 Stars – Sizing is true to Brannock and initial comfort is pretty solid, too.
The Banana Republic Nicklas sneakers are the most recent examples of style over substance. The design is a decent attempt at a minimalist white leather sneaker aesthetic, but when you dig in a bit more, you start to see the cracks in the armor. The leather itself is okay and on par with similar sneakers from Nike, Adidas, and Cole Haan. The rubber cup outsole is decent even if it lacks sufficient traction in less than perfect conditions. The interior construction is where the wheels fall off the bus – the fabric linings, cheap swine suede, and basic OrthoLite insoles are simply cost cutting maneuvers to maximize profit and detract from the overall value.
The Big Question: Are these sneakers worth the full $128 MSRP? No, there are better alternatives out there from other available and affordable brands at similar price points. For the money, I’d highly recommend Beckett Simonon’s Reid model at $169, Adidas’s Stan Smith Luxe at $145, or Nike’s venerable Killshot 2 at $90 before joining this Banana’s Republic. If you catch these on a decent 40% off sale and the price drops to ~$75, then that feels pretty fair.
Avg. Score: 4/5 – When on sale for under $75, these Nicklas sneakers become interesting.