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A Detailed Guide to German Army Trainers (GATs)

10 min

The best elevated casual footwear you've probably never heard about. Enter the German Army Trainers (GATs).

The German Army Trainers (GATs for short) are exciting sneakers in fashion. If I could own one pair of sneakers to complement any neutral-colored outfit for the rest of my life, it would be a pair of tried-and-true GATs. In this guide, I'll cover the history of this unique footwear, share the best options for your money, and even provide fourteen ways to style them all year round.

To learn why I think neutral colors are the best option for men to build a wardrobe with, read my article here.


The rich history of this sneaker variant begins in Germany during the Cold War era. Around the 1980s, the West German Military submitted a contract to build a standard-issue sneaker for military fitness training for their soldiers.

The original GAT sneakers the West German Army wore were the Bundeswehr Sportschuhe (BW Sport for short), which means "federal defense sports shoe." Though they may be challenging to find, these pairs have been known to be floating around in various online stores.

After the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the subsequent ending of the Cold War, which led to the downsizing of the German army from its initial strength of about 500,000 personnel, these sneakers were then sold off to army surplus outlets and beyond by their original wearers due to excess.



The definitive look of a classic GAT consists of a white leather upper with gray suede paneling stitched around the side up through the toe box of the shoe. The laces are white or off-white, and the outsole is a classic gum sole.

You'll typically find many Europeans wearing this type of sneaker, but as their popularity has increased, I have noticed more people wearing them in America.


The original company that crafted the famous GATs is up for debate, as Adidas and Puma reportedly produced the first model. Even today, you can find variations of GATs from both companies, but they aren't easy to find as the original models are no longer available for general retail.

Interestingly enough, the two brothers, Adi and Rudolph Dassler, known to have been responsible for the initial creation of the GAT shoes, split up after the Cold War ended and started their own shoe companies. Adi began Adidas, and Rudolph went on to start Puma.

Given the sleek and timeless design of the GAT sneakers, it's no wonder each brother wanted to assume ownership of the iconic silhouette. Regardless of who deserves the majority of the credit, years later, the world would be met with what is now considered the quintessential GAT sneaker.


Hail to the King

It wasn't until the Spring of 1999 that Maison Margiela Paris (pioneered by Belgian fashion designer Martin Margiela) showcased the iconic and functional sneakers in its Spring/Summer Artisinal presentation. Soon after, in the mid-2000s, Maison Margiela Paris recrafted the original sneaker with a luxurious facelift, adding premium materials.

Thus, the stylish icon now known as the Maison Margiela Replicas was born. Think of these as the Common Projects Achilles versions of the GAT sneaker and an elevated homage to the original BW Sport sneakers.

The Maison Margiela Replicas are currently the gold standard for GATs. Unfortunately, much like the Common Projects, they aren't direct-to-consumer and are priced at a premium, typically over $500.


I love the classic white leather, grey suede, and gum soles of the original German army trainers; however, if you're bored by the neutral-colored scheme of the originals and find yourself to be more of a rebellious "fashionista," then you'll be happy to know that the Maison Margiela Replica sneakers come in a variety of eccentric colorways and designs.

Perhaps the zaniest design is that of a paint-splattered Margiela GAT, which is just as comfortable and well-built as any other colors the iconic brand offers. Regardless of your preference, there is something here for everyone.


Suppose you're interested in snagging a pair of quality GATs in various colorways and materials. In that case, I recommend the Oliver Cabell and Beckett Simonon versions of the GAT, as these brands do well to retain the iconic style.

Oliver Cabell is a direct-to-consumer alternative to Common Projects and, in my opinion, matches the quality at nearly half the price.

Source: Unsplash
You can read my Oliver Cabell Low 1 white sneakers review here. These are a much more affordable version of Common Projects.

Beckett Simonon, on the other hand, is a made-to-order company. This means that your shoes are constructed after you place the order online. The materials are gathered, and you'll receive periodic updates via numerous emails detailing the construction of your shoes, which you will receive in a few months (give or take).

Beckett Simonon Morgen Trainers (All White Upper)
If you're interested in Beckett Simonon's take on the classic German army trainer, you can read my full review of the Morgen Trainers here. They are great sneakers and come in a multitude of colors and styles.

You might have an issue if you don't want to wait up to three months for your sneakers to arrive. The primary impetus for why Beckett Simonon has opted for this made-to-order model is to minimize waste, reduce inventory, and pass those savings back to you, the customer. This allows you to enjoy high-quality footwear at an exceptionally affordable price. The catch is, of course, the wait time.


These are my favorite casual sneakers because they are so classic and unique. The rich history of these shoes alone is alluring, and while they aren't as versatile as a clean pair of white trainers, owning a pair of GATs can do wonders for any man's minimal shoe collection.

Check out my post here for thirteen ways to style white sneakers.

If you want an easy but effective way to elevate your casual outfits for Spring, Summer, and even mild Autumn months, try a pair of modern GATs. They are comfortable, well-built shoes that can enhance your wardrobe in some pretty unique ways.

You don't have to go with a pair of Maison Margiela GATs, but I highly recommend sticking with the classic German army trainer design with a white leather upper, gum soles, and gray suede paneling through the toe box. These will blend well with any neutral-colored capsule wardrobe you want to build over time.

Read my complete guide to building a neutral capsule wardrobe here.


I know I have just praised these sneakers a lot, but allow me to show you how stylish they can be virtually all year round!

Here are fourteen outfit ideas featuring a classic pair of GATs.


Maison Margiela Replicas

This first look is one of my favorite pairings. Blue and green are analogous colors, meaning they sit next to each other on the color wheel; hence, they work brilliantly together. The rich green and blue look exceptionally dapper when paired with the classic GATs, perfect for breezy Spring days.

If you aren't sure what analogous means or want to learn more about color theory, see my article here for an introductory lesson.


Maison Margiela Replicas

The Harrington jacket is an excellent mix of sporty and elegant, making it a perfect option when worn with the GATs. This jacket is often waterproof (or at least water resistant), so zipping it up to shield you from the wind or rain is a great option. Pay attention to the materials and construction, as not all Harringtons are built for rainy weather.

For more information about the best types of Spring jackets for men, read this article here.


Beckett Simonon Morgen Trainers (All White Upper)

I love a good monochromatic look, and this blue-on-blue ensemble is another perfect layered outfit for Spring. Here is another Harrington jacket, this time in navy blue.

The Harrington jacket received its name from the fictional character Rodney Harrington in a 1957 film and subsequent 1960s television series called Peyton Place. It would later be popularized by Hollywood juggernauts such as Steve McQueen, Elvis Presley, and James Bond.

If it's good enough for them, it's good enough for you!


Here are some excellent options for events such as Easter. White pants look stunning when balanced with the elegant GATs. Of course, opting for brown, beige, and tan upper garments allows the trainers' gum soles to sing. Pair with an intelligent shirt jacket, and you're ready to celebrate the King.

Read my separate post here for more ways to style white pants all year round.


Maison Margiela Replicas

This relaxed and sporty green and blue outfit features a watch that perfectly complements the classic pair of GATs. This is another analogous ensemble perfect for Summer and staying cool in the warmer months of the year.


Maison Margiela Replicas

Sticking with the same analogous color scheme, here is a slightly more elevated Summer option with a complimenting fedora and belt. The darker shades of blue and green pop in all the right ways (without being too loud), especially when paired with the trainers.


Maison Margiela Replicas

A knit oxford such as this adds much texture and visual intrigue. I think this breezy Summer outfit is great for Independence Day events nationwide. Of course, even if you decide to wear something like this any other day out of the Summer months, an elevated pair of trainers will still look great.


Maison Margiela Replicas

Blue and green are my "go-to" color combinations, if you haven't noticed. Here are some decidedly lighter shades of green and blue. Chambray is a much lighter and more breathable type of denim that adds lovely texture and visual intrigue to any Spring or Summer ensemble (similar to the previous look).


Maison Margiela Replicas

Here is a genuine denim shirt in a mostly monochromatic pairing. It is simple, timeless, and elegant. Add some Summer accessories like a fedora, versatile shades, and a complementing timepiece, and you're ready to beat the heat in style!


Maison Margiela Replicas

This is another white pants outfit with a quintessential Summer fabric: linen. Green and white look great together, and including the GATs ties this ensemble together nicely.


Maison Margiela Replicas

There are numerous options for leather jackets, but if you ask me, a suede jacket is an excellent choice for the Spring and Fall. The softer material is an intentional choice that works well with more casual pieces. This ever-stylish outerwear piece looks great in a complementing brown tobacco color paired alongside the classic GATs.


Beckett Simonon Morgen Trainers (All White Upper)

Here is a cozy, neutral-colored ensemble that interests more fashion-forward men. While this look isn't for everyone, I think it is wonderful proof that a classic pair of GATs can work well in urban areas during the late Fall and Winter months. throw on a tasteful scarf, and you're in business!

Read my separate article here to learn more about the best coats for men to wear in the Winter.


Maison Margiela Replicas

It isn't easy to rock a pair of sneakers like these for the late Fall and early Winter months, but if I were to try my hand at it, I would do it this way. Of course, the later months in the year call for the darkening of colors in most cases, and this earthier analogous pairing is a great smart casual way to stay layered and stylish.


Beckett Simonon Morgen Trainers (Gray Suede Paneling)

In this look, I'm wearing a hopsack navy blazer with a white crewneck t-shirt, classic khaki chinos, and some sporty GATs. Including the GATs is a tasteful way to stand out due to the pedigree of these sneakers within the fashion world and their lux materials.

Hopsack is extremely breathable, making it perfect for the Spring and Summer.

Read my article here for twelve ways to style a classic navy blazer.


Hopefully, you learned something new about this unique and stylish sneaker option. While I'll be the first to admit that German army trainers aren't as versatile as a clean pair of white minimalist sneakers, this post has proven that they are nearly as interchangeable, especially when paired with other neutral-colored garments.



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