Oliver Cabell’s GAT vs The Original German Army Trainer

Tinder bio: Male 27 | NY | Into Cold-War-Era Footwear hbu?

Of all the things to get “into”, I didn’t think 40-year-old shoes from West Germany would do it for me.

But these shoes are a classic and definitely worth a look.

The crisp white shoe trend has been with us for a few years now. It offers a timeless look and pairs with endless summer outfits. The go-to is Common Projects’ take on this classic silhouette with the “Achilles Low”, but for those of us shoe nerds who tend to read a lot about sneaker history, there’s a chance you’ve gone down a rabbit hole and ultimately led to the OG — the “original gangsta” of the athleisure shoe world — the German Army Trainer or GAT.

Commissioned by the West German Army as a PT (Physical Training) shoe for the soldiers’ morning workouts and runs, this shoe was made in huge numbers by various companies including Adidas and Puma. In fact, so many were made that to this day you can buy crates of genuine army sneaks on ebay.de (Tht’s German eBay). Their availability stems from the sheer size of the West German Army in the 1980s, and their desirability stems from the unbranded, minimalist design that contrasts with similar shoes like Nike’s Killshot.

Next time you have a layover in any European airport, keep an eye out and I guarantee you’ll see a few walk by.

Original GAT Front
The Original GAT

When not wearing boots I typically go for leather sneakers. The best leather sneakers are versatile enough for a more casual office environment and still look good dressed down with either jeans or shorts. The GAT fits perfectly here because it is a bit more casual than Common Project’s minimalist design, but more suited for an office than Adidas’s Stan Smith.

Buying them individually on ebay.de can be a little tricky, though. Some might be very musty, not all sellers are easy to communicate with, and be careful when converting your size to European.

Luckily for me, my college roommate is stationed in Germany with the U.S. Army and for €30 he handled all of the difficulties for me. Thanks, Sean!

But there are other options for the rest of y’all. 21st century DTC (Direct-to-Consumer) options! Oliver Cabell is currently remaking this classic silhouette, albeit with Italian calfskin and a hand-made Spanish touch, for $188.

I decided to purchase both and here are my opinions on each.

Original GAT Inner
An Original GAT

The O.G.

This is a very durable shoe. The tread shows almost no sign of wear after nearly 100 wears. I do not know what kind of leather they used for the upper, but it is very thick, if not slightly plasticky.

The sole will feel surprisingly hard for those of us use to marsh-mellowed-soled sneakers, but the hardness helps prevent foot strain during long days on your feet.

Heel of an Original GAT sneaker from west german army

The only negative I foresee is that the inner lining is cloth and eventually my heel will wear through the back.

Overall, if you can get a pair, this €30 40-year-old surplus shoe is a great and timeless buy.

Oliver Cabell GAT Front
The Oliver Cabell GAT

The O.C.  

The cost of $188 was quite a big purchase for me. But WOW does Oliver Cabell deliver on quality.

The leather lining is buttery smooth, the padded tongue pillows my feet, and the white calfskin on the upper creases with only the finest of wrinkles.

The insole has molded perfectly to my feet and it is the most comfortable shoe I currently own.

The laces are fat, durable, and I feel like OC did not cut any corners.

The negatives: the price and the outsole. This replica is well over a hundred dollars more expensive than the original. The outsole also seems to be wearing at the heel disappointingly fast.

Oliver Cabell GAT

I do admit to dragging my heels a bit, but the OG is standing up to this very well. And those have 40-year-old rubber!

There are companies other than Oliver Cabell remaking the GAT, but I chose OC because of their price-breakdown transparency, their choice of materials and their adherence to the original silhouette.

[Convinced? Get a pair of Oliver Cabell GAT shoes here!]

Beckett Simonon has the Morgen Trainer, their name for GATs, and while they are a little cheaper I felt the toe box wasn’t quite right. And of course, Maison Margiela has their $360 hyper-luxurious GAT—but even if I had that kind of money to drop on them, I’d be too concerned to wear them outside.

So, which of these shoes do I recommend you wear to your next date? Well that depends, do you know someone in Germany who can speak with local sellers and deal with customs? Are you comfortable spending almost $200 on a pair of sneakers? Either way, definitely tell your date about your newfound interest!

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Daniel Pati

Dan is a former U.S. Army Captain studying his Master’s in Business Administration at Cornell University. He has spent a huge amount of time on his feet—as a NCAA runner, a military officer, and now as a student walking across Cornell’s huge, snowy campus. So he definitely values having quality footwear and needs to be able to trust it in any situation.

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