Sneakers
From the ground up

Looking back on Highsnobiety Editor/Partner Jeff Carvalho’s Top 10 Sneakers of 2014.

From hard to find Nike SP editions to a slew of in-line mass market versions, this is a list of the sneakers that I wore the most in 2014. Like past years, we limit ourselves to footwear that hit the streets regularly with no regard to exclusivity nor price. They were worn most first and foremost for their ride and comfort; looks come in as a very strong second. I picked these sneaker because I love them genuinely and in some strange way they made my day on many occasions.

Converse Chuck Taylor All Star Rubber

A very smart drop from Converse that delivered in September. The concept was quite simple: take the common Chuck Taylor All Star, reimagine it as an all-rubber silhouette and push it out to in-line markets at a very fair price of $65 USD. Affordability, great colorways and non-limited status made it nothing more than a great shoe. And while it was certainly a sleeper when it hit retail, the all-rubber Chuck Taylor All Star is a dream for those looking for a rain-ready sneaker that looked fantastic and is easy to clean.

adidas ZX Flux “Berlin”

Back in January, adidas previewed a year of footwear innovation with the launch of ZX Flux. The new weave-inspired sneaker was ultra-lightweight, easy on ride and truly a joy to wear. While the “Elements” pack was the first collection to feature the ZX Flux in retail, some in Berlin for January fashion week were gifted a special “Berlin” only purple colorway that is still one of the hardest versions to find today. The start of the ZX Flux movement was this.

Nike Lunarterra Arktos Boot SP

Launched in Fall 2013, the Lunarterra Arktos was a newly designed sneakerboot from the design mind behind the Inneva Woven, Nathan VanHook. The Arktos boot was purposely tech-heavy in form, drawing from various other projects and innovations from the Swoosh camp. But many of the original colorways gave the it a very snowboard boot look. It wasn’t until the all-black editions arrived in late December (coincidentally at the start of one of New York’ City’s longest winters) that they came into full bloom. They were a savior on those shitty days remaining functional and warm on the most brutal of days.

One year on, the Nike Lunarterra Arktos is the dominant boot in the relaunched Nike ACG collection.

Native Apollo Moc

I was never a fan of Native Shoes. That’s not the say that the brand did not have great things going for it: Native certainly gave Crocs a run for their money in the rubberized loafer category, but quite frankly, that product has never been one for me. But then in early July, Native sent over an early-look at a slip-on sneaker that was hard to describe. It looks a bit like a Nike Air Woven, a little like a classic visvim, but it weighed less and felt incredible on wear. Native called it Apollo Moc and just about every time I wore them, someone would stop me and inquire on the make. The Apollo eventually dropped, first through KITH,  then wider public release, in August to great success. Congrats to Native on this great silhouette.

fragment design x Nike Roshe LD-1000 SP

Many, including me, consider it the first great Nike Roshe. The brainpower of  Hiroshi Fujiwara’s fragment design helped Nike meld an LD-1000 track shoe on a modified Roshe sole with an upper that spoke Cortez on first look. The result was an entirely new sneaker that further elevated the success of the Roshe in the top-tier premium space as delivered by the Nike “SP” team. A clear winner deserving of every accolade.

ETQ Amsterdam Green Nubuck Mid-Top

ETQ is my favorite independent footwear brand. The reason is simple: they produce very simple premium sneakers in unique colorways that are hard to duplicate. This green Nubuck mid-top with serrated sole looks exceptional when paired with the right denim and can be worn dressed up or down. The aging on the Nubuck gives the shoe great character with progressive wear – a quality usually limited to all-white footwear.

Nike Air Max 93 “Metals” Pack in Gray – size? Exclusive

With buying power like no other, size? UK defined 2014 with an almost endless list of Nike exclusives available through their shops in Europe and online. This all-gray take on the Nike Air Max 93 was one of those gems. Part of the “Metals” pack which included a red version, this delivered in May. Do note that we’re not calling this a collaborative shoe, a subtle point that is important in understanding the dynamics of today’s sneaker retail market.

Converse Jack Purcell

A simple, basic white sneaker for $60 USD that anyone can get their hands on. There is absolutely nothing special about this Converse Jack Purcell outside of its excellent fit and ride. A true summer essential that I packed for every road trip. An example of why in-line and mass retail sneakers are just more important than the special editions. Buy it, wear it to death and then replace it with another pair.

ETQ Amsterdam Low 1 Maroon

Another ETQ on the list and for reasons mentioned earlier: ETQ does color better than anyone. This maroon colorway on their original Low 1 silhouette is exceptionally diverse in wear and paired well with anything I threw at it. The only drawback to ETQ at the moment is distribution: while they’re quite easy to find through the better European and Asian shops, they’re reach in the USA is limited to a few doors. Regardless, this colorway was a favorite of mine in 2014; it delivered in February.

fragment design x Nike Benassi Slide SP 

This April 2014 drop came hot on the heels of the athletic sandal movement that shook up street style in 2014. Once again, Hiroshi Fujiwara and his fragment design moniker made subtle changes to the common Nike Benassi slide replacing the Swoosh-embossed upper strap with a new flat, logo-less, future-suede “texture” material that made sneakerheads go bonkers (including me). This one was available through 21 Mercer and Dover Street Market.

New Balance 10 Minimus Running Shoe

Minimal running was everywhere in 2014 and for my efforts, the New Balance 10 Minimus went with me everywhere. I ran (and hiked) in these in Hawaii, Las Vegas, Stockholm and Berlin. The simple form of the runner and lightweight feel made it easy to pack and carry on all my travels. I love the shoe more than ever and even acquired a double to break in when these finally lose their rise. While they’re out of production, you can still buy a pair through New Balance outlets for $35 USD.

Honorable Mention

Oi Pollo x Clarks Wallabee Ridge

No, this is not a sneaker, but Oi Polloi’s custom Clarks Wallabee Ridge was worn as much as any shoe on my list. Like the original Wallabee, ride and comfort is pillow soft and reminiscent of the best “air” soles found on common sneakers. The colorway is the prize here: supple brown suede leather and slight contrasting stitching make it diverse and easy to wear. An essential in my collection that will remain on my feet in 2015.

Photography: Thomas Welch

Managing Director N.A.

Jeff Carvalho is Managing Director for Highsnobiety N.A. in New York City. He holds a journalism degree from Northeastern University.

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