The Highsnobiety Crowns are an annual awards series celebrating the very best in streetwear and street culture over the past 12 months. All shortlists are chosen by the in-house editorial staff at Highsnobiety, with the final result left up to you, the readers.
2016’s prize was a $2,000 shopping spree courtesy of luxury shopping destination MATCHESFASHION.COM. Stay posted for more information on the 2017 Crowns later this year.
Winners: The Best Sneaker of 2016
Bronze – Solebox x adidas Consortium Ultra Boost Uncaged
Unveiled in January, Solebox’s take on the Ultra Boost was the first official Uncaged version to hit shelves, and still the best. Worshippers of the standard Ultra Boost agreeable received the Berlin shop’s version, which featured a neutral beige upper paired with subtle hits of red on the outsole and lace-tips. The sneaker was one of the highest-reselling kicks of the year, prefacing Solebox’s recent European expansion into Vienna, Amsterdam and beyond.
Silver – ACRONYM x NikeLab Air Presto Mid
Separated from first place by several hundred reader votes, the ACRONYM Presto Mid was a refreshing departure from the running-inspired sneakers that were so popular in 2016. The militaristic Presto once again highlighted Errolson Hugh’s utilitarian design sense, arriving in a trio of well-appointed colorways. Without incorporating any Nike buzzwords or materials like Lunarlon or Flyknit, this unique Presto iteration was announced alongside a set of illustrations drawn by Boston-based graphic artist Kostas Seremetis, nicely rounding out the release.
Gold – adidas Originals YEEZY 350 Boost V2
Kanye West’s second generation 350 silhouette was the most popular YEEZY sneaker of the year. Issued up in a total of five colorways over the past 12 months, the V2 eclipsed its predecessor as the must-have YEEZY sneaker. Industry insiders reported December’s “Black/White” colorway – affectionately referred to as the “Oreo” 350 V2 – was the most accessible sneaker release from adidas Originals and Kanye West, being produced in more numbers than previous drops.
Editor’s Choice – ACRONYM x NikeLab Air Presto Mid
For the second year running, the editors at Highsnobiety award our pick of the year to ACRONYM and Nike.
Although the anticipation lasted for months, which surely worked in the favour of this particular sneaker drop, Errolson Hugh’s take on the Presto Mid would have been a highlight of the year even if landed with zero warning, but there was ample time to anticipate the shoe. Nike’s Beaverton camp gave Hugh lease to inject the Presto silhouette with his signature technical toolings, across a range of two militaristic colorways, and a third, more vibrant iteration, that nicely adopted Nike’s luminescent Volt shade.
Solebox x adidas Consortium Ultra Boost Uncaged
Renowned German retailer Solebox tried its hand at the Ultra Boost Uncaged early in the year, and to great result. Still part of a very short list of names to collaborate on the deconstructed Ultra Boost model, Solebox elected a neutral colorway with subtle hits of red on the outsole and lace-tips. As with past Solebox collaborations – a series of New Balance 1500s in particular, among others – this limited Ultra Boost Uncaged demanded a hefty sum on the resell market.
Designed by former Solebox owner Hikmet Sugoer, this particular model represents the tail end of a bygone era for the German retailer, which has since expanded its operation into Vienna and has set its sights on wider expansion into Europe.
adidas Originals YEEZY 350 Boost V2
After much speculation, adidas finally unveiled the 350 V2 in September, a silhouette that the internet had previously gone ahead and dubbed the 550. Complete with a bold lateral streak in orange with “SPLY-350” text, the very first V2 featured a characteristic, dual-density knit that varied from its predecessor. Later in November, three further “Copper,” “Green,” and “Red” colorways were released on a single day, an unprecedented moment in the history of Kanye’s ongoing adidas collaboration, before the “Black/White” edition was announced for December 17, which is said to be the most accessible YEEZY release ever.
Many expect V2 releases to extend into 2017, as West himself has teased even more versions of this sneaker that have yet to officially hit shelves.
OVO x Air Jordan XII White
Drizzy is making his own Jordans, and after multiple releases, that fact hasn’t become any less enciting for Jumpman and OVO fans alike. 2016 was a killer year for the Jordan XII, with “The Master” and “Flu Game” drops adding strengths on top of strengths, and in October, these limited editions also hit shelves after being initially teased in 2013.
Drake dressed his XIIx with a pristine white upper and gold hardware, rounded out by OVO branding on the outsole, while a full range of co-branded apparel accompanied the drop. We can presume this amicable relationship between Drake and Jordan Brand to continue into 2017.
ACRONYM x NikeLab Air Presto Mid
As a follow-up on the critically acclaimed ACRONYM x NikeLab Air Force 1 Lunar from 2015, a trio of specialized Air Presto Mids also released in 2016. After a handful of images were leaked throughout the year, the release date was finalised in September, assisted with illustrations by Boston-based graphic artist Kostas Seremetis. The refreshing execution showed ACRONYM’s eye for detail and uncompromising approach to design, which sneakerheads couldn’t get enough of.
Looking forward, the success of the technical, co-branded Presto will likely help to ensure further partnerships between the two, especially as we know ACRONYM designer Errolson Hugh is closely involved with Nike’s recently re-introduced ACG sub-brand.
KITH x BAPE “Fiegsta”
After a considerable time away from the limelight, the BAPESTA returned in 2016, featuring a slight makeover courtesy of New York City sneaker boutique KITH and owner Ronnie Fieg.
Debuted during NYFW’s “Kithland” fashion show, the collaborative BAPESTA were released in tonal white and sand options, both manufactured in Portugal, adding a luxurious touch to the silhouette’s impressive legacy. As always, Fieg added a special touch of his own to the project, stamping “Fiegsta” on the right heel of each sneaker, while the left heel retained classic “Bapesta” branding with the shooting star graphic keep intact.
Fear of God x Vans
Rolled out in partnership with PacSun, the FOG x Vans pack landed in stores this October. Featuring one color-blocked Sk8-Hi and an accompanying Era featuring an all-over “Fear of God” print, the duo of sneakers was teased on Instagram months ahead of the actual release by designer and Fear of God owner Jerry Lorenzo, leaving many in wait, rubbing their hands together in anticipation of this release.
When they finally arrived, they came as part of a back-to-school collection that included apparel like sweats and flannels. Given the price point of Fear of God’s mainline ready-to-wear and footwear offerings, many younger fans and PacSun shoppers were happy to add these to their rotation.
adidas Futurecraft M.F.G.
Over the past year, adidas’ forward-thinking Futurecraft initiative has brought us intriguing sneaker concepts using 3D printing, recycled ocean plastic and more, but the Futurecraft M.F.G. was the first in the series to be released at retail, through a series of key drops at German boutiques like Overkill and Solebox.
This “Made for Germany” sneaker is notable for several reasons, not the least of which is its re-vamped Torsion support bar and second generation Boost sole. The M.F.G. was also produced in adidas’ so-called Speed Factory in Germany, a facility that addresses more accountable manufacturing practices, and outlines an exciting future for later sneaker releases from adidas.
The legacy of the Nike MAG precedes itself. First shown on the feet of Marty McFly in 1989’s Back to the Future II, the shoe was imagined for the film by Nike designer Tinker Hatfield. We saw a limited release for charity in 2011, but this year the brand with the Swoosh unveiled the 2016 Nike MAG, with fully functional auto-lacing capabilities for the first time.
A raffle was held to determine each of the 89 winners, with proceeds totalling $6.75 million going towards the Michael J. Fox Foundation in support of Parkinson’s research. Select auctions were also held around the world, with one pair reportedly fetching $100,000 USD at an event in Hong Kong. The rare sneakers brought futuristic movie technology to life this year, including a pressure sensitive heel and two buttons allowing the wearer to automatically adjust the shoe’s fit. The Nike MAG is an undisputed sneaker grail by any measure of the word.
Pharrell x adidas Originals NMD “Human Race”
The adidas NMD was an unprecedented home run in 2016, and arguably the most talked-about shoe of the year.
While Primeknit editions of the NMD – reportedly an acronym standing for “nomad” – were coveted beyond others, essentially every variation of this futuristic silhouette was flying off shelves week after week. R1, XR1, CS1 and collaborative NMDs were all well-received across the board, moreover Highsnobiety’s Q3 listing of the most expensive sneakers of 2016 included six NMD models out of ten total sneakers, with four of Pharrell’s “Human Race” executions making the cut. Blue, red, yellow, black and more versions of the cozy sneaker were unveiled this year, as well as a special family and friends version in dark purple.
Reebok Club C
For a shoe that was essentially not spoken about in 2015, this year marked a substantial growth in awareness for the Club C.
Where tennis-inspired silhouettes like the Common Projects Achilles or adidas Stan Smith have resonated in the past, the Club C marked a welcome new addition to the category. Beginning with one of our favourite retailers, Copenhagen boutique Naked, this tennis-inspired Reebok low-top was treated to a range of memorable collaborations alongside Palace Skateboards, BEAUTY & YOUTH, and more, while general release Club Cs from 2016 also remained strong, like this pastel range that landed in April. We’re looking forward to seeing more from this basic, versatile sneaker in 2017.
adidas Originals YEEZY Boost 750 “Grey/Gum”
A third 750 colorway arrived this summer, kitted with a luminescent gum sole – a first for any YEEZY sneaker – saddled with a pared-down grey suede upper. The most interesting 750 release of the year, this iteration built on past successes, plus one novel factor that set it apart from other releases. Simply put, being the first and so far only Kanye-West designed adidas sneaker to glow in the dark is factor that allows it to stand out among all of 2016’s YEEZY drops.
Air Jordan 1 Retro “Banned”
Towards the later part of the year, Jordan churned out a number of nostalgic editions of the brand’s flagship shape; the 1. To compliment “Shattered Backboard” and “Black Toe” versions, the “Banned” colorway returned for the first time since 2011, crafted from premium leather in a so-called Remastered version. This particular colorway was famously worn by His Airness during the slam dunk contest (which incidentally he didn’t win) at 1985’s All-Star Weekend, complete with an OG Air Jordan warm-up suit. Contributing to the shoe’s prestige, a special satin version dropped weeks after, limited to only 500 pairs.
Whether IIIs, IIs or 1s, the black and red “Banned” or “Bred” scheme is consistently a is always an anticipated release for many Jumpman followers.
C2H4 x Vans Old-Skool & Slip-On
Los Angeles-based imprint C2H4 (the molecular formula for Ethylene, in case you were wondering) meticulously deconstructed the Vans Old-Skool and Slip-On, applying hand-painted details to the midsole, and revamping each shoe with details such as tonal leather laces, stripped eyelets, and an indigo denim-pattern overlay. The bricolage jean motif was original and interesting enough to be shared around the sneaker blogosphere, while hand-sewing craftsmanship and wood bead accents acted to further elevate both of these classic Vans models.
Among many other Old-Skool and Slip-On releases, C2H4’s custom take was widely praised by sneakerheads.
Supreme x Nike Air Max 98
This estranged cousin of the Air Max family was picked by Supreme for a collaborative pack of sneakers this year. The Air Max 98 was dressed in a snakeskin colorway, which was arguably the standout inclusion in the pack, while accompanying box logo red, navy blue and all-black versions were rumoured to be inspired by Prada footwear of the same color.
Again, Supreme proves that its bi-annually Nike drops are always ones to watch out for, but when ranked against the more recent Blazer Low pack from Supreme and Nike, the 98 was the more intriguing release, and a risk that paid off.
Gosha Rubchinskiy x Reebok Phase One
Gosha Rubchinskiy added his easily recognisable cyrillic branding to the Reebok Phase One this year, for an achromatic pack of three sneakers in white, grey and black. These were regularly spotted during fashion week around the world, and as Gosha’s catalog of collaborations is still quite limited, many fans of the Russian designer were quick to cop. As Gosha’s tenure at the top of the streetwear pyramid is comparatively quite fresh, any sneaker designs that he lends his name to are deserving of mention and usually prompt a quick reaction from those hoping to cop.
Vetements x Reebok Pump Supreme
Vetements’ SS17 collection included a grand total of 18 collaborations, and while two Reebok-branded windbreaker jackets appeared on the runway, a curious pair of Instapump Fury sneakers were spotted on the feet of designer Demna Gvasalia. Featuring a doodled, bricolage design, the sneaker’s release was delayed until 2017, but we did get a similar but less doodle-heavy version of the Pump Supreme, which dropped in white at Vetements’ “garage sale” in Seoul, then in a subtly different grey version as a Dover Street Market exclusive a few weeks later.
BAPE x adidas Originals NMD_R1
When images of this sneaker first surfaced on the web, most were skeptical that adidas would ever be brave enough to dress 2016’s most hyped sneaker in the instantly recognisable BAPE camouflage, however, the project becomes slightly more plausible when you remember BAPE’s history of collaborative adidas Superstars alongside UNDFTD.
Regardless, this still seems like one of those shoes that was mocked-up by some perverted graphic designer, accompanied by a headline to the effect of “What It Would Look Like If Your Favorite Brands Collaborated….” But “Green Camo” and “Purple Camo” versions did in fact land stateside to a frenzied reaction in late November, along with a selection of co-branded apparel that included a full-zip jacket with shark face detailing. While the sneaker has yet to release in Europe at time of publishing, we can assume there won’t be any pairs lingering in stores.
White Mountaineering x adidas SEEULATER
The hideously attractive SEEULATER silhouette made its return in 2016, off the back of several hiking-inspired silhouettes that we saw earlier in the year from adidas. In addition to strong general releases and a special edition makeup with Tokyo’s mita Sneakers, White Mountaineering also released their own versions featuring Primeknit construction. We’d place our best on more SEEULATER collaborations in 2017, especially given the prominence of hiking and trail-inspired tooling in the general sneaker arena.
Rihanna x PUMA Creeper
Silencing any initial skeptics of this year’s collaboration between PUMA and Rihanna, the Creeper was a runaway success. Thanks to a balance of experimental and classic color schemes, as well as the simplicity of adding a platform sole to the timeless PUMA Suede, the Creeper was possibly the best new shoe in the women’s category this year, and strong executions in “Orange Camouflage” as well as “Velvet” only added to the sneaker’s success.
PUMA has brought on a number of high profile celebrity endorsements this year, also putting pen to paper with Kylie Jenner, Young Thug, and others, but Rihanna’s Creeper has definitely done the most for the German sportswear brand.
New Balance 990
One of New Balance’s most understated silhouettes found itself in the spotlight this year, popularized by the tail end of the normcore trend. The made-in-USA 990 is in many ways the archetypal New Balance sneaker, with a mixture of leather and mesh panels in tonal grey. In years past, you’d be most likely to spot the 990 worn by suburban dads mowing the lawn, but this year the sneaker was adopted by a different, more stylish demographic.
NikeLab Air Footscape Woven
Nike’s Air Footscape Woven silhouette, you either hate it or love it.
This year, the clunky silhouette was treated to two major releases, however our favorite was Dover Street Market’s exclusive drop in August. Premium, perforated suede was used to elevate the hybrid sneaker, which landed in in black and tan colorways, each boasting a contrasting white Footscape sole unit. Both editions arrived as NikeLab drops, making the offbeat sneakers even more covetable and admired by Nike fans.
Air Jordan IV “Cement”
Thanks in part to its infamous cameo in Spike Lee’s 1989 cult favorite Do The Right Thing, the “Cement” Air Jordan IV has earned its place in the Jordan chronicles. Originally released the same year as the film, the “Cement” IVs are one of the most beloved in the Jumpman franchise, and 2016’s drop during NBA All-Star Weekend in Toronto was only the third retro release in the history of this particular colorway, following the very first drop, and re-issues in 1999, then 2012.
Cleaning your most cherished kicks with a toothbrush is now a humorous anecdote that is part of sneakerhead folklore, and we have the Jordan IV “Cement” and its appearance in Do The Right Thing to thank for that.
Just Don x Air Jordan II “Beach”
Don C once again linked up with the folks at Jumpman to re-imagine the Jordan II. Originally crafted in Italy, the II made its debut in 1987, bringing luxury to the basketball court for the first time. While Don’s first collaboration with Jordan brought us a fully tonal blue II with quilted detailing, this time around the Chicago-born streetwear visionary presented the same silhouette in a “Beach” colorway, nicely complimenting Jordan’s Pinnacle offerings, which have featured elevated construction and materials. The sneaker itself was accompanied by a Jordan-branded flight jacket, inspired by a Nike “Flight” sweatshirt from 1987, and of course a signature Just Don snapback.
Speaking on the collaboration, Don Crawley himself revealed to Highsnobiety in an interview: “I tried to bring together different aspects of luxury goods I had consumed in the past, and tie in the aesthetic of them on a basketball shoe. That was basically the concept, and they we tried to pay attention to every single detail on the shoe.”
Nike Air Max 97
The announcement that Nike would be bringing back the Air Max 97 was a straight hit of nostalgia to the gut for many Air Max fans and sneakerheads in general. On October 5, the silver colorway returned in Italy, seeing a limited release at select boutiques that featured tricolore Italiano branding on the tongue and heel tab. Inspired by the Japanese bullet train, the shoe was also the first to feature a full-length air bubble in the sole. A wider European release took place in mid-December, minus the Italy-specific touches, but nonetheless a big moment for any fan of the Air Max franchise.
Air Jordan XI “Space Jam”
With the 20th anniversary of cult favorite Space Jam, Jordan came correct with a highly anticipated re-release. Last available in 2009, this new 2016-edition of the Air Jordan XI “Space Jam” featured “45” heel branding in favor of the customary “23” from past editions, but otherwise kept all OG detailing intact, including the patent leather and mesh upper, as well as an icy blue outsole. Adding to the appeal, the sneakers were accompanied by limited edition Space Jam merch like T-shirts, jerseys, jackets and more, while immersive launch events around the world that pay homage to the legacy of both the film and the sneaker it inspired.
Gucci Ace Sneaker
Since creative director Alessandro Michele took over as creative director in 2015, Gucci stock has been on the rise. The fashion house’s FW16 show ushered in a range of whimsical, floral-heavy garments that marked a fresh new look for the brand, which was supported by the likes of 2Chainz, A$AP Rocky, and even Zayn Malik on the cover of Highsnobiety Magazine Issue 13.
The brand’s footwear division also received an injection of new energy, most notably the Ace sneaker, which was imagined in a range of original variations this year, complete with bumblebee embroidery, as well as serpent, lightning bolt and flame graphics.
Nike HyperAdapt 1.0
After initially announcing in March, Nike made us wait the majority of the year before making the auto-lacing HyperAdapt 1.0 available for purchasing, a feat that was far easier said than done. If you were lucky enough to book one of the limited appointment openings, the sneaker still commanded a hefty price tag of $720. For some time, the idea of a self-tying sneaker was unimaginable, but the brand with the Swoosh was the first to make it a reality, thanks to a clever heel sensor that triggers the shoe to automatically tighten around the wearer’s foot. The impressive technology was personified through the acronym E.A.R.L., standing for “Early Adaptive Reactive Lacing.”
Reigning Champ x ASICS GEL-Lyte III
Reigning Champ’s second-ever footwear collaboration was unveiled in January, arriving as a partnership with ASICS. Navy, grey and black versions of the GEL-Lyte III were conceived as a reference to Reigning Champ’s core color palette, while flatlock seams and midweight terry uppers also call back to the design language of the Vancouver brand’s Canadian-made basics. We can count plenty of strong GEL-Lyte IIIs in recent memory, but Reigning Champ’s version proved more thoughtful, but most importantly more wearable than a lot of other limited edition ASICS drops.
Nike Special Field Air Force 1
One of the most drastic flips on the iconic Air Force 1 we’ve ever seen, the military-inspired Special Field edition arrived during the later part of 2016, ready for deployment.
Featuring a mix of leather and ballistic nylon across a range of inaugural colorways, the SF AF1 also included such add-ons as a hidden tongue pocket, lateral eyelets, and removable paracord ankle straps that double as handles for the accompanying tote bag. Leading up to the 35th anniversary of the Air Force 1 in 2017, this Special Field version started the birthday celebrations on a strong note.
fragment design x Converse One Star
In March, Hiroshi Fujiwara of fragment design issued up his own take on the Converse’s skateboarding classic, the One Star, a reprisal of the collaboration that has brought us several other Fujiwara-designer Converse drops. Playing off of Converse’s hairy suede motif, Fujiwara served up petrol blue (a clear favorite of Fujiwara’s) and off-white versions, complete with fragment’s thunderbolt branding on the heel. This partnership was simplicity at its best, but special nods should also go to the three-pack of One Stars from Stussy that released in the beginning of December.
- Illustrations: Yu Nagaba