At the end of every year we take the time to look back on how the past 12 months have affected the street fashion scene we know and love. Shortlisted by us, but chosen by our readers, the Highsnobiety Crowns are our way of celebrating the leading forces in our field, and the changing face of our industry. And this year, the winners will receive special aluminium key trophies designed by Snarkitecture and Highsnobiety.
Here’s how you voted in this year’s Highsnobiety Crowns awards, along with one extra Editors’ Choice for each category, chosen by us. Check out the full list of stores, fashion collections, brands, sneakers, people and more below.
The Best Store of 2016
Bronze – Grailed
Captained by entrepreneur Arun Gupta and former Four Pins editor Lawrence Schlossman, Grailed secured third place in the “Best Store of 2016” category. Hosting flash sales like “The Drop” and “Grailed 100,” the site locked down its reputation as a go-to source for the world’s most coveted fashion items from past and present, including late ’90s Supreme box logo T-shirts, and impossible-to-find couture from a wide range of labels. In short, Grailed has proven itself as more than just a retailer, but a resource for education.
Silver – Kanye West “Pablo” Pop-Up Shops
Kanye West’s “Pablo” pop-up shops took second place, separated from third place by a mere 61 votes. Purveying merchandise that was designed in partnership with Canadian designer Cali Thornhill DeWitt, and executed across the globe with the help of merchandise firm Bravado, West’s Pablo concert merchandise literally popped up everywhere from Chicago to Cape Town, giving kids an affordable alternative to the pricy YEEZY Season line with adidas Originals.
Gold – KITH
First place winner Ronnie Fieg wasn’t shy about his ambitions to take KITH to another level in 2016. Most notably, Fieg expanded further outside of his home of New York City, opening outposts in Miami and even winter destination Aspen in Colorado. You might have also caught word of the KITHLAND presentation at New York Fashion Week, and KITH’s numerous collaborative projects with the likes of Cap’N’Crunch, Rugrats, and other names like BAPE, adidas and Nike. These efforts kept KITH and Ronnie on the front page of our website all year, and also on the tip of our tongues.
Editor’s Choice – Facebook
Anyone that posted a WTB or inquired about a legit check this year will know that Facebook is fostering some of the most closely-knit communities in sneaker and streetwear culture. As we mentioned in the voting phase, groups like Yeezy Talk Worldwide and Supreme Talk are likely the two best examples, both of which are frequented by members of the Highsnobiety editorial staff. These Facebook pages seem to be filling the void left with the decline of the popular forums that cropped up when streetwear was in its infancy.
Simply put, if you strike out on a Supreme or YEEZY drop, Facebook is the place to go, however, these groups are not only great resources for buying and selling, but also learning and networking.
The Best Fashion Collaboration of 2016
Bronze – Nike SB x Soulland
In third place, Nike SB and Soulland’s skate-oriented collection of smart menswear staples pays homage to everyone’s favorite day of the week. The FRI.day collection features all-over print short-sleeve shirts, moisture-wicking blazers, and even paneled trousers—all of which can withstand a day’s worth of grinding. Throw in a subtly stylish pair of Zoom Eric Koston QS sneakers, and the result is a uniform actually suited for the rest of week, too.
Silver – OFF-WHITE x Levi’s Made & Crafted
Back a few hundred votes in second place, Virgil Abloh’s collaboration with storied denim company Levi’s channels OFF-WHITE’s experimental street-informed clothing with the timeless subcultural appeal of Levi’s jeans. Under the company’s Made & Crafted label, known for its fashion-forward attitude, Abloh re-engineered the anti-fitting dad jean with a zipper placket and contrast panels, and re-interpreted the classic trucker with patchwork color-blocking and frayed edges. The limited-edition collection only hit select retailers like SSENSE and Barneys, and many pieces flew off the shelves instantly.
Gold – Supreme x Undercover
Our “Best Fashion Collaboration” winner, Supreme x Undercover takes home the first place prize. Drawing on Undercover designer Jun Takahashi’s predilection for punk, and Supreme’s penchant for subversive wearability, this collaboration featured anarchy logo-covered sweatsuits made from thick terry cloth, patched-up topcoats for the smart dresser with a rebel edge, and a covetable Gilapple light from Medicom. The latter was one of the most sought-after pieces, combining Takahashi’s trompe l’oeil collectible—a hyper-real plastic apple with a small light embedded in the middle—with Supreme’s tendency to release branded tchotchkes that everyone wants, from bolt cutters to bricks.
Editor’s Choice – GucciGhost
Gucci’s 2016 degauss included a collaboration with multi-creative Trevor “Trouble” Andrew, affectionately known as GucciGhost. Much in the way that Louis Vuitton tapped artist Stephen Sprouse for a street-savvy, graffiti-inspired range in 2001 and then again in 2008, Gucci’s creative director Alessandro Michele bravely enlisted the relatively unknown Canadian designer to bring an all-new design language to Gucci.
Most importantly, the outcome of the collaboration itself was quite strong, illustrating a refreshing high-low combination, and creating conversations in fashion.
The Best Under the Radar Brand of 2016
Bronze – Used Future
If 2016 has shown us anything, it’s that Korea is a hotbed of exciting young talent. It’s hardly surprising that Used Future scored so highly in this year’s Crowns — it came third, just a handful of votes behind Manta. The brand has got plenty to offer style-savvy guys in Asia, and the rest of the world, too — let’s hope that Korean brands expand their global distribution in the future.
Silver – Manta Ops
One of the best things about streetwear in the age of social media is that brands can go so far in such a short space of time. Manta Ops is hardly a year old, but its eerie, dystopian aesthetic and strong selection of product won us over big time. Judging from Manta’s finishing place, it won over a lot of Highsnobiety readers, too.
Gold – The Incorporated
Repurposed military gear, hand-dyed fabrics and an impressive DIY ethic characterized The Incorporated’s debut at the beginning of the year. The young Seattle brand dropped one of the most imaginative collections we saw in Under the Radar this year. We loved it — and 21 percent of the guys voting in this year’s Crowns did, too.
Editor’s Choice – Sisyphe
In a year jam-packed with promising new brands and designers, Sisyphe stood out. The “Southside” collection, which marked the brand’s first appearance on Highsnobiety, nailed the “sweet spot” between boundary-pushing and accessible, and the collections that followed have been no different. That’s why we’ve awarded the Madrid label with the Editor’s Choice award this year — like all of the brands included in our shortlist, we can really see Sisyphe going places.
The Best Breakthrough Brand of 2016
Bronze – MISBHV
Polish fashion label MISBHV found itself dipping its toes into the mainstream in 2016, supported by the likes of Rihanna, A$AP Rocky and Kylie Jenner. In years previous, the label’s edgy designs were more restricted to limited T-shirts worn by Warsaw’s local scene, but celebrity co-signs and Instagram shout-outs took helped MISBHV find a new audience outside Europe.
Earning more than twice the votes of the fourth place nominee, MISHBV garnered a strong third place finish in this year’s “Best Breakthrough Brand” category.
Silver – VLONE
We know far more about VLONE now than we have in years prior. While close followers of the young lord will be familiar with the name, which for a time was limited to friends and family amongst the A$AP Mob, VLONE made some substantial moves this year, venturing into retail and foraying into the print world, also appearing in Highsnobiety Magazine Issue 13.
VLONE added to its clout by collaborating with Nike on an Air Force 1, also working with Virgil Abloh’s OFF-WHITE for a capsule that was shown at Art Basel Miami, positioning the brand to enter 2017 on a strong note.
Gold – Anti Social Social Club
Anti Social Social Club locked in that number one spot with a comfortable margin of several hundred votes between first and second place. This year, the brand was one of the biggest streetwear signifiers on Instagram, becoming a street style favourite for those that managed to successfully cop from the label’s limited drops.
Partnerships with the likes of Emily Oberg’s Sporty & Rich, and even a co-branded Nike Air Force 1, kept things interesting for Anti Social Social Club, a label that grew consistently from January to December.
Editor’s Choice – Anti Social Social Club
For the Editors of Highsnobiety, Anti Social Social Club was hands-down the biggest viral streetwear brand of the year. After designer Neek Lurk unveiled a steady trickle of product releases through his low-key homepage, including dad caps, the American Stussy alumnus went on to establish a strong organic social media presence. Today, Anti Social Social Club continues to be one of the most desired names in streetwear, while still being sold exclusively through the brand’s e-commerce site.
The Most Relevant Brand of 2016
Bronze – Gucci
Alessandro Michele was named Gucci’s creative director near the end of 2015, but the fruits of this decision didn’t become evident until partway through 2016. Freshening the Gucci aesthetic, Michele introduced a new range of visual hallmarks, including embroidered bumblebees, flowers, and snakes for the brand’s visionary runway presentations. Michele also tapped the one and only GucciGhost, aka “Trouble Andrew,” aka Trevor Andrew, who helmed his own collection with graffiti-inspired scrawlings of emoji-like skulls, waves and of course ghosts.
The hip-hop community took notice as well, with support coming from all corners of the genre. Gucci received strong co-signs from Young Thug, 2 Chainz, Rihanna and many others.
Silver – Supreme
Rather than losing traction to newcomers, Supreme maintained a strong handle on its, well…supremacy in streetwear. Fashion’s odd interest in skateboarding names like Thrasher directed many new eyes toward Supreme, which has been at the core of the New York skate community since it was founded in 1994, and today is reputed for selling out quicker than any other brand. While core fans have been there all along, Supreme is now more popular than it has ever been, and there may even be a Louis Vuitton collaboration in the works. But in 2016, new and old fans alike greeted the release of partnerships with Black Sabbath and Nobuyoshi Araki, as well as reprisals of long-term partnerships with The North Face and Nike.
Gold – adidas
It’s not such a huge surprise that adidas took first place in the “Most Relevant Brand” category. Garnering more than twice the votes of the second place winner, and shockingly nearly seven times more votes than its biggest competitor, Nike (slightly more of a surprise), adidas had a big year no matter how you slice it. Thanks to key collaborations with the likes of Palace Skateboards and Kanye West, as well as a maturation of the Originals division, adidas diversified its fashion portfolio more than ever before. The Herzogenaurach-based brand also introduced a number of new and exciting sneaker initiatives, including the ever-poplar NMD and several tech-forward styles that arrived under the Futurecraft banner.
Editor’s Choice – Vetements
Although Vetements was voted into fourth place, just a handful of votes away from cracking the top three, the Paris-based fashion brand was our sure pick for the Editor’s Choice award, a decision that came after we couldn’t deny the fact that Vetements was likely the most-debated brand at our Berlin headquarters, whether over the label’s oversized Snoop Dogg T-shirt to its SS17 collection with 18 collaborations, to its grinder necklace. Largely, if there’s one brand name to remember the 2016 fashion landscape by, many would agree in saying Vetements.
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.
The Most Influential Person of 2016
Bronze – Jerry Lorenzo
Fear of God frontman Jerry Lorenzo took things up a notch in 2016, working with established retailer PacSun to introduce Fear of God diffusion line F.O.G., and aligning with Justin Bieber to provide wardrobe and on-stage styling for Justin’s Purpose tour.
Lorenzo was also the backbone of the vintage metal T-shirt revival, releasing a Chapel of God range featuring a curated selection of rare deadstock T-shirts in partnership with vintage authority Chapel NYC, and a Maxfield LA pop-up that offered yet another range of customized band T-shirts with vintage concert shirt maker Never Gonna Turn Down Again.
Silver – A$AP Rocky
Maintaining a foothold in the world of fashion, Rocky remained one of the most stylish names in hip-hop, landing a spot as one of four faces for French fashion house Dior, collaboration with GUESS, and also creating a co-branded collection with British designer JW Anderson, titled “JWA AWGE.”
Rounding out a strong year, Rocky also became the creative director of MTV, and if there’s one person that might have a chance at rejuvenating the antiquated TV network. Rocky had a massive year, and he didn’t even have to release an album to do so.
Gold – Kanye West
Far and away the winning nominee for “Most Influential Person” of 2016 was Kanye West. Clocking in with more than four-and-a-half votes more than silver medalist A$AP Rocky, Kanye remains to be the most influential person in the Highsnobiety world, bottom line. His pursuits in music and fashion ripple through the news cycle on a daily basis, making Kanye West the top name that Highsnobiety readers love to hate, or hate to love.
Editor’s Choice – Kanye West
Giving this award to anyone else just wouldn’t be real.
Even by Kanye’s standards, 2016 was a huge year, with the tandem release of YEEZY Season 3 and The Life of Pablo at Madison Square Garden, followed by the Saint Pablo tour, and a grip of successful sneaker releases alongside adidas Originals.
Kanye’s outspoken behavior and ability to polarize opinions between the naysayers and the Yeezus disciples maintains a constant conversation that surrounds his every unpredictable move, whether he’s meeting with Donald Trump after being released from hospital, posting a stream of vintage fashion lookbooks on Instagram, or teasing new gear from his ongoing adidas collaboration. All that’s left to do is see how things progress into 2017.
Lifetime Achievement Award 2016 – Tinker Hatfield
There are plenty of big figures at Nike that are deserving of this particular award. Of course there’s Michael Jordan, a basketball legend and part-time internet meme. And Mark Parker, the CEO who has helped usher in the era of Nike being the most recognizable brand on the planet. Then there’s Phil Knight, the outgoing founder of the company who documents its scrappy start in his recently published autobiography, Shoe Dog. But when it comes to what’s really contributed to Nike’s transformation from humble Onitsuka Tiger importer to global sportswear juggernaut, one only needs to remember what Mars Blackmon said in a series of memorable adverts: “It’s gotta be the shoes.”
Michael Jordan’s success story at Nike is buttressed by the rise of Tinker Hatfield. Sure, Peter Moore’s Air Jordan 1 is a certified classic (and saw a slew of re-releases this year), and Air Force 1 designer Bruce Kilgore is the man behind Jordan’s Air Ship (the shoe he played in before the Jordan 1) and the 1’s successor, the luxurious, Italian-manufactured Air Jordan 2—but Hatfield’s Air Jordan 3 is the sneaker that kept Jordan onboard at Nike at a time when he was free to pursue other opportunities. A trained architect, Hatfield’s design experience draws from the same creative wells as modern wünderkinds like Virgil Abloh. It turns out, a mutual appreciation for clean lines and structural integrity is a great starting point for innovative kicks that look good and perform exceptionally well.
The footwear he designed for the Jordan line remain some of the most anticipated retros, signifying a true synergy between style and sportswear—a time before basketball shoes began to resemble complicated foot machines and possessed a subtle, “gotta have them” appeal that drew customers in. Sure, having Jordan, Spike Lee, and Bugs Bunny as spokespersons may have helped, but the shoes were already seductive in and of themselves.
Tinker Hatfield’s legacy has been integral to keeping Nike at the forefront of form and function. From the Pompidou-inspired Air Max 1 that turned the concept of “walking on Air” to a literal sneaker with a window, the Mexican footwear-inspired Huarache, the streetball inspired Air Raid, and the desert-trekking Mowabb that birthed the outdoorsy All Conditions Gear line, he’s created many of the bedrocks of Nike’s oeuvre, things that keep getting revisited and gussied up with the Swoosh’s ever-evolving array of technological advancements—jacquard, Flyknit, Lunarlon soles, the list goes on.
The HTM line—a three-letter abbreviation for “Hiroshi, Tinker, Mark” that functions as a footwear incubator for concepts spawned by the superteam of Hatfield, Hiroshi Fujiwara, and Mark Parker—has arguably produced some of the most influential and important sneakers of the modern era. The Flyknit Racer and Trainer have already achieved “instant classic” status.
In his 1963 book Inventing the Future, Nobel prize-winning physicist Dennis Gabor writes: “The future cannot be predicted, but futures can be invented. It was man’s ability to invent which has made human society what it is.” And 26 years later, Hatfield was doing that on the silver screen. Featured prominently in Back to the Future II, his Air Mag concept of self-lacing shoes of the future incited an overwhelming sense of desire in budding sneakerheads the world over. And that creation has not only become a sought after, auction-only release, but his science fictional self-lacing technology has become a reality: the groundbreaking Nike HyperAdapt.
Hatfield’s own ties to Oregon symbolize a closed loop of sorts for Nike. Founder Phil Knight started the brand with a vision of being an Oregon-based company that keeps the state’s pioneer spirit alive, and Hatfield, a former Duck runner himself, took that notion into the future solely (pun not intended) through the strength of his footwear designs.
To see the full list of Crowns nominations, head here.
- Illustrations: Yu Nagaba