Nike’s contribution to sneaker culture is hard to briefly sum up. Starting as a brand that catered to runners, Nike’s catalog of game-changing designs is largely unmatched, and we’ve seen the Beaverton-based camp contribute so much to today’s climate of limited releases and collaborations that Highsnobiety covers day in and day out.
Although it’s still early in the year, we’ve decided to recap several of the strongest Swoosh drops, with the intention of updating this Nike hub as 2017 continues. From partnerships with longtime partners like COMME des GARÇONS to limited NikeLab releases, here are some of the best Nike sneakers of the year so far.
COMME des GARÇONS brought an avant garde approach to the classic Nike Dunk, adding clear panels to the upper. The shoe was first unveiled at the label’s men’s show at Paris Fashion Week last summer, and follows up on many other partnerships between the Japanese fashion house and the Beaverton-based athletic brand. The sneaker is as much a display piece as it is a pure heater on-foot.
As a follow up on ACRONYM’s Lunar Force 1, the German technical brand led by Canadian designer Errolson Hugh once again takes on the Air Force 1, arriving in the form of the high-top Air Force 1 Downtown. Tactical details run throughout, including a milspec strap closure, and militaristic branding, while quality leather lofts up the design. Three total colorways were made available as part of a limited NikeLab release.
Jordan Brand’s run of remastered 1s continued with the “Royal” colorway, as a follow-up to well-received drops like “Bred” and “Shattered Backboard” versions from late 2016. While many Jordan heads agree that OG Chicago colorways are among the most timeless Jumpman releases, the “Royal” 1s still remain entrenched in the upper echelons of Jordan folklore, despite never being worn by Michael Jordan during a regulation basketball game.
Nike’s Air Max 1 first released in 1987, famously revolutionizing the sneaker industry and inaugurating one of the most influential sneaker series ever. The “30th Anniversary” model is a faithful recreation of the original model that was created by designer Tinker Hatfield, taking inspiration from the Center Georges-Pompidou in Paris. Hardcore Air Max fans will also notice the toe box is shaped more similarly to the original version than previous retro releases. In 2017, the famous sneaker was brought back for Air Max Day in March.
Also coinciding with Air Max Day 2017, the atmos x Nike Air Max 1 “Elephant” deserves an honorable mention.
Another example of the fruitful relationship between COMME des GARÇONS and Nike, this runway-ready version of the Vapormax featured a sock-like fit and branded tape along the forefoot in place of a lace closure. Two versions were teased in all-black and ice blue, to complement mainline versions of the sneaker which Nike is calling an Air Revolution.
After a considerable hiatus from shelves, the Air Max 97 returned recently, first as a limited Italian-only release in late December 2016, then as a wider drop in April 2017. Designed by Nike’s Christian Tressler, the iconic, streamlined silhouette first landed in an OG silver color scheme, followed swiftly by a gold version. While the silhouette was ahead of it’s time when it originally released in 1997, the shape and colorway has managed to retain a furutistic look even 20 years later.
Perhaps the most momentous Jordan news since the Nike sub-brand’s Supreme collaboration in 2015, legendary graffiti artist Brian “KAWS” Donnelly served up his own take on the IV. The resulting sneaker is bare of any traditional plastic details, and instead is entirely comprised of premium grey suede, right down to the cage. The pared-down color scheme pays homage to KAWS’ Companion characters, and is finished with a glow-in-the-dark outsole. Naturally, KAWS’ “XX” is featured boldly on the heel in place of Jordan’s classic “Air” marking.
In the vein of Supreme’s other jarring Nike choices, like the Foamposite and Air Max 98, the New York City skate brand came correct with a pack of three Air More Uptempos in April 2017. While the black choice was by far the most sensible, additional red and gold choices rounded out the pack, which retailed exclusively online.
All new for 2017, the ACG.07.KMTR features a four-way stretch water-resistant upper shell that derives inspiration from parachutes, working with a draw-cord closure to conform to the foot. The forefoot fit can be adjusted via a Fidlock magnetic buckle. The functional sole unit is taken from another past ACG project, the Nike Tallac Flyknit ACG.
Reprising the 2012 partnership between Nike and designer Tom Sachs, the Mars Yard Shoe returned in 2016 in a slightly updated version. Replacing the original canvas upper with a slightly more durable mesh material, the release was held in New York City at an obstacle course-inspired installation, where attendees had to complete a gauntlet of tests before receiving their pairs.
Nike Zoom Vaporfly 4%
Nike’s Zoom Vaporfly 4% is named for its purported ability to make runners 4% more efficient when compared to Nike’s previous fastest marathon shoe. Nike designers have worked to make this possible through an aerodynamic heel counter, Nike Flymesh upper with midfoot dynamic archband, and a carbon fiber plate that is specially placed to reduce energy loss.
Not only is the sneaker tuned for performance, but early colorways also found favor with the fashion crowd. Despite being $50 more expensive than the $200 VaporMax, the Zoom Vaporfly 4% still sold out in its first few releases.
Virgil Abloh x Nike Air Jordan 1
Before being teased for around eight months on social media, Virgil Abloh’s take on the Air Jordan 1 was confirmed by Nike in August, as part of “The Ten” collection. From the group, the Jordan 1 is by far the most compelling sneaker. Imagined in an original Chicago colorway with signature OFF-WHITE quotation branding, the design is not only the most covetable of the group, but also the most polarising.
Undefeated x Air Max 97
Of all the Air Max 97 drops of 2017 – both general releases and collaborations – the Undefeated version ticks the most boxes. The OG Los Angeles retailer imagined the futuristic silhouette in the signature colors of a certain Italian fashion house, on an otherwise black upper. Text branding throughout added to the shoe’s strong visual language.
Nike Air Force 1 (Nike Air Logo Print)
In an age where every major brand offers personalization and customization services, and kids are drawing with sharpies on their shoes, Nike’s Air Force 1 pack featuring an all-over Air logo print seemed to address exactly what sneakerheads want in 2017. Covered in mini Nike Swooshes, this take on the classic 1982 Air Force 1 easily stood out among other collaborations and general releases for the silhouette’s 20th birthday.
While these sneakers will certainly be sold out at retail, be sure to check out after-market shops like Stadium Goods, StockX and Grailed to find the pair you’re after. So those are the best Nike sneakers of 2017 so far. We’ll update this page with more details, so be sure to check back throughout the year.
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- Main & Featured Image: Haven