Sneakers
From the ground up

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 reader. Every voter will be automatically entered to win one of two prizes. This year’s grand prize is a $1,500 gift card with two runner-up gift cards valued at $500 each, courtesy of luxury shopping destination LUISAVIAROMA. Stay tuned for the final results on December 21 and see who won last year here.

Sneaker culture is mainstream and there’s no way around it.

Endorsements and collaborations from celebrities reached peak levels in 2017, and when Hollywood’s millennial elite like Bella Hadid and Justin Bieber are spotted at a local juice spot in the latest kicks, paparazzi photos circulate like wildfire. In some sense, seeing A-list musicians, actors (and celebrity offspring) embracing sneaker culture hugely validates what was once, for decades, a very niche interest, and in turn, we love wearing the same sneakers as celebrities.

PUMA x The Weekend, Nike x Kendrick Lamar, Reebok x Gucci Mane; the list of brand x celebrity partnerships gets longer every day, but these collaborations remained a keystone in drawing many new, younger eyes toward the sneaker world. Future OGs. It’s still getting bigger and there’s no stopping it.

It’s hard to pinpoint the genesis, but somehow, the tail end of normcore’s New Balance 990 obsession morphed into chunky, unconventional sneaker releases – largely championed by luxury brands – a prominent trend in 2017. Raf’s adidas Ozweego led the way, followed by the Balenciaga Triple S, YEEZY Wave Runner and many others.

Knitted sneaker textiles also plateau’d as a must-have for any sneaker brand, and as a result, we saw more sock-sneakers than ever before in 2017. While Nike and adidas continued to push Flyknit and Primeknit respectively, nearly every other competitor brand trumpeted their similar solutions, from Reebok UltraKnit to PUMA EvoKNIT, as well as knitted sock-like fabrics from Dior and Balenciaga.

While all that was going on, the roots of sneaker culture are still very much intact. A vast majority of the first-mover retailers, brands and characters are still in it, leading the way and being inclusive of a culture that started small, and has become so broad. At Highsnobiety, we’ve been closely surveying the sneaker world for 12 years, and with that, here are our picks for the top 30 sneakers that 2017 will be remembered for.

adidas Originals “Calabasas” Powerphase

Daniel Regan / adidas

After a total of 16 YEEZY Boost releases, counting the “Pirate Black” restock and two infant-edition drops, Kanye West abruptly switched gears. Dredging up the Reebok-esque Powerphase low-top sneaker, West added subtle “Calabasas” typography in gold, but otherwise kept the ’80s-era aerobic silhouette unchanged. For fans of the 350 and 750, the Powerphase was altogether unexpected, but flew off shelves nonetheless, perhaps partly due to the fact that it was $100 more affordable than previous Boost-equipped YEEZY models, priced at $120.

Kanye effectively took one of the most pedestrian sneaker silhouettes imaginable, branded with the name of a suburban California neighborhood that nobody had any reason to care about before 2017, and made it one of the most coveted sneakers of the year.

KAWS x Air Jordan IV

George Ocampo / Highsnobiety.com

Being brought into the fold as a Jordan collaborator is a career-changing moment, even if you already posses a largely unrivaled artistic acumen. Following up on his Air Max 90 and Air Force 1 collaborations way back in 2008, this year Brian Donnelly, better known by his graffiti tag KAWS, teamed up with the Air Jordan team to present a luxe take on the IV. While deep-rooted sneakerheads can easily recognize the importance of KAWS and Jordan joining forces to rework the IV, younger fans of the culture took the opportunity to brush up on their knowledge and get familiar with Donnelly’s considerable contributions (RIP OriginalFake) to streetwear over the years.

The shoe featured a special mixture of materials, right down to the cage, which was crafted from premium suede instead of the silhouette’s traditional plastic accents. A glow-in-the-dark outsole and KAWS’ signature “XX” branding round out the characteristic makeup. For the remainder of the year, rumors of a subsequent, all-black family & friends model further fueled interest around the special Air Jordan IV.

Supreme x Nike Air More Uptempo

Eva Al Desnudo / Highsnobiety.com

The Uptempo made its triumphant return in 2017, with three collaborative Supreme versions leading the charge in April. Affectionately dubbed the “Suptempos” (swapping out the Uptempo’s “AIR” typography for wraparound “SUPREME” text), the pack included black, red, and gold iterations that were seen on the feet of world class athletes Neymar Jr. and Odell Beckham Jr, a far cry from Supreme’s inner circle of seasoned skaters like Jason Dill and Mark Gonzales.

Before 2017, the Uptempo may have been an overlooked silhouette as far as the general streetwear hive mind went, but many sneakerheads eagerly snapped up the general release versions that came in months to follow, in large part thanks to Supreme’s limited colorways.

The Uptempo also spearheaded the general swell of nostalgia for ’90s sneakers that was big in 2017, coinciding with retro releases of more Nike basketball silhouettes of the era, like the Air Shake Ndestrukt and Air Pippen 1.

adidas Futurecraft 4D

Josh Sobel / Highsnobiety.com

Although it wasn’t what you’d call widely accessible, the concept-proving Futurecraft 4D was a big first for adidas and the brand’s Futurecraft initiative. While there was a slight jargon smokescreen around the shoe’s revolutionary midsole, adidas explained the 4D as the world’s first performance shoe crafted with light and oxygen using Digital Light Synthesis, a technology pioneered by California-based firm Carbon, who partnered with adidas for the sneaker.

Unpacking Carbon’s technology even further, Digital Light Synthesis is aiming to make injecting molding obsolete, by using light to manipulate liquid resins, opening doors for customizable mass manufacturing. The Futurecraft 4D is adidas’s first application of such a process, allowing the company to precisely address the needs of each athlete, in reference to movement, cushioning, stability, and comfort. Color-blocked, brand x brand collaborations surely aren’t going anywhere, but adidas’s partnership with Carbon is forever changing the way the world thinks about footwear, and shifting our expectations of what footwear can actually do for us.

NikeCraft x Tom Sachs Mars Yard Shoe 2.0

Bryan Luna / Highsnobiety

Reprising their 2012 partnership, Nike and Tom Sachs teamed up to introduce a 2.0 version of the beloved Mars Yard Shoe. The original version was constructed using NASA-approved Vectran material (which is literally used in space on the Mars Excursion Rover) on the upper, and while the textile does boast considerable tensile strength and durability, over time the toe box on the 2012 version began to fatigue. Perhaps no one was in a better position to observe these unforeseen flaws than Sachs, who uses space and NASA as a repeating refrain in his work, and wore the shoe every day for years.

But for 2017, Sachs and Nike instead opted for a breathable, polyester warp-knit tricot mesh, while subtle tweaks were also made to the shoe’s outsole tread and pull tabs. The shoe was initially released at Nike and Tom Sachs’ Space Camp, an obstacle course where the trophy was a pair of sneakers. The uncanny collaboration was not just a means to produce a shoe (albeit, a very special shoe), but an inspiring reminder of how ideas and experience can be manifested in a product.

Patta x Vans Old Skool “Mean Eyed Cat”

Patta

While the inline variation of the Old Skool was cosigned in 2017 by everyone from A$AP Rocky to Kendall Jenner, Patta cooked up their own take on the classic low-top, arriving as the “Mean Eyed Cat” edition. Featuring overstated branding on the upper, midsole, and laces, the iconic Vans side stripe was offset by lateral “Patta” typography. Originally, a black colorway was released exclusively in Japan through BEAMS, with brown and white versions to follow, available through Patta in-store in Amsterdam and London, as well as online.

The release flew slightly under the radar compared to certain other headline-grabbing drops, but streetwear mainstay Patta hit on a nearly perfect harmony of details and branding, elevating the classic Old Skool in just the right way.

Hender Scheme x adidas Originals Micro Pacer

adidas Originals / Hender Scheme

For years, the Hender Scheme atelier in Tokyo has been hand-making amazing homage shoes with vegetable-tanned leather, created as premium, 1:1 versions of classic silhouettes like the Vans Era and Nike Air Jordan IV. Bigger sportswear brands have been riding the veg-tan wave as well, after Hender’s creations started drawing eyes from all over the industry. But this year, adidas and Hender Scheme worked directly together (Hender Scheme’s first-ever collaboration) to create super-luxe versions of the Superstar, Micro Pacer and NMD sneakers.

While the brands may seem to exist on different ends of the business spectrum, Hender Scheme founder Ryo Kashiwazaki noted to Highsnobiety that the collaboration opened his eyes to commonalities between both brands: “Although the two brands work on different scales of business, and the process is different, I feel that Hender Scheme and adidas have a lot in common.”

Given the cult following around Hender Scheme and the massive popularity boom being enjoyed by adidas over the past two years, many were excited to see this project officially sanctioned in August. We wouldn’t be surprised to see part two of this collaboration arrive in 2018, possibly with some accessories in the mix.

Virgil Abloh x Nike Air Jordan 1

Bryan Luna / Highsnobiety.com

Virgil Abloh’s “The Ten” collection with Nike was arguably the biggest sneaker release event of the year. After months of Instagram leaks and anticipation, the collection (minus the Converse Chuck Taylor All-Star, which releases Spring 2018) finally landed at retailers in November, with the Jordan 1 in a “Chicago” colorway considered by many to be the highlight of the pack.

The pack is seminal for a number of reasons, largely because it features a total of 10 reworked sneakers, technically including silhouettes from three brands: Nike, Converse and Jordan. Utilizing a deconstructed motif across the entire release, Virgil noted to Nike: “The Jordan 1 was done in one design session. I work in a very like dream-like state. I see it, and it’s done.”

Abloh was given unprecedented permission to chop up the iconic silhouette, unstitching the shoe’s top and bottom lace eyelets, delicately pinning Nike’s iconic Swoosh onto the shoe’s upper, and irreverently placing “AIR” branding on the midsole.

YEEZY Wave Runner 700

Asia Typek / Highsnobiety.com

First spotted on the feet of Kanye West near his Calabasas office, the Wave Runner 700 was first shown in an official context during the YEEZY Season 5 show in New York. Rumored to be co-designed by former Reebok and New Balance designer Steven Smith, the Wave Runner 700 features a chunky, orthopedic look with brazen color blocking and adidas’s Boost technology hidden in the sole.

In this fast-paced world of Amazon Prime and next-day delivery, sneakerheads apparently didn’t mind waiting months to get their paws on a pair, as YEEZY stans were left to pre-order the sneaker for $300 in mid-August, before it shipped in November. The importance of this shoe also boils down to Kanye West cosigning a major trend that we’ve already seen from adidas, as well as fashion brands like Balenciaga and Dior, indicating that we’ll probably be seeing chunky sneakers for seasons to come.

Tyler, The Creator x Converse Golf le FLEUR*

Converse

In July, Tyler officially confirmed his departure from longtime partner Vans, finally going public with his new Converse deal. The project brought to life his Golf le FLEUR* footwear concept, using the One Star silhouette as a canvas. Initially arriving in four color choices, the low-top featured Tyler’s signature flower motif, with GOLF le FLEUR* branding on the tongue and insole, overlaid floral panels on the upper, and a floral outsole.

In an interview with Dazed, Tyler made it clear that he wants people to enjoy and wear his shoes, but not belabor the designs: “It was literally pick four colorways I want to do and that was it. It’s not as intricate and deep as people be making shit out to be.”

While the 26-year-old was candid about his straightforward design process, this doesn’t detract from the instant appeal of the colorful low-tops. With this collaboration, Tyler once again reinstated himself as one of the most influential characters in both fashion and music, and although the sneakers launched just this year, you can be sure to expect more drops in 2018.

Balenciaga Triple S

Asia Typek / Highsnobiety.com

It was impossible to miss the rise of obtuse and unconventional shoes this year, and even Balenciaga – the most talked-about high fashion brand of 2017 – joined the party with the Triple S. The eye-grabbing silhouette inevitably became the face of the chunky sneaker trend, taking the aesthetic and exaggerating it to meme-worthy levels.

Designed by Demna Gvasalia for the brand’s FW17 show in Paris, the highly unconventional design features a triple-stacked sole and pre-distressed details, which were achieved meticulously by hand, before the shoes were thrown into a tumble dryer to be battered some more, according to several sources.

To create the heavily padded, triple-soled design, molds were taken from running, basketball, and track shoes. Adding some context to the design, Balenciaga described the shoe as “real, heavy-duty, high fashion-spec footwear.” Despite the divisive design and lofty price tag ($795), the shoes became Instagram status symbols almost instantly.

COMME des GARÇONS Homme Plus x Nike Dunk High

Bryan Luna / Highsnobiety.com

COMME des GARÇONS once again flexed its penchant for the avant-garde alongside longtime collaborator Nike. Reimagining the classic basketball silhouette, the Dunk High was fitted with a transparent toe and side-panels. First shown on the runway in Paris, the design will instantly remind old heads of the ESPO x Nike Air Force 1 release from 2004, which also featured transparent window panels.

According to Nike and legendary COMME des GARÇONS designer Rei Kawakubo, the Dunk’s design is a “humorous nod to Hans Christian Andersen’s account of an emperor’s vain misfortune — that he was tricked into buying and wearing ‘invisible clothing,’ thus exposing himself — the collection interprets the story’s underlying contradiction of invisibility as transparency,” which also parallels the contemporary social media culture of information overload and over-sharing.

11 by Boris Bidjan Saberi x Salomon Bamba 2

Salomon / Boris Bidjan Saberi

Before the YEEZY Wave Runner 700 and Balenciaga Triple S, it was arguably the utility of hiking and trail footwear that opened up the chunky-fashion sneaker category. Salomon’s mountain-ready styles – which landed at taste-making boutiques like Italy’s Slam Jam and Berlin’s SOTO – surely led this pivot away from classically minimalist styles like the Stan Smith. Special makeups with Parisian retailer The Broken Arm and later a collaboration with 11 by Boris Bidjan Saberi helped thrust Salomon into the forefront of 2017’s wave of unconventional sneakers.

Even taking the current fashion climate into consideration – where cross-genre collaborations are the great equalizer, and brands are working together between disparate categories – this is still a wonderfully bizarre collaboration, and one of our favorites from 2017.

Nike Zoom Vaporfly SP

Stanley Chen / Highsnobiety.com

In March, Nike announced its Breaking2 initiative, a project with the goal of helping runners to accomplish a marathon in under two hours. Kenyan long-distance runner Euklid Kipchoge eventually whittled the best recorded time to 2:00:25, wearing Nike’s maximalist Nike Vaporfly Elite shoe.

Based on that design, the subsequent Zoom Vaporfly SP took that same performance innovation and made it accessible to the masses, with a series of strong colorways to nurture further interest in streetwear circles. Although the shoe is an extreme example of Nike’s pure performance technology and steadfast work with the world’s best athletes – even featuring a full-length carbon fiber plate in the sole unit – the shoe was still a nearly instant success with marathoners and sneakerheads alike. Aside from the original color scheme, later releases were limited to exclusive “Shanghai” and “NYC” editions.

Norse Projects x adidas Consortium Terrex Agravic

Norse Projects/adidas Consortium

Their sneaker collaborations with New Balance may first come to mind, but Copenhagen’s hometown heroes Norse Projects aligned with adidas Consortium for a pack of two shoes, including the Terrex Agravic. Possibly one of the best winter options that still has the looks and feel of a sneaker, the Terrex Agravic featured a welded upper, reinforced with a GORE-TEX membrane, and finally a Boost sole unit.

You’d be hard-pressed to think of another sneaker release that blends utility and aesthetic in such a strong way. Also, in case you had any reservations about the sneaker’s performance capabilities, Norse Projects co-founder Tobia Sloth made sure to field test the shoe on a glacier in Iceland.

FILA Disruptor

Asia Typek / Highsnobiety.com

A confluence of specific trends in 2017 proved to be the ideal circumstances for the FILA Disruptor to reemerge as a street style banger in 2017. While other ’90s staples like Kappa and Champion also saw a resurgence in popularity, FILA managed to thrive over the last 12 months for many of the same reasons.

A resurgence of vintage trends mixed with the prominence of chunky sneaker silhouettes thrust the Disruptor into the spotlight as a trending option that doesn’t carry the same hefty price tag as some of its high fashion counterparts like the Raf Simons x adidas Originals Ozweego. Despite being picked up by commercial retailers like ASOS, the Disruptor was still a difficult cop, especially in the classic all-white colorway.

Raf Simons x adidas Originals Ozweego III “Bunny”

Eva Al Desnudo / Highsnobiety.com

The shoe that essentially launched the chunky sneaker trend – the adidas Ozweego, redesigned by Raf Simons – remained on the tip of many tongues this year. Perhaps 2017’s biggest street style staple at fashion weeks around the world, the Ozweego was first met with skepticism and even mockery, then embraced with open arms by fashion’s upper echelon tastemakers. Considering how long minimalistic sneakers like the adidas Stan Smith and Common Projects Achilles were dominating sneaker tastes, it seems many were simply waiting for a shoe to tip the scales.

For the “Bunny” colorway, industrial branding reading “FOLD GUSSET THIS SIDE ONLY” was added to the shoe’s obtuse shape, which also featured a more pared-back mixture of white and cream tones. However, the colorway is only a small factor of the Ozweego’s success story, as the sneaker has remained a mainstay for both fashionistas and sneakerheads for several years now.

COMME des GARÇONS x Nike Air VaporMax

Cameron Oates / Highsnobiety.com

Longtime collaborators COMME des GARÇONS and Nike kicked off the year with what remains one of 2017’s biggest sneaker collaborations. Optioned in two colorways, the laceless VaporMax iteration is a near perfect marriage of fashion and technology, arriving 30 years after the original Air Max 1 debuted visible air in 1987. The shoes debuted on the Parisian runway for Spring 2017, as part of Rei Kawakubo’s “invisible clothing” concept for the season. In fact, the COMME des GARÇONS version was released at retail before even the original “Pure Platinum” colorway became available.

While the VaporMax silhouette would later be treated to strong collaborations and general releases, becoming one of the most noteworthy new silhouettes of 2017 by any measure, the COMME des GARÇONS version still easily stands out 12 months later.

Undefeated x Nike Air Max 97

Asia Typek / Highsnobiety.com

The Air Max 97 made a major comeback in 2017. The initial, Italian-edition re-release of the Nike Air Max 97 “Silver Bullet” in late 2016 set the scene for the 97 to become one of the biggest Nike stories of this year. Coinciding with the silhouette’s 20th anniversary, Nike released a range of premium versions of the 97, as well as collaborations with the likes of Skepta and Real Madrid superstar Cristiano Ronaldo.

Longtime player in the streetwear space Undefeated also imagined white and black colorways of the 97. The monochromatic designs were offset by green and red stripes, cleverly timed with 2017’s Gucci-mania heralded by newly enlisted creative director Alessandro Michele. Patent leather wraparound and subtle “Undefeated” lettering truly set the sneaker off.

Travis Scott x Nike Air Force 1

Nike

Often, the slightly adversarial nature of sneaker culture splits people into camps, and rap phenomenon Travis Scott has always been team Nike. He’s consistently spotted touring in Jordans, and featured in a campaign for Nike’s Air VaporMax silhouette. It was only a matter of time until Scott and Nike worked together in a more direct sense, and following his relatively underwhelming Jordan Trunner LX collaboration, the Houston native tried his hand at the classic Nike Air Force 1.

The immense team-up of Nike with one of hip-hop’s biggest personalities brought us an Air Force 1 with interchangeable Velcro Swooshes and a lace deubré fashioned after Scott’s signature grills. This release was a certain highlight of the “AF100” pack, which celebrated the Air Force 1’s 35th anniversary.

Gucci Ace

Asia Typek / Highsnobiety.com

The low-top, tennis-inspired Gucci Ace sneaker was one of the biggest Instagram flexes of 2017. The silhouette came in a spectrum of embroidered versions, with different botanical, emoji-like options to choose from, including bumblebees, lightning bolts, and Gucci snakes that were very much in line with Alessandro Michele’s overstated, nature-themed creative vision.

Later in the year, the Ace was introduced in even more options, featuring badge appliqués across the laces. Extra patches were offered by Gucci for mixing and matching. While the landscape of high fashion footwear can sometimes be intimidating as an outsider looking in, the Ace was reassuring in its simple, timeless design, yet the wide variety of detail options left many prospective buyers feeling like they owned a product that was truly unique.

Stüssy x New Balance 990

Stussy

Every new brand established in the streetwear space is essentially following a trail that was originally blazed by Stüssy and likeminded imprints. Since being founded, the brand has changed hands from the original owner Shawn Stussy, but has never sold out, remaining a leader in the space.

A longtime collaborator with Nike, Converse, and occasionally Vans, September heralded the reprisal of Stüssy’s line of New Balance collaborations. A tonal, cream-colored 990 was the result of the project, reminding us that pomp and circumstance aren’t always the best ingredients in a collaboration. The sneaker appeals to today’s sensibilities, and also captivates those of us that have been around to see the best and worst sides of sneaker collaborations. The Stüssy x New Balance 990’s understated finish certainly appeals to the latter.

Nike Air Max 1 OG “University Red”

43einhalb

For Air Max Day 2017, Nike brought back two original colorways of Tinker Hatfield’s Air Max 1, the very first sneaker to feature the advent of visible air. Featuring the same cut as the originator (Nike finally nailed the toe box, the shape of which was vastly improved upon versus previous retros), “University Red” was followed by a “University Blue” colorway, all packed in a vintage box with grey stripes and orange lid, faithfully calling back to vintage Nike packaging.

These days, the term “OG” gets thrown around a lot, but it was refreshing to see a release that was truly deserving of the moniker. As the Air Max 1 will forever be synonymous with its original red-and-white colorway, this release certainly deserves a nod on our end-of-year list.

Parley for the Oceans x adidas Ultra Boost

sneakers.fr

Working with Parley for the Oceans, adidas has been pushing ocean sustainability and recycling practices to the forefront of sneaker culture. The resulting Ultra Boost collaboration (and more Parley x adidas releases that followed) was a compelling marriage of hyped sneakers and eco-friendly manufacturing. The first actual product release came on World Oceans Day in 2016, while July 2017 ushered in perhaps the best iteration from the project, the “Ice Blue” Ultra Boost 3.0, which leveraged the Ultra Boost’s runaway popularity to give Parley a bigger platform.

While resell prices didn’t reach triple-black NMD levels, and later releases like the Parley EQTs did sit on shelves, you have to applaud the fact that adidas is consciously using sneaker culture to bring awareness to a global problem that will surely affect younger generations. During a video interview with Highsnobiety, adidas Originals Senior Design Director Erman Aykurt probably put it best: “Helping us in spreading the message, when they’re flexing on Instagram, that’s the best thing that can happen to us.”

Balenciaga Speed Trainer

Bryan Luna / Highsnobiety.com

On the complete opposite end of the spectrum of Balenciaga’s obtuse Triple S sneaker, the Speed Trainer was a sleek, monochromatic knitted silhouette that started being delivered in early 2017, and has been consistently selling out all year. Available in three cuts – low, high, and extra-high – the lightweight, Italian-made sneaker was optioned in a range of pared-back colorways from burgundy to grey melange, complete with a rugged, geometric sole unit.

Using its popularity on Instagram as a baseline, the Speed Trainer silhouette was truly the best embodiment of the sock-sneaker trend in 2017, at least in the high fashion world. What’s more, Balenciaga hit on a truly winning formula by having a sleek, knitted sneaker on deck, as well as a chunky, dad-core option in the form of the Triple S.

Our Legacy x Vans Half Cab

Vans / Our Legacy

Storytelling isn’t always prerequisite for strong design, but Our Legacy’s sneaker and apparel drop with Vans (the brand’s first-ever branded collaboration, aside from in-store exclusives for their Stockholm flagship) definitely excelled in both respective departments.

Drawing inspiration from California hardcore punk culture, the pack included reworked versions of the Authentic, Half Cab, and Old Skool, featuring nylon details as well as a black-and-orange color scheme. Speaking with Highsnobiety, Our Legacy co-founder Jockum Hallin revealed that working with Vans was a major personal milestone, as he couldn’t even get his hands on the shoes when he was younger: “Vans wasn’t really available in Sweden when I was a kid, but all the bands that I admired, they all had the same shoes.”

While there may be no immediate or obvious connection between Our Legacy’s signature, Swedish minimalism and Vans’s California skate heritage, the collaboration was certainly well-executed, as well as being a favorite of Highsnobiety‘s editorial staff.

Virgil Abloh x Nike Air Presto

Asia Typek / Highsnobiety.com

Far and away the most anticipated sneaker collaboration of the year, “The Ten” could quite easily have occupied 10 different spots on this list, save the Converse Chuck Taylor All-Star, which as previously mentioned doesn’t arrive until Spring 2018. Similar to Virgil’s Jordan make-up, the Presto featured several undeniably strong design twists that helped elevate it above the rest. In an age when tons of (sometimes) lazily color-blocked collaborations are releasing each and every weekend, Virgil made a point of advancing the status quo by fundamentally altering each shoe in “The Ten.”

The Presto’s upper was flipped inside-out to reveal hidden seams, a reflective Swoosh was added under the shoe’s plastic cage, and a decorative foam tongue was secured to the forefoot, resulting in a surefire contender for shoe of the year. Plus, Instagram teasing from Luka Sabbat and A$AP Nast (who was gifted a specially Sharpie’d “AWGE” pair), pushed the interest around these Prestos to peak levels, months before they even released.

Alyx Studios x Vans

Asia Typek / Highsnobiety.com

There was no shortage of Vans collaborations in 2017, from disruptive streetwear startup Anti Social Social Club to legendary haute couture designer Karl Lagerfeld, but one of the better examples came in the midst of summer from Alyx Studios. While the statement lighter cap detail was objectively a strong, original touch across a handful of Vans sneakers, the release’s true merit stems from the archival silhouettes picked out by Alyx founder Matthew Williams.

Dredging up several styles that have been absent from the Vans catalog for some time, Style 29 was fitted with a chunky lug sole, while Style 36 featured toecap stitching that was faithful to the original Vans design worn by prisoners.

The pack was strong in its entirety, but the best fit for core sneakerheads arguably was the parchment-colored Authentic which featured streetwear-friendly Alyx branding on the midsole.

Sean Wotherspoon x Nike Air Max 91/1

@Seanwotherspoon / Instagram

The face of curated consignment shop Round Two, Sean Wotherspoon was the winner of 2017’s Nike Air Max Day “RevolutionAir” contest. Designed in collaboration with the likes of Ben Baller and A$AP Nast, his concept sneaker saddled the Air Max 97’s upper on an Air Max 1 sole unit, going even further to replace the 97’s rippling 3M panels with characteristic corduroy in a pastel color palette. Wotherspoon made sure to really finesse the details, also including Velcro patches on the tongue for mixing and matching, in addition to an infrared air bubble.

Although the shoe was originally slated to drop on Air Max Day 2018, several limited release events were held before the end of the year at Union in Los Angeles and Need Supply in Richmond, Virginia, the latter of which was actually canceled when a mob showed up at the shop’s front door.

Nike Air Force 1 ’07 (All-Over Swoosh Pack)

Andrea D'Auria / Highsnobiety.com

Aside from collaborations with Public School, John Elliot, and Travis Scott, Nike unleashed a grip of strong general release Air Force 1s in 2017.

While it didn’t come with an official title, the affectionately nicknamed “Mini-Swoosh” (we see you Alexandra) pack included three colorways, each splashed with mini Nike Swooshes across the upper. The sneakers offered the look and feel of a personalized pair, but despite how they may have looked at a distance, these were no Sharpie customs.

The Highsnobiety Crowns are an annual awards series celebrating the very best in streetwear and street culture over the past 12 months. See all of this year’s nominees here.

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