The HS 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.
For every vote you cast in this year’s HS Crowns you have the chance to win a brand new iPad Pro or an Apple Watch. The full list of results will be published just before Christmas.
Supreme Jordan V
The hype surrounding this release was inevitable and has been well documented, but in terms of simple design, Supreme’s collaboration with Jordan Brand was also incredibly solid.
The New York skate brand took a far more subtle approach compared to last year’s big b-ball collab (the Supreme Foamposite One), and the result felt like real vintage Supreme. Granted, they could have put out the gaudiest, ugliest design on Earth and these would still have sold out, but thankfully the Supreme x Jordan Vs were actually super clean and fresh — something perhaps overlooked amid all the madness required to get your hands on a pair.
adidas YEEZY Boost 350
While some might argue that, historically speaking, Kanye West’s shoe output has leant rather heavily on unnecessary bells and whistles, the YEEZY Boost 350s were refreshingly understated.
That’s not to say this was a dull shoe — far from it. The woven one-piece upper is fantastically constructed, and the Boost sole is vastly superior to that of a shoe like the Roshe One (a comparison that many lazy detractors made). No matter how loud the haters spoke, they were no match for the legions of fans who queued, refreshed, bought, bartered and traded to get their hands on a pair (in whatever color), making this easily the most sought-after shoe of 2015.
adidas YEEZY Boost 750
When compared to their smaller sibling, the YEEZY Boost 750s felt more like a continuation of Kanye West’s work with Nike than something entirely new.
The design contained all the hallmarks of previous YEEZY efforts: hi-top silhouette, strapped upper, exorbitant price tag. However, the newly adopted color palette turned out to be a key turning point for the Kanye aesthetic, and will no doubt mark an important time in his personal history. While, for many, the stylistic adjustment was a shock to the system, once it had been fleshed out with the rest of his YEEZY vision it started to make a whole lot of sense.
Nike x ACRONYM Air Force 1
Since the brand’s inception, Errolson Hugh’s ACRONYM has continually pushed the boundaries of unorthodox performance apparel. So, when it was announced that the Canadian designer would be collaborating with Nike on an Air Force 1 it was always going to be something pretty unique.
In that respect, Hugh did not disappoint, deconstructing the entire shoe to its constituent panels before piecing it back together in a deliberately ragged, patchwork fashion. The result was about as polarising as you could have asked for. To some, it was an absolute Frankenstein’s monster; to others, it was the most bold and inventive piece of footwear design all year. Where you sat on that divide was purely down to personal taste.
Fragment Design x Nike Sock Dart
Sometimes the world is simply not ready for what you have to offer. Case in point: the Nike Sock Dart. Originally released back in 2004, it was met with a bemused and lukewarm response from a market that hadn’t yet warmed to knitted uppers and strange sneaker fashion. Undeterred, they put it on ice and waited until the mood had thawed. Ten years later, and who better to return the design to the world than Hiroshi Fujiwara, with this standout olive green colorway? Who says you only get one shot in life?
Air Jordan 1 “Chicago”
One of the most classic sneakers known to man, the return of the original Jordan 1 in all its Chicago Bulls-inspired glory was always going to be huge. Released back in May, some 30 years after the original, the style looked every bit as fresh as it always did, and became a street-style grail all over again. Staying true to history, Nike even omitted the Jumpman from the shoe, referencing the fact that the logo was only designed later in his career. A true sneaker icon.
Pigalle x Nike Lebron XII
Nike and Pigalle’s collaborative relationship has produced a number of stellar releases in the past, although this year was decidedly quiet in comparison to what we’ve seen previously. Still, what 2015 lacked in quantity, it more than made up for with the release of this unique take on the LeBron 12 Elite. It’s no secret that basketball is a major part of Pigalle’s raison d’être, but whether you shoot hoops or not, this design was crazy enough to make anyone go weak at the knees.
adidas Ultra Boost “White”
The adidas Ultra Boost was a strong continuation of adidas’ evolving Boost line, following the Pure Boost and Energy Boost in providing a sneaker that’s both wearable and highly functional. And that’s how it would’ve stayed, were it not for the appearance of a certain Kanye West at the Billboard Music Awards in an all-white pair, catapulting them to international sneaker superstardom.
After the relatively slept-on Pure Boost, that kind of exposure couldn’t have happened to a more deserving sneaker, and the Boost line finally earned the prestige adidas always believed it deserved.
Takashi Murakami x Vans Slip On
Fashion should be fun, right? It doesn’t all have to be serious and moody, with gaunt models and all-black clothes. Japanese artist Takashi Murakami certainly thinks so, echoing this sentiment in his first ever footwear collaboration earlier this year. With its large, open toe-box, the Vans Slip-On proved absolutely perfect to exhibit his signature cartoonesque artwork, serving as an entirely different kind of canvas to the type he’s used to…
24 Kilates x Diadora N9000 “Toro”
While it’s unlikely to receive many votes from PETA members, this year Barcelona sneaker boutique 24 Kilates paid tribute to Spain’s national pastime with one of the most interesting sneaker concepts of the whole year. Teaming up with Diadora for the 10th time now, they released their craziest shoe design yet — an N9000 dressed entirely in long black calf hair reminiscent of the bulls used in bullfighting. The result was like nothing we’d ever seen before and, regardless of the ethics involved, you have to applaud that bravery.
Afew x ASICS Gel Lyte III “KOI”
The “KOI” actually began life as a one-of-a-kind display item celebrating Japan Day in the Afew store in Düsseldorf. However, after receiving so many enquiries from customers about where they could get a pair, the store reached out to ASICS to produce a retail edition.
The result was one of the most fully realised sneaker concepts of the year. A camo-speckled sole reminiscent of fishscales, a photographic insole depicting the very first Japan Day and the making of the original shoe, a pair of embroidered heel tabs, spare laces in little pots marked “soy” and “wasabi”, commemorative chopsticks and a beautiful wooden display box — a lot of thought went into this one.
Gosha Rubchinskiy x Vans Slip On
While a fair amount of fuss was kicked up over Gosha’s Sk8-Hi collaboration in September, for our money his best footwear project this year came in the summer with his Vans Slip On. Extending those motifs seen in his capsule collection paying homage to Russian countercultural artist Timur Novikov, the repeated sun pattern over the broad upper gave the impression of plush upholstery. And that always wins points in our book.
adidas x Raf Simons Ozweego II “Cream”
Raf Simons’ reboot of the adidas Ozweego has been around for a few seasons now, but this year it went absolutely stratospheric. Previous iterations of the shoe have revelled in unusual color combinations, juxtaposing shades like pea green alongside ultramarine and salmon pink. So, when a tasteful tonal cream edition dropped this year, all those people too shy to rock the crazier efforts saw their chance, and took it. Some might say that’s a cop out, but that didn’t stop this shoe being massive in 2015.
KITH X PUMA R698 “Sakura”
While many imitators have since followed, Ronnie Fieg basically invented the “toe-dip” style of shoe design, and no-one does it better than him. Case in point: the PUMA R698 “Sakura”. Launched in conjunction with Japanese retailer United Arrows, the cherry blossom-inspired design was actually part of a full capsule collection that also included a RF698 Mid sneaker. Nevertheless, the way that Merlot-colored toe bled into the cream of the upper made this the standout piece, and one of the year’s most eye-catching bits of footwear.
Just Don x Air Jordan 2
Purveyor of rare snapbacks, co-founder of RSVP Gallery and personal confident of Kanye himself, Don C is a well-connected man — so well-connected, in fact, that he got his own Jordan release this year. The outrageously luxurious design pitted quilted royal blue leather against soft Italian suede in a typically unsubtle bit of sneaker showboating. And if that wasn’t enough, it even came with a matching varsity jacket to really lock in people’s attention.
Air Jordan 10 OVO
Drake is a nice guy, we all know that. After sneaking out his super clean OVO Jordan 10s via a surprise in-store release in LA, he then gave the rest of the world a chance to grab a pair with a worldwide rollout the following month. Because he’s nice like that. And the shoes themselves? In a supremely classy melange of beige, cream, white and gold, they too were very nice. Very nice indeed.
Converse Chuck Taylor All Star 2
How do you improve on a shoe that has sold over one billion pairs worldwide in its lifetime? That was the question the Converse design team was presented with back in 2014, as they set about reimagining the world’s longest-running sneaker design. Their answer was the Converse Chuck Taylor All Star 2, which resolved many of the comfort and durability issues that the original had traditionally suffered from without forcing any drastic changes on the time-honored silhouette. Just enough to keep the Chuck going for anther hundred years, then.
Nike Foamposite “Tianjin”
Releasing a Foamposite in an understated colourway kind of defeats the purpose. This is, after all, one of the most avant-garde, attention grabbing and, yes, wilfully ugly/beautiful sneaker styles Nike has ever released — which is exactly why this carp-and-lotus-flower adorned assault on the senses actually hit the spot like a heat seeking missile. You might not think anyone could love it, but one look at its resale price this year would certainly indicate otherwise…
adidas Originals x Pharrell BBC Stan Smith
For most people, Billionaire Boys Club feels like a bit of a distant memory these days, and whether that’s a warm, rose-tinted memory or a horrible nightmare probably determined how you felt about the BBC Stan Smiths when they dropped this year. Dressed in full pony hair and bearing the brand’s famous “dollars and diamonds” print from 2005, this sneaker was a glorious and completely shameless tribute to the eye-popping color contrasts of the mid-’00s. Those really were the days.
adidas Futurecraft Leather
adidas has been pushing the boundaries on all sides recently, but none were perhaps more important to the sneaker industry as a whole than its “Futurecraft” project. While their 3D printed running shoes and recycled ocean plastic outsoles remained in the conceptual phases this year, their groundbreaking single piece leather Superstar saw a very limited release in November.
While just 45 of the shoes were put on sale, that shouldn’t obscure the fact that this pioneering new method of shoe construction — using precision milling to shape a single piece of leather into the entire shoe — is one of the most significant advances of its kind, and represents a joining of the dots between adidas’ glorious past and its hugely exciting future.
Nike Air Max 95 “Greedy”
The Air Max 95 is one of those shoes that will forever be associated with a single colorway. Most people probably thought you couldn’t get better than the OG “Neon” that was re-released this year to mark its 20th anniversary. Then along came the “Greedy”, which was essentially one quarter “Neon” and three-quarters equally incredible other colorways, all of which added up to a whole lot of awesome.
Air Jordan VI “Maroon”
With the mindboggling number of retro Jordan releases Nike put out it’s hard to imagine there are that many truly sought-after gems left in the archives. Well, in the Jordan VI “Maroon” they certainly found one.
Absent from stores since way back in 1991, this crisp and unassuming colorway has the added twist of Nike Air branding sewn into the heel, which might not sound like a big deal to laymen, but to sneakerheads is “change of underwear” territory. Just as well the chances of a layman getting hold of a pair were next to none.
Nike Cortez “Forrest Gump”
Yet another spectacularly well-timed re-release from Nike. As the world grows ever-more tired of the over-complex futurism of shoes like the Huarache, a shoe as classic and humble as the Cortez suddenly seems like the perfect antidote. While there have been some truly excellent Cortez colorways to have dropped this year, none can touch the iconic status of the original “Forrest Gump”. It’s not limited. It’s not expensive. It’s just a really, really, really good-looking sneaker.
Eminem x Carhartt x Air Jordan IV
There aren’t many people who can sell a pair of shoes with their name on for thirty thousand dollars. In fact, Marshall didn’t just sell one of these, he sold 10, raking in an incredible $227,552 for charity.
That kind of price tag means it’s extremely unlikely that you, your friends or anyone you know will ever get a whiff of these in anything other than virtual format, but that doesn’t mean you can’t appreciate them from afar… and paw at the screen wishing you had that kind of dough sitting in your monthly sneaker budget.
Kendrick Lamar x Reebok Ventilator “Red & Blue”
Kendrick has had a big year: a new album, a pair of Grammys, a trio of BET Awards. But bigger than all those things was his message of empowerment, inclusion and positivity among the black community, which has spread further and wider than ever before.
While they may be purely symbolic, these “Red & Blue” Reebok Ventilators sent a powerful message to the world about what can be achieved if you put aside petty differences and work together to move forward. That deserves celebration in its own right, so the fact they were pretty damn fine was simply a bonus.
Ronnie Fieg x Slam Jam x Diadora RF7000
As we’ve mentioned previously in these Awards, Diadora is — without a doubt — the surprise success story of 2015. From a position of next to no relevance at all within the streetwear scene, the heritage Italian sneaker brand has pulled off the mother of all turnarounds, and shoes like the Ronnie Fieg-designed V7000 (renamed the RF7000) are the reason why. The gum sole said “classic”, the rope laces said “current”, and a subtle but clever mix of materials, tones and finishes gave the shoe a real level of depth. We said, “more please”.
CNCPTS x New Balance 997 “Luxury Goods”
Unsurprisingly, no-one does “concepts” better than CNCPTS. That said, occasionally their ideas are a liiittle stronger than the actual footwear (sorry guys!). That certainly wasn’t the case with the 997 “Luxury Goods”. Inspired by the signature orange so loved by fashion über-royalty Hermès, the sneakers were simple, straightforward, and looked so strong contrasting when a pair of crisp indigo denim that you had to high-five your own reflection. Bravo guys, this one really worked.
ASICS Gel Lyte III “Made In Japan”
We named the Hender Scheme Jordan IV as our Editor’s Choice sneaker of 2014, and it seems we were bang on the money, trend wise. This year has seen an absolute torrent of tonal, vegetable-tanned leather sneakers hit the market, all following Hender Scheme’s lead in a bizarre full-circle of “imitating the imitator.” Among them, one of the strongest was certainly ASICS’s “Made In Japan” Gel Lyte III, which feels entirely appropriate, given what inspired it. Clearly no one does nude leather like the Japanese.
Filling Pieces Low Top “Splash”
According to the apocryphal tale, the “Splash” was a product of pure serendipity. What first began life as a failed experiment with a new kind of leather was transformed into something else entirely when someone at the FP factory suggested adding paint splatters to cover up the defect. What resulted was one of Filling Pieces’ first true “super hype” sneakers, selling out in just two hours, proving the brand had really built upon its early reputation among sneaker fans right across the world. We knew they won our Best Breakthrough Brand award last year for a reason…
Hender Scheme “2015” Sneaker
These days, everyone knows about Hender Scheme. Yet, much to the great annoyance of founder Ryo Kashiwazaki, 95% of the reason the brand is famous to people in the West is its “Homage” range of iconic replica sneakers.
While Hender Scheme has always produced a range of original designs, they tended to be on the more formal side of footwear. However, all that changed with the “2015” sneaker, which could be the first step toward showing the world just how creative the artisans at the company really are, as well as being masters of their craft.
- Featured Image: Solebox
- Words: AJ Gwilliam & Calum Gordon