A Decade of Sneakers: 100 Releases That Shaped Modern Sneaker Culture
- Text: Chris Danforth
Common Projects Achilles
The Common Projects Achilles sneaker was first launched in three colorways (white, gray, and black) by founders Peter Poopat and Flavio Girolami, and was quickly canonised into a status symbol by the menswear set. Premium leather, $400 price tag, no embellishments aside from subtle numeric text in gold – this is not everyone’s idea of a tennis shoe. The Achilles eventually became one of the most imitated sneakers of the following years, spawning numerous minimalist footwear brands who also used the Margom cup sole that Common Projects made famous.
Ronnie Fieg x ASICS GEL-Lyte 3 “Cove”
This Kith precursor was Ronnie Fieg’s 2010 twist on the Asics GEL-Lyte 3 for retailer David Z. Starting with the 2007 “252” pack, Fieg’s David Z-exclusive makeups showed glimpses of the designer’s shrewd ability for color blocking. This early “Cove” colorway was inspired by the clear waters off the Bahamian coast, as Fieg experimented with a vivid, tonal colorway that was released in only 300 pairs.
Nike LeBron 8 “South Beach”
This particular LeBron 8 colorway was created by Nike to coincide with King James’ 2010 move from his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers to warmer pastures at the Miami Heat. The Nike LeBron 8 “South Beach” is finished in a distinctively tropical, Miami-inspired color palette, and is arguably the most collectible LeBron signature model ever released, in part due to its daring colorway, and due to the context of LeBron James’s high-profile move, which shook up the NBA at the time. The LeBron 8 “South Beach” took King James’ signature line to another level of popularity.
Parra x Nike Air Max 1 “Cherrywood”
From Amsterdam to the world; 258 pairs of Parra’s Air Max 1 “Cherrywood” were released at Patta in March 2010, and the characteristic color makeup quickly became one of the most globally sought-after and coveted of all the designs to ever decorate the original Air Max silhouette. The tonal “Cherrywood” makeup created by hometown hero Piet Parra (Parra is short for “paranoid,” a nickname given to him by the Patta crew) is matched with a symphony of textures, including chenille for the Swoosh and tongue, mesh for the toe box, and, of course, a suede upper These sneakers are so collectible, Parra told us not even he has a deadstock pair.
Nike Lunar Woven Chukka “Multicolor”
Pre-heated by an exclusive release at SOPH.net in Japan, the “Multicolor” Lunar Woven Chukka become an object of interest for sneakerheads around the world. The fascinating woven upper, rainbow colorway, and Lunar sole all amounted to a design which looked like nothing on the footwear market at the time, while the exclusivity factor added even more mystique to the sneaker.
Doernbecher x Nike Air Jordan 3 Retro
Nike’s ongoing Doernbecher series (named after Portland-based Doernbecher Children’s Hospital) gives children battling serious illnesses the ability to tell their own personal story throgh a limited-edition shoe. 11-year-old cancer survivor Cole Johanson created his own version of the Air Jordan 3, which captured the attention of collectors thanks to the lasered pattern on the upper, as well as the icy blue outsole.
Slam Jam x ASICS GEL-Lyte 3 “5th Dimension”
Using a rather abstract reference as the inspiration for this colorway, Slam Jam created a “5th Dimension” GEL-Lyte 3 with ASICS in 2010. The gradient midsole blending from grey to bright red toward the heel was what set this collaboration apart from the standard GEL-Lyte 3. As a testament to the collectibility of this collaborative ASICS sneaker, Slam Jam followed up with a “6th Parallel” colorway in 2016, featuring a similar midsole gradient.
Alife Everybody High
An icon in its own right, the Everybody High was produced in a wide variety of materials and makeups, from logo-laden iterations to lumberjack-style plaid color schemes. The shoe was discontinued around 2012, and remained just a memory from 2009-2010, until 2019, when Alife brought the sneaker back with proud “New York City” branding on the upper. It’s tough to miss the similarities between Alife’s Everybody High sneaker and another seminal skateboarding model produced by the brand with the Swoosh, but with this, Alife continued a strong tradition of independent skate and streetwear brands bootlegging the bigger guys. “It’s special for sure. Alife footwear was a pioneer in sneakers in the early 2000s. Being able to bring back the Everybody High and to introduce it to a new generation is exciting. We wanted to create something that was simple, something easy to wear in this year or four years from now.” -Treis Hill, Alife
Nike SB Dunk High “Skunk”
A perfect example of the oft-playful nature of the SB line, this cannabis-inspired design was a collaboration with skate artist Todd Bratrud. The “Skunk” SB Dunk High debuted in 2010, just ahead of the annual 4/20 holiday. The shoe’s fuzzy suede construction recreates the green and purple look of the popular strain of the same name. The “Skunk” SB High could also be considered the first to popularize the idea of a hidden stash pocket, in fitting with the shoe’s color theme.
Solebox x adidas EQT Support
Berlin-based Solebox re-imagined the adidas EQT Support for the silhouette’s 20th anniversary, In place of the EQT Support’s signature green and grey color scheme, Solebox’s Hikmet Sugoer swapped out the shoe’s original green colorways, opting for a Berlin-inspired palette of black, white and red. Solebox was the only retailer to sell this particular collaboration, which showed the beginning of performance products trickling into a lifestyle context.
“At this time, it was not really possible to do a collaboration on a performance product. We crossed the line between lifestyle and performance with this collaboration. Shoes like the Superstar, Campus, or Edberg were performance shoes that made it to the streets, and with this Equipment collaboration, it was the same idea.”
Sneaker designer Ronnie Fieg founds Kith and takes on the world
For many younger sneakerheads, Ronnie Fieg and Kith became a gateway into the nuances of sneaker culture. Initially known for his eye for color-blocking models like the ASICS GEL-Lyte 3 when designing the 252 pack for retailer David Z, Fieg later established his ability for re-invigorating underdog brands and products that others may have overlooked, like Sebago boat shoes and Red Wing boots.The first Kith stores opened in 2011, and the shop’s in-house cut-and-sew collections slowly matured season after season. Featuring a snug ankle cuff and roomy cargo pockets, the Mercer pant further helped put Kith and Fieg on the map.Since then, the Kith brand has become known for its clean, Daniel Arsham-designed interiors; the Kith Treats sub-brand of ice cream; and playful pop culture collaborations with the likes of Disney, Sprite, and Cap’n Crunch.
The rise of knitted textiles
In 2012, Nike arrived at the London 2012 Summer Olympics with something new that would go on to define research and development for many footwear brands in following years. This innovation was Flyknit, a textile that was subsequently and widely imitated by competitors, including adidas Primeknit, PUMA evoKNIT, Reebok Ultraknit, and many more. “Volt”-colored Nike Flyknit footwear was effortlessly discernible on the feet of athletes like Mo Farah who donned eye-catching neon track spikes that made headlines the world over. In addition to the performance track footwear, Nike Flyknit Trainers and Flyknit Racer sneakers were given to athletes to wear on the podium and during the opening ceremony. The shoes were gifted to Nike athletes, also done up in Nike’s signature “Volt” colorway, featuring “USA” stitched into the tongue. In addition to standing out on television screens across the world, these new Flyknit shoes were far lighter, and offered a new set of performance qualities unparalleled by shoes with traditional leather uppers. “Flyknit was a paradigm shift. It changed the way performance footwear was designed, produced and worn. For the first time since the beginning of mass production, it offered an alternative to the cutting, sewing, stitching and gluing that constrained the design, manufacture and fit of shoes. Not only has it allowed for the creation of one of the lightest, most form-fitting performance shoes ever, but it is also a manufacturing technique that reduces waste.”-Tony Bignell, VP of Footwear Innovation, Nike
Before it was a mythically collectible sneaker, the Nike MAG was a humble movie prop in Back to the Future Part II. The “power-lacing” shoe worn by Michael J. Fox in the film was designed with the help of Tinker Hatfield, and Nike later worked on making this auto-lacing technology more than just a special effect. The Nike MAG was then produced in 1500 pairs in 2011, and auctioned with net proceeds going directly to the Michael J. Fox Foundation. This special piece of movie memorabilia and highly collectible sneaker is still considered one of the all-time sneaker grails, and will be for years to come. Yet another Nike MAG release came in 2016 and dropped in 89 pairs, featuring Nike’s “adaptive fit,” which senses the wearer and tightens or loosens fit accordingly.
Concepts x New Balance 999 “Kennedy”
With the “Kennedy” 999, Boston-based Concepts took creative detailing and story-driven colorways to a new level, creating an homage to the Kennedy family and New England sailing culture. Clever, nautical references – including navy signal flag motifs on the tongue, rigging-inspired laces, and rip-stop nylon panels – made this made-in-USA makeup unparalleled. “Concepts blazed a trail early in the game by developing meaningful stories behind colabs when it wasn’t the norm. It was more than color and materials, and that’s what made the shoe special. The Kennedy represents a moment in time where there was a major transition into a retro running shoe craze. Fortunately, the timing, story, and design resonated in a way that made a bigger impact than any of us could foresee. We literally had no idea.”
-Frank the Butcher
BAPE x adidas Originals Superstar “B-Sides”
While original founder NIGO was still running BAPE, this co-branded adidas Superstar was one of the most anticipated releases of 2011. Rather than BAPE’s eye-catching camouflage, the talking points became clever details like “TREFLE EN CHEVRONS ET BAPE” text and the BAPE ape head logo with overlaying sergeant chevron insignia. While the Superstar was typically associated with a clean, white-on-white design, BAPE’s version lofted-up the clean tennis sneaker into a collectible with clever details. BAPE’s Superstar came together with a “B-Sides” pack that included collaborations from others, like Footpatrol and Undefeated.
uniform experiment x Nike Zoom Tennis Classic
This Tennis Classic collaboration was created by Nike and uniform experiment, a label run by Hiroshi Fujiwara and SOPH.’s Hirofumi Kiyonaga. Fujiwara continued to establish his eye for simple design twists with this pack of four low-top sneakers, including black, grey, red and cyan colorways. With this collaboration, he provided an answer to a question that we’ve all asked ourselves about general release sneakers: “What if it came in a better colorway?” The curated color palette and subtle branding – including fragment’s signature lightning bolt logo and uniform experiment text – helped cement Fujiwara as a tastemaker who didn’t need to shout in order to have his name heard.
Ronnie Fieg x ASICS GEL-Lyte 3 “Salmon Toe”
Perhaps the most recognizable example of Fieg’s “dipped-toe” aesthetic, this special ASICS makeup was the first shoe to officially release for the grand opening of Kith, and Fieg himself considers the shoe a turning point in his career. Fieg held a giveaway with one of the first “Salmon Toe” samples, and later received a lengthy e-mail petition asking him to produce the shoe in more pairs. The resulting collector’s set was a 40-pair run that included a special box and exclusive T-shirt. Fieg later doubled-down on the dipped-toe look, producing similarly color blocked sneakers like his later two PUMA Disc Blaze collaborations.
Nike LeBron 9
While LeBron James’ signature footwear line has now reached its 17th iteration, it was the LeBron 9 that struck a core with sneakerheads more than any other of his signature models. Maybe it’s due to the fact that LeBron took home his first title while wearing the 9, or maybe it’s because the shoe is packed with tech like Zoom Air, Max Air, Flywire, and even fiberglass, but for many collectors, LeBron’s signature line is all about the 9.
Nike Air Jordan 5 “Tokyo T23”
This special Jordan 5 was released to celebrate the Jordan Tokyo 23 store in Japan. This highly limited-edition model features an inverted 23 insignia on the heel, with a yellow suede upper, and is regarded not only as one of the most collectible Jordans of the decade, but also one of the most expensive. Although the Jordan 5 T23 used a formula that now seems simple – create a limited colorway and drop it as a local exclusive – this kind of marketing-driven thinking was something that brands were only starting to become familiar with in 2011.
Bodega x Nike Air Footscape Pack
Bodega’s 2011 collaboration with Nike was aimed at illustrating the evolution of the Air Footscape, one of the most divisive hate-it-or-love-it designs in Nike’s footwear catalog. The collaboration of three shoes dropped on Friday, May 13, 2011, and was presented under the thematic catch phrase of “Black Cat, Good Luck – Bad Luck.” It was a big year for Footscape fans, as only a month later, Nike’s Asia-exclusive Air Footscape Woven Chukka “Animal” pack dropped, featuring neck-snapping zebra and leopard motifs. “Naturally being able to collaborate with Nike was a very big deal. We had only been open for five years and having that opportunity was a dream come true. The pack was released on the anniversary of Bodegas opening and sold out instantly. What was nice about the pack is that it featured both the OG Footscape and Footscape woven silhouettes together. Visually, they complemented each other nicely and embodied the Footscape story.” -Dan Natola, Bodega
Nike Free Run 2
The Nike Free Run 2 was developed after years of research and development, with the aim of creating a shoe that reflects the mechanics of bare-foot running. The Free Run 2 underpinned a later thread of lightweight, minimalist sneaker designs that continued throughout the rest of the decade. While the Free Run 2 was widely available from running stores around the world, Nike also issued up a number of limited versions that caught the eye of sneakerheads, including a Doernbecher version, premium leather Tier Zero versions, and locally exclusive “City Pack” releases. For some, the Free Run 2 remained a favorite long after later iterations hit the market.
Maison Martin Margiela Future
A head-turning shoe no matter what decade you’re living in, the aptly named Future by Maison Margiela channels avant garde design language into a high fashion sneaker. While the shoe first debuted in Margiela’s 2011 Pre-Spring/Summer collection, it gained a bigger following after becoming Kanye West’s go-to sneaker during his YEEZUS tour in 2013. The Future sneaker showcased Martin Margiela’s unique eye for shapes and tailoring to a new generation who may not have otherwise discovered the designer without Kanye West and the YEEZUS tour.
Jogger pants become the de facto sneakerhead uniform
Around 2014, it seemed like every streetwear and fashion brand under the rainbow was making their own version of the tapered sweatpants with a ribbed ankle, which Publish Brand claims to have invented (they even trademarked the term “The Jogger Pant”). The jogger style took over from the practice of pin-rolling, which was a way to avoid your pants taking any shine from your sneakers – in short, emphasizing your kicks above any other article of your outfit.On the high-end, Balmain’s biker-inspired track pants had a huge moment, while Nike’s tech-fleece style proved to be hugely commercially successful. The cuffed jogger style eventually even trickled down to fast fashion stores like Zara and H&M.
Raf Simons re-designed adidas Ozweego catalyzes chunky sneakers
Raf Simons’ re-design of the adidas Ozweego marked the dawn of a massive shift in sneaker tastes. While the original Ozweego was introduced in 1996, and updated iterations were released throughout the 1990s, the silhouette gained an entirely new cultural relevance years later in 2013.Initially, publications (including us at Highsnobiety) were at a loss for words when trying to characterize the shoes, and a new set of descriptors emerged – “chunky,” “bulky,” et al. While those first individuals to embrace the Raf Ozweego were the source of mockery from those who considered themselves sneaker purists, the Ozweego eventually catalyzed exaggerated proportions and exaggerated shapers becoming commonplace, a trend that arguably peaked with the Balenciaga Triple S.
Nike Flyknit Trainer
Nike debuted the “Volt” Flyknit Trainer on the feet of athletes at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. Nike Flyknit Trainer and Flyknit Racer sneakers were given to athletes to wear on the podium and during the opening ceremony. The shoes were gifted to Nike athletes, also done up in Nike’s signature “Volt” colorway, featuring “USA” stitched into the tongue. Those that spotted the neon sneakers on their TV screens had to wait months before the Flyknit Trainer and Flyknit Racer actually hit shelves. The sneaker was a fulfilment of Nike’s steadfast commitment to innovation, while later HTM versions like the Nike Lunar Flyknit HTM and Lunar Flyknit Chukka HTM helped position the Flyknit franchise as a leader in both technology and fashion.
Tom Sachs x Nike Mars Yard 1.0
Nike’s then-CEO Mark Parker tapped designer Tom Sachs for this 2012 collaboration, which imagined what a Mars-ready space sneaker could look like. The first generation Mars Yard used NASA tech like Vectran, a robust and slightly shimmery material with high tensile strength that is used for NASA space suits. An SFB sole unit served as the foundation of the simple low-top, while details like red pull-tabs and exposed foam for the tongue gave this shoe a distinctly workshopp-appropriate feel. The 2017 re-issue served up a second opportunity for collectors to get their hands on a pair.
Nike Inneva Woven
Nike took elements of the Free cushioning franchise and the 2000 Air Woven to create the biomechanically designed Inneva Woven. The woven upper and Free sole put ergonomics and natural motion at the forefront of this design, which later appeared in different colorways and materials, as well as a mid-top variation. The unembellished colorway allowed the texture of the woven upper and the subtly speckled sole to do the talking.
Supreme x Nike SB Dunk Low
Now considered one of the most covetable Nike x Supreme collaborations, the red and black 2012 SB Dunk Low followed up on the prior Supreme x Nike SB Dunks that released in 2002. Both releases incorporated Nike’s distinctive elephant print pattern, which had previously only appeared on Tinker Hatfield’s Nike Air Jordan 3. Nike and Supreme have issued up numerous collaborative pairs since 2012, but the collaborative Dunks still easily stand out amongst the rest
fragment design x Cole Haan Lunargrand
Nike divested ownership of Cole Haan in 2012, but prior to that, the Cole Haan Lunargrand and Lunargrand Chukka used Nike’s Lunar technology underneath a more traditional Brogue upper. Nike’s Lunarlon cushioning promises an experience akin to “walking on the surface of the moon.” In 2012, fragment design offered up four versions, the most eye-catching of which boasted a bubblegum pink sole with a black-and-white upper, complete with an embossed fragment design logo on the tongue. On the more conservative side of things, the pack also included a pebbled leather version for those with more conservative tastes.
Nike Foamposite One “Galaxy”
2012 was a big year for Nike’s Foamposite. While the “Paranorman” Foamposite colorway also landed in 2012 as a nod to the movie of the same name, it was the glow-in-the-dark “Galaxy” colorway that made headlines for its universally (no pun intended) appreciated galactic upper and flight jacket-inspired “Remove Before Flight” tag. Headlines broke around the United States as in-store releases devolved into pure chaos and in some cases violence. CBS reported on “riots” at a Florida mall, while similar headlines highlighted in-store debacles that had occurred up across the country.
The $70 Nike Roshe was a minimalist sneaker that became exponentially more popular than anyone could have predicted, even its designer Dylan Raasch. The versatile, simple, and accessible sneaker proved to strike a chord with people of all ages and demographics, making it almost instantly ubiquitous. Versions like the “Calypso” and “Orange Leopard” (there was even a Yeezy-inspired “Solar Red” Roshe edition) kept sneakerheads interested with limited edition colors, before the Roshe reached a tipping point, and disappeared into obscurity.
Ronnie Fieg x PUMA Disc Blaze “Cove”
PUMA’s Disc Blaze celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2012, and Ronnie Fieg once again showed his keen eye for details by re-working the silhouette for a limited collaboration. Fieg lofted up the technical silhouette with a perforated toebox and ultra-soft nubuck in his signature “Cove” colorway. As with all of Ronnie Fieg’s projects, the release came with limited edition packaging.
Afew x ASICS GEL-Lyte 3 “Koi”
The Afew x ASICS GEL-Lyte 3 “Koi” was introduced during the 2012 edition of Düsseldorf, Germany’s annual Japan Day. Afew produced a handmade 1-of-1 sneaker which was inspired by the classic colors of the Japanese koi fish. In 2015, Afew and ASICS finally realized the project on a larger scale, releasing a full production run of the beloved Koi-inspired kicks. Details were not overlooked, as the thoughtful collaboration was packaged in a wooden bento box, including Afex x ASICS chopsticks, and two pairs of extra laces in wasabi and soy.
Nike Free Run 3
Bolstered by the success of its predecessor the Free Run 2, Nike’s Free Run 3 was the latest in minimalist running shoes at the time. As with the Free Run 2, the 3 was offered in a range of limited makeups to entice sneakerheads, while the Free Run 3’s inclusion in Jun Takahashi’s FW12 Nike Gyakusou running collection also lent the in-line silhouette some further appeal in tastemaker circles.
adidas Boost starts a cushioning arms race
The adidas Ultra Boost landed in 2014, alongside an advertising campaign that claimed it was “the greatest running shoe ever.” It was earlier that same year that the first Boost model hit shelves in the form of the Energy Boost, but it was the Ultra Boost that fully crystalized Boost alongside an adidas Primeknit upper, creating a tandem of technology. As far as the bigger picture, Boost hit stores just before the wellness trend took off, running crews became cool, and athleisure had a name. The Ultra Boost went on to become a tour de force, as general-release triple-white and triple-black versions routinely flew off shelves, while collaborations kept sneakerheads paying attention, release after release. “To me, and to many people, the best sneakers have always started life as sport performance innovation shoes. The reason that [the original] Ultra Boost was appealing as a sneaker in the first place was because it was the best running shoe in the world. A perfect combination of Primeknit and a radical new material, Boost. The ingredients that deliver an amazingly responsive running experience also gave great all day comfort.” -Sam Handy, adidas VP Running Design .
Kanye West signs with adidas
Since he signed with adidas in 2015, Kanye West has arguably been the single most powerful force shaping perception of the German sportswear brand. As adidas’ single most important collaborative partner, Kanye West and his YEEZY footwear range are both at the center of the conversation surrounding limited edition sneaker releases, and YEEZY sneakers are among the biggest status symbols in the sneaker world. Initially highly limited and hard to get ahold of, the first YEEZY releases sold out and went on to demand considerable prices on the secondary market. In 2015, West assured, “Eventually everybody who wants to get Yeezys will get Yeezys,” a promise which started to be fulfilled in late 2018 with the release of the triple-white YEEZY Boost 350 V2.West has been closely linked with the adidas’ head of Global Entertainment and Influencer Marketing Jon Wexler, as well as other adidas executives like Nic Galway and Torben Schumacher, who worked the YEEZY brand in various ways. Veteran sneaker designers Steven Smith and Christian Tresser were later brought in as designers for YEEZY.
Raf Simons x adidas Originals Ozweego
The adidas Ozweego was largely a forgotten relic from the mid-90s before Raf Simons got his hands on it. Simons took the shoe and exaggerated the proportions to almost-comic effect, adding sci-fi-looking translucent nodes to the shoe’s upper, which was placed on a de-coupled sole unit. While early-adopters of the shoes were initially mocked, the Raf Simons Ozweego took a huge risk, but its success in fashion circles catalyzed footwear designs to become chunkier and more overstated in years to come.
adidas Energy Boost
It’s likely that the adidas Ultra Boost as we know it would not exist, without its predecessor, the Energy Boost. The structured running shoe features a more robust design, while the name Energy Boost refers to the high energy return properties ensured by Boost soles. The Energy Boost featured Boost cushioning primarily in the heel, while the later Pure Boost and Ultra Boost featured full-length Boost soles.
Y-3’s offbeat Qasa sneaker swept the sneaker world in 2013 and 2014, when the silhouette’s ninja-like, wrapped upper and bulbous Tubular sole developed a near cult-like following. If you’re well-versed in contemporary Japanese fashion and have a taste for technical designs, the Qasa was made for you. Shortly after, the Tubular sole unit diffused into mainline adidas offerings, none of which ended up being as successful commercially as the Qasa.
Supreme x Vans “Power Corruption Lies” Pack
Supreme & Vans utilized a floral pattern from the cover art of the Peter Saville-designed New Order album Power, Corruption & Lies. Not only was the resulting pack of sneakers visually compelling, but the flower motif was a reminder that few brands have the same canny eye for pop culture references that Supreme does. The trio of Vans sneakers remains one of the most collectible among Supreme fans, and floral patterns subsequently experienced a spike in popularity in the following years.
UNDEFEATED x BAPE x adidas ZX 5000
This colossal three-way team-up of retailer UNDEFEATED, Japanese brand BAPE and German sportswear brand adidas was rather unprecedented at the time, for its deft co-branded design. The ZX line was seen as strictly a performance product category, so it took some changes and evolution of the industry to arrive at a place where adidas was okay with the idea of put BAPE’s camouflage pattern on the ZX 5000.
“For UNDEFEATED, this project meant the beginning of a collaborative partnership between ourselves and BAPE that continues today. At the time, the approach we took for this project was unexpected, resulting in it resonating with the footwear consumer in a great way. Three-way collaborations have been a part of Japanese streetwear culture for sometime now, therefore, it felt authentic to partner up with such an iconic Japanese brand for this adidas project. Being able to look back and be proud of the imprint we left in footwear history just confirms our ability to be able to connect with footwear consumers on a deeper level.” -UNDEFEATED
Maison Martin Margiela x Converse
Margiela and Converse linked up for a characteristic collaboration of white Jack Purcell and Chuck Taylor sneakers. With wear and tear, the signature Margiela-white upper eventually chipped off over time, to reveal either a blue or red upper. This imaginative twist gave each pair its own unique look and feel, lending the wearer the opportunity to create a truly unique and special shoe, just by wearing it on their feet.
Nike Flyknit Racer Multicolor
The technicolor Flykit Racer “Multicolor” was produced in three variations, each of them featuring slightly different woven patterns of blue, green and red. Aside from the innovation of Flyknit, it’s easy to understand why this multicolor palette is so appealing; it’s the kind of shoe that someone might comment on in an elevator, simply because it’s so eye-catching and colorful, and surely one of the greatest summer shoes you can imagine.
Tyler the Creator x Vans
The prospect of a collaboration between enigmatic musician Tyler, the Creator and Vans seemed exciting for the simple reason that Tyler was always a real fan of Vans. If you spotted Tyler out and about on Fairfax with the Odd Future crew in 2013 or 2014, chances are he was laced in up a colorful pair of Eras or Authentics. The first products to arrive from the collaboration were whimsical, checkerboard and donut-clad designs, and a reminder that Tyler isn’t the kind of person to take himself too seriously, but that’s what makes him so endearing. Tyler went on to partner with Converse, but his Vans sneakers evoke memories of a time when the artist was still on the rise.
Years prior to the Triple S, the Arena was Balenciaga’s flagship shoe, and Pusha T was perhaps the biggest proponent of the luxury sneaker in 2013. The Arena came in a variety of upscale makeups with tumbled, gradient and patent leathers, but regardless of the color makeup, this odd-looking silhouette and its thoughtful details like the unique tongue screamed one thing – “luxury.”
At first glance, the FBT might look out of place on this list, but visvim’s luxury take on the moccasin style was one of the biggest “if you know, you know” sneakers of the decade. Included as part of Hiroki Nakamura’s second-ever visvim collection in 2001, the fringed moccasin-inspired upper is saddled on a contrasting EVA sole, while the name is a reference to English new wave pop band “FUN BOY THREE.” It was Kanye West who became a notable proponent of the shoe in 2013, and the FBT was eventually canonized into a cult sneaker. visvim offers a number of FBT variations, including the FBT Shaman, FBT Lattice, and FBT Sashiko, however the $650 in-line version has retained its place as a status symbol over the duration of the decade.
“The basic concept was fairly simple: to keep the raw appearance of Native American moccasins, but with the added functionality of being wearable in the city.”
The rise of athleisure
Performance products diffused into the lifestyle space, as comfort became a core criteria for a popular sneaker. Technical innovations started to be infused with limited-edition releases, and the attention of collectors was suddenly piqued by knitted textiles like adidas Primeknit and Nike Flyknit, as well as cushioning solutions like adidas Boost and Nike React. Sneakerheads started to demand comfortable running shoes, though not to actually go running in.As writer Alex Rakestraw wrote for Highsnobiety earlier in the year: “What people wear has only ever gotten less formal. As social conventions relax, the codes that kept us in corsets then neckties then dress shoes have relaxed with them. The logical end of this ‘great relaxing’ is sportswear. Tees. Stretchy pants. Sneakers. Sportswear is the language of what people wear today.”
Sneakers invade Paris Fashion Week
The world of capital-F Fashion became increasingly obsessed with sneakers over the course of the last 10 years. Historically, rubber-soled shoes have never been associated with luxury, and thus were never a focus for fashion brands, barring a few exceptions like the Lanvin cap-toe sneaker, the Valentino Rock Runner, or the Prada America’s Cup. Going back to 2013-2014, two releases arguably catalyzed a shift: when Raf Simons re-designed the adidas Ozweego, and when Ricardo Tisci re-interpreted the Nike Air Force 1.In the years to follow, sneakers invaded the streets and catwalks of Paris Fashion Week, as luxury brands doubled-down on their sneaker offerings. Nearly every leading fashion house (Dior, Balenciaga, Louis Vuitton, Calvin Klein) subsequently satiated the clear demand for luxury trainers by creating their own original statement sneakers.The argument could be made that these became more important status symbols for women than handbags or purses. At the end of 2019, this trend reached its pinnacle, with the announcement of Prada x adidas and Dior x Jordan collaborations, aka Pradidas and Diordan.
Nike Air Yeezy 2 “Red October”
Following up on the 2009 Air Yeezy 1, the second-generation version was co-designed by Kanye West, Nike creative director Mark Smith and Nathan Van Hook. The Air Yeezy 2 boasted ridged heel detailing, a snake skin inspired design on the quarters, and Egyptian insignias, resting on a Nike Air Tech Challenge II sole unit. Nothing short of a seminal moment. The “Red October” Air Yeezy 2 surprise-dropped just when no one thought they would see the light of day. Kanye West’s relationship with Nike had reportedly souered, and it didn’t seem like any further Air Yeezy shoes would hit shelves. Subsequently, all-red colorways trickled out from different brands for years to come, each of them evoking the spirit of Kanye West’s most famous sneaker design ever.
adidas ZX Flux
This new design updated the adidas ZX franchise for 2014, and went on to become one of the most commercially successful shoes of the year. The silhouette itself is an update of the ZX 8000, which originally released in 1988 as part of adidas’ equipment-driven ZX range. adidas’ online customization program offered users the ability to wrap the ZX Flux in a photograph of choice, so you could pick a shot from Instagram and wear it on your kicks.
fragment design x Nike Air Jordan 1
Hiroshi Fujiwara’s fragment Jordan 1 design remixed the OG “Black Toe” colorway, swapping out Chicago red for Fujiwara’s favorite go-to pantone, navy blue. A subtle fragment logo was debossed on the heel, while a black fragment logo indicated a friends and family colorway. The colorway isn’t a vast departure from the look and feel of OG Jordans, but the subtle fragment co-sign made this collaboration all the more appealing to those who consider themselves tastemakers.
“I originally wanted to make up a story that stemmed from the original Air Jordan 1 commercial poster, the one where Jordan was wearing the Black Toes with the Jumpsuit. There was actually a Black Toe with Blue panels in Nike’s archive, so I picked it and added the fragment logo, as I’ve always wanted a pair of Jordan 1s in blue, black and white. The goal for me was to redo the OG poster with the blue AJ1s but Nike didn’t allow it to happen.”
Lance Mountain x Nike Air Jordan 1
In a nod to the tradition of West Coast skateboarders adopting the Air Jordan 1, Bones Brigade legend Lance Mountain designed this asymmetrical Jordan 1 that featured black/red colorway for the left shoe and a black/royal colorway for the right shoe, concealed with a coat of white paint that wears off with every step and ollie. Mountain wore mismatched Jordan 1s in the seminal skate film The Search for Animal Chin, choosing the high-top basketball sneakers for their robust ankle protection and accessible price tag, as some OG Jordan 1s actually went on sale after the initial 1985 release.
Hender Scheme Manual Industrial Products 10
Under its “Case Study” program, artisanal Japanese brand Hender Scheme updates recognizable sneaker silhouettes in raw leathers. Perhaps the best example of the craftsmanship that goes into each Hender Scheme item is this nod to a certain iconic basketball shoe. This canny recreation uses a medley of premium hides, sitting atop a leather sole unit, creating a product that promises to last for decades.
“I think when you see our shoe, you feel you have seen it before, but you also know you have never seen it this way. My wish is that people wear them, rather than collect them.”
Riccardo Tisci x Nike Air Force 1 Pack
Shortly after taking the creative lead at French fashion house Givenchy and making it the most talked-about brand in hip hop, Italian designer Riccardo Tisci released a pack of re-worked Air Force 1s, which Tisci has said is his favorite sneaker silhouette of all time. While the pack did include the low-top and mid-top Air Force 1s, the standout sneaker was likely the lace-up gladiator boot, truly more of an art piece than a wearable shoe. This Air Force 1 collaboration seemed like a well thought-out step outside of Nike’s comfort zone, at the time, and while Tisci’s Nike collaboration continued for several years after, none of the subsequent releases was as well-recieved.
adidas Originals Stan Smith
Potentially the most ubiquitous silhouette of the year, the uncomplicated, universally loved adidas Stan Smith came back after a pause in production. It’s true, adidas did do a fair amount to push this shoe on a marketing level, but boy did it work. You could barely step outside with catching a glimpse of a Stan Smith. Whispers say it’s adidas’ best-selling shoe of all time. Alongside the original white-and-green versions, 2014 ushered in a number of Stan Smith collaborations, the most visible of which was likely Raf Simons’ luxury version, which swapped out the original three-stripe detailing on the upper for subtle perforations spelling “R” for Raf. “It’s been an exciting journey over the last 45 years, and I’m looking forward to what’s next! My relationship with adidas has brought me into different worlds and cultures in a way no other brand could.” -Stan Smith
adidas Pure Boost
First came the Energy Boost, then the Pure Boost. The less-technical silhouette ushered in the first combined use of two technologies that went on to define the following years for adidas – Boost and Primeknit. Sneakersnstuff released one of the first Primeknit Pure Boosts, individually numbered and made in only 600 pairs. The Energy Boost and Pure Boost made a strong case for performance footwear overlapping into the lifestyle space, which set the scene for the unprecedented popularity of the Ultra Boost shortly after.
Industry veteran Jon Buscemi built his name at brands like DC Shoes and Gourmet, before serving up the luxury-inspired Buscemi sneaker, made as a direct nod to the most famous and most expensive handbag in the world, maybe the lock on the Buscemi 100mm sneaker gives it away. The brand’s flagship sneakers are made in Italy from full-grain Italian calf leather, and Buscemi was shockingly quick to be name-dropped by the likes of 2Chainz and Gucci Mane.
Supreme x Nike Foamposite One
Building on the pandemonium of the “Galaxy” Foamposite release, Supreme’s version issued up a garish Baroque pattern in red and black variations. The New York City skate brand has established an eye for working on Nike classics like the Air Force 1, or SB Dunk Low, while also bringing back unexpected silhouettes like the Uptempo, Air Max 98, or Air Max 2, and the 2014 Foamposite was perfectly in line with this thinking. In-store releases were shut down by police, once again testifying to the die-hard Foamposite audience.
Sneaker release campouts are replaced by online raffles
For years, the overnight campout was a fixture of sneaker communities around the world. As sneakers were eventually adopted into mainstream culture, these campouts and lineups started to overflow with eager newcomers, in some cases even causing concern for public safety.From the outside looking in, sneaker lineups never seemed more dire than they did after the “Galaxy” Nike Foamposite release, which was reported by mainstream news outlets in 2012 as being the cause of riots. Subsequently, retailers could no longer ensure safety at these lineups, and violent situations became increasingly common at queues for limited sneakers and Supreme drops.While some retailers steadfastly stood by the in-store, first-come first-served model, others shifted their release strategy to online. For hyped sneakers like those from YEEZY and Off-White™, raffles became the go-to mechanism for ensuring fairness. Brands like Nike also developed their own apps to help democratize releases for those that live in and outside of big cities.
StockX creates the first sneaker stock market, reselling becomes big business
Founded in February 2016, StockX (originally named Campless) took into consideration the shortcomings of reselling sneakers and created a platform that functions as a marketplace, a middleman to provide authentication checks, and a stock market. StockX did what none of its competitors thought of, creating a record of all past sales, effectively homogenizing prices to create a centralized database and forum for sneaker reselling.As a testament to StockX’s disruptive business model, they surpassed eBay in total sneaker transactions in 2017. StockX has also been the recipient of numerous high-profile investments from the likes of Scooter Braun, Jon Buscemi, Eminem, Mark Wahlberg and others. In June 2019, StockX raised $110 million and was valued at $1 billion in another venture round.At the same time, reselling platforms like Flight Club, Stadium Goods, GOAT, and others received massive investments from industry leaders like Farfetch, Foot Locker, and others, establishing the sneaker aftermarket as one to keep your eye on.“No one could have anticipated the size and scale that StockX has achieved in such a short time. It’s unrealistic for any startup to assume it’s going to be selling billions of dollars worth of sneakers in three years. People want a buying and selling experience that is reliable, safe, easy, and authentic, and StockX is that. We created something in this model that no other platform considered and in doing so, truly revolutionized the industry.”-Josh Luber, Co-Founder of StockX
adidas Ultra Boost 1.0
Beloved for its snug fit and cozy on-foot feel, the OG Ultra Boost featured a predominantly black upper with a purple heel counter, but it happened to be the triple-white and triple-black versions that went supernova. A Kanye co-sign helped the white version to sell-out instantly, and while re-stocks flew off shelves for the next 2 years. People loved the black version as well, but after some started using a sharpie pen to ink the white midsole black, effectively creating a DIY triple-black, adidas went ahead and released that one too. Later versions of the Ultra Boost (2.0, 3.0, 4.0) slightly changed the Primeknit pattern used for the upper, while adidas also experimented with cageless and mid-top versions.
adidas Originals YEEZY Boost 350 “Turtle Dove”
Highly anticipated would be an understatement. After the high-top YEEZY 750 first hit a few months prior, it was the 350’s more accessible price point and super-cozy fit that made it the favorite of the two. The “Turtle Dove” colorway also set the tone for creative colorway names that came with later releases like “Pirate Black” and “Moon Rock. Demand for following 350 releases far outpaced supply, and being the first 350 ever to release, the “Turtle Dove” colorway still remains one of the most collectible and expensive YEEZY models, while the subsequent 350 V2 proved to be even more commercially viable.
Supreme x Nike Air Jordan 5
Supreme’s first collaboration with the Jumpman arrived as three colorways of the Jordan 5. While two OG-esque black and white colorways were included, it was the desert camouflage edition that stood out from the rest. A hint of Supreme branding can be glimpsed underneath the rubber netting on both medial and lateral sides, while a reference to Supreme’s founding year – 1994 – can be seen in place of the customary “23” on each heel.
ACRONYM x Nike Air Force 1
ACRONYM’s unprecedented Air Force 1 design by Errolson Hugh was designed with the brand’s technical, functional ethos in mind. It all started in the brand’s Berlin workshop, after an ACRONYM staff member simply took a pair of scissors to the classic, low-top Air Force 1. A zip-up closure on the final version renders the shoe’s laces obsolete, while a contrasting, dipped heel further separates this limited edition from the standard Air Force 1. The first trio of colorways was an instant hit, and years later the design finally returned in a white-on-white version for the “AF100” pack.
“It was the first overtly disruptive Nike collaboration. It was the first Nike with additional parts grafted onto it. It was the first Nike collaboration that attempted to alter the functionality of the shoe, not just the aesthetics and the branding. It was our first shoe with Nike and we were just focused on doing the collaboration justice. You can’t get asked to do an Air Force 1 and then be half assed about it. We just wanted bring something unique and legitimate to the conversation. We didn’t think about how people would react at all. We just went for it.” -Errolson Hugh
With the NMD (reportedly an abbreviation of “Nomad,”) adidas was surely hoping for the same resonance that the Ultra Boost achieved, and that is exactly what they got. A bit of a flash in the pan when looking back, at least compared to the Ultra Boost, the NMD was a massive hit from the beginning, and the silhouette was fast-tracked into notable collaborations with BAPE and Nice Kicks, plus diffusion versions landed later like the NMD City Sock and Pharrell’s NMD Hu.
Parley for the Oceans x adidas
adidas’ team-up with Parley for the Oceans created running shoes from recycled ocean plastic collected from beaches. adidas’ goal of creating top-tier performance product with relatively new processes and materials spoke to the brand’s ambitious long-term goals. This high-profile initiative showed adidas’ commitment to eco-friendly products, acting to set adidas apart from its competitors. The very first shoe was more proof-of-concept than anything, and released in highly limited numbers, however later Ultra Boost and EQT versions released more widely.
adidas Originals YEEZY Boost 750
The first design to surface from Kanye West and adidas’ anticipated partnership, we first glimpsed the YEEZY 750 when West laced up a pair at the 2015 Grammy Awards. Kanye West and adidas held an inaugural fashion show in NYC for Kanye’s Season 1 performance, corepographed by Vanessa Beecroft and live streamed to 42 movie theaters across the globe. Despite being the very first adidas YEEZY to ever see the light of day, the 750 has only been produced in four color versions (not including the cleated variation made for NFL players), the last of which released in early 2016.
The Broken Arm x Salomon Speedcross
Two of the three co-founders behind Parisian concept boutique The Broken Arm – Romain Joste and Guillaume Steinmetz – are avid trail runners, setting the scene for the shop’s unexpected collaboration with Salomon. The partnership turned into a series, which also brought us the eye-catching XT-4 collaboration in 2018. When looking at sneaker culture’s increasing interest over trail and outdoor sneakers in the following years, it’s hard not to credit The Broken Arm with this course-changing partnership.
Reebok Club C
This understated Reebok silhouette made an unexpected, but big splash. Designed with traditional tennis dress codes in mind, the shoe was originally named the “Club Champion,” but was abbreviated years after. The Club C later became a bestseller with casual athletes, and in 2015, the timeless low-top was treated to a number of collaborations, including alongside Kendrick Lamar and Palace Skateboards. Although pedestrian, the Club C is a clean, intrinsically appealing shoe that stands out in a number of general-release colorways.
Eminem x Carhartt x Nike Air Jordan 4
It’s safe to say, this co-branded Jordan 4 is firmly entrenched in the annals sneaker folklore. Created in partnership with none other than Detroit’s own Carhartt and Eminem to commemorate the 15th Anniversary of Shady Records, this limited makeup was given to friends and family of Eminem, while 10 pairs were auctioned on eBay with proceeds going to The Marshall Mathers Foundation. The design features a Carhartt canvas upper with silver hardware, and asymemtircal heel details featuring “E” for Eminem and a Jason Voorhees mask. As far as true sneaker grails, not many collaborations can compete with how stratospherically covetable Eminem’s Jordan 4s are.
Rihanna signs with PUMA, creating the Creeper
PUMA presented its partnership with pop superstar Rihanna in September 2015, and the resulting Creeper silhouette was an instant success, representing a uniquely feminine insight into what a cool sneaker could be. This marked a major moment for gender representation in the modern sneaker landscape, as one of the first global campaigns to be fronted by a female collaborator. Rihanna’s PUMA Creeper arguably catalyzed competitor brands to push more platform sneaker silhouettes onto the market, but the platform sneaker moment all started with PUMA and the Bad Gal herself. “When people ask me about moments that I’m proud of at PUMA, I always list the Creeper among the top, because in my mind, I feel like the Creeper was the first moment that a major brand really tried to create sneaker culture around a female ambassador. We created an iconic silhouette that was led by a female creative director. It was the first time I remember seeing women lined up outside a sneaker shop.” -Adam Petrick, PUMA Global Director of Brand and Marketing
Nike introduces SNKRS app
Nike’s SNKRS app (SNEAKRS in the EU) has become a fixture for those who keep up with the Swoosh’s weekly sneaker drops (and there are a lot these days). Announced in February 2015, the app was presented as a digital tool for accessing releases and Nike-created storytelling content.The global sneaker community became more closely knit through our shared experience of the winning “GOT ‘EM” splash page. Later on, augmented reality functionality was added to the SNKRS app, creating Nike Stash, a new way to unlock access to exclusive product releases on your phone by discovering secret locations hidden throughout different cities.“No question the Nike SNKRS app has transformed the game. By serving our community authentically with unique experiences, we’re building energy while helping shape sneaker culture with our most engaged members. Features like Stash and SNKRS Camera, now global, are just the beginning. As we continue to invent new shared community experiences, you’ll see more features that surface community members to one another to share inspiration and eventually access. STREET SNKRS – our pilot into community content – was our first test and it’s clear we’ll be doubling down in that space.”-Ron Faris, Vice President of SNKRS
Rihanna x PUMA Creeper
A simple PUMA Suede placed on a platform sole, Rihanna’s well-liked Creeper concept can actually be attributed to Billy Walsh, better known as Mr. Completely. Walsh made a custom platform PUMA shoe for the “Bitch Better Have My Money” singer, which laid the groundwork for the massively successful PUMA x Rihanna partnership. the collaboration brought us a number of Creeper iterations including particularly popular orange camouflage and Gucci-inspired colorways, plus Creeper versions with treaded lug soles.
adidas Originals YEEZY Boost 350 V2
The successor to the 350 sneaker which landed in 2015, the V2 was a more streamlined silhouette featuring a contrasting stripe across the upper. Since its first release, the 350 V2 has become the most commercialized YEEZY silhouette, being produced in limited “Reflective” versions that have garnered higher resell prices. In September 2018, West announced the biggest-ever drop of YEEZY sneakers, stating, “On September 21 we’re doing our largest drop ever of the 350 V2 Triple White.” This drop marked a shift in distribution, after which YEEZYs no longer sold out with the snap of a finger, but started to linger on shelves.
ACRONYM x NikeLab Presto Mid
Once again working with Nike, ACRONYM leveraged its knowledge and understanding of ultra-technical outerwear to create this Nike Presto collaboration. Completely re-imagining the sock-like sneaker to feature a higher ankle collar and zip closure, ACRONYM principal Errolson Hugh served on a breath of fresh air with his canny pack of three colorways, the highlight of which was the neon-clad, Volt-toe edition. The first three colorways from 2016 were later reprised in another release of three Prestos, which landed in 2018.
Gucci satiated our thirst for simple, low-top sneakers with the Ace silhouette. Not only was this just a luxury tennis sneaker, but the Ace came with a handful of DIY possibilities, in the form of removable patches that are fastened to each sneaker using snap buttons. A clear reference to the Stan Smith right down to the contrasting green heel detail, Gucci took the wearability of a white, tennis-inspired low-top, and lofted it up into a luxury status symbol.
Nike HyperAdapt 1.0
A fulfillment of the seemingly impossible idea of “power-lacing” sneakers as Marty McFly referred to them in Back to the Future 2, auto-lacing sneakers became commercially available for the first time with the HyperAdapt. A built-in motor that is controlled by plus and minus buttons on the midsole can tighten and loosen wires in the forefoot. The HyperAdapt was followed up with a shoe called the BB Adapt, which featured a low-top cut, and utilized Nike’s auto-lacing tech for an on-court performance sneaker. While the shoe may seem like the realization of an idea that was ongoing over several decades, the HyperAdapt is merely the beginning for Nike.
“I wear [the HyperAdapt] a lot, and I wear them partly because they’re comfortable and versatile, but I’m trying to learn about them myself. I wear them a lot because I’m trying to think about the future, and what I would do to change it, make it better. That’s part of my process.”
Pharrell x adidas Originals NMD Hu
Building on the NMD sneaker, Pharrell worked with adidas to create the NMD Hu franchise. As part of his “Human Race” initiative, Pharrell often used the remixed NMD silhouette to convey different uplifting, humanistic messages, such as “Breathe/Walk,” “Heart/Mind,” and “Equality.” The NMD Hu was also created in a handful of highly collectible releases, like limited versions alongside BBC/Ice Cream, N.E.R.D., and Chanel, the latter of which was released to commemorate the closing of Parisian retailer colette.
Fear of God x Vans Era
Fear of God linked up with fellow West-Coast brand Vans for a handful of limited kicks in 2017. While the first drop in 2016 ushered in a patterned Era and color-blocked Sk8 Hi, the collaboration expanded in 2017 with the addition of silhouettes like the Mountain Edition and Style 147, the latter of which was an archival silhouette that Vans had in its archives, until Fear of God founder Jerry Lorenzo convinced the brand to bring it back into production.
Nike Air Jordan 1 “Satin Bred”
When the “Bred” Jordan 1 was treated to a retro release in 2016, it came with updated quality and materials, as part of Jordan’s “Remastered” initiative. It also came with a limited version of the “Bred” Jordan 1 that no one expected. A NYC-specific release, the “Satin” Air Jordan 1 arrived as a remix of the original leather version. This particular “Satin” release evolved into a sequence of drops for the “Royal,” “Shattered Backboard,” and “Black Toe” colorways, making a case for satin editions as some of the most collectible, as a majority of the later “Satin” drops were tailored toward women.
Balenciaga Speed Trainer
With the rise of engineered textiles and knitted sneaker uppers, Balenciaga went full sock-shoe with the Speed Trainer. Essentially a fitted sock attached to a sole unit, the Speed Trainer became a luxury statement shoe in its own way, in tandem with the rise of the Demna Gvasalia-helmed fashion house.
Saint Laurent SL/10H
Hedi Slimane’s SL/10H sneaker for Saint Laurent made waves when it was introduced in three unmistakably Air Jordan-inspired colorways – “Bred,” “Royal,” and “Shadow.” A clear homage to a trio of the most recognizable OG Air Jordan 1 colorways, these SL/10H makeups further established classic sportswear as timeless canon of references. Would we have arrived at the Dior x Nike Air Jordan 1 without these? Probably not.
Auto-lacing becomes a reality
It’s unlikely that anyone watching Back to the Future Part II in 1989 ever imagined auto-lacing (power laces, as they’re described in the movie) would ever become a reality. Nike designer Tinker Hatfield thought otherwise. The HyperAdapt 1.0 was the first commercially available auto-lacing sneaker, and the very first example of what Nike called their “adaptive lacing” system. Nike Senior Innovator Tiffany Beers explained: “When you step in, your heel will hit a sensor and the system will automatically tighten. Then there are two buttons on the side to tighten and loosen. You can adjust it until it’s perfect.”
Vans & the “Damn Daniel” effect
In no way as part of a concerted marketing effort, Vans became arguably the most talked-about footwear brand of 2017-2018. In the wake of the “What are those” meme, the “Damn Daniel” effect turned the Vans Old Skool into the de facto suburban shopping mall shoe. The Damn Daniel meme started as a montage of one high school student filming his friend’s white Vans, and ended up as a JAY-Z lyric: “Damn, Daniel / FBI keep bringing them all white vans through.” For a not-so-short while, it seemed like a uniform worn by every single teenager at the mall; a Thrasher hoodie and Vans Old Skools. The trend transcended just middle-America teens though, and even A$AP Rocky had a stint in 2017 where it seemed like he was constantly rocking Old Skools wherever he went.
Balenciaga Triple S
To create the heavily padded, triple-soled design, molds were taken from running, basketball and track shoes, which were then stacked to create the silhouette. The silhouette was then dubbed the Triple S thanks to its three layers of soles. The Triple S split opinions more than any other shoe released in 2017. The capital-F Fashion set quickly embraced the shoe’s chunky aesthetics, while sneaker purists mocked it for its exaggerated shape and steep price tag.
Virgil Abloh x Nike Air Jordan 1 “The Ten”
Virgil Abloh’s “The Ten” collection with Nike was arguably the biggest sneaker release event of the year, and as the highlight of the pack, the Jordan 1 was later recreated in white and “UNC” versions that released in 2018. Abloh was given unprecedented permission to chop up the iconic basketball silhouette, unstitching the shoe’s top and bottom lace eyelets, delicately pinning Nike’s Swoosh onto the shoe’s upper, and irreverently placing “AIR” branding on the midsole. While still paying homage to the iconic basketball shoe, Abloh deconstructed then re-assembled the Jordan 1, transforming it more than any previous collaborator.
KAWS x Nike Air Jordan 4
A longtime fixture in the art, streetwear and vinyl toys, KAWS followed up on his previous Nike collaborations by re-working the Jordan 4. By virtue of being designed by KAWS, this collaboration is naturally part sneaker and part limited-edition collectible. KAWS imbued the 1989 design with his signature, Companion-inspired touches like “X” logos on the heel and a glow-in-the-dark outsole. A far cry from the shoe’s original “Bred” or “White Cement” versions, KAWS’ Jordan 4 was released again in a black version at the end of 2017.
Nike Air VaporMax
The ultra-technical VaporMax silhouette was Nike’s gift to us for Air Max Day 2017 in March. The most advanced Air Max sneaker to date, the shoe’s standout feature is the sole unit; created by using a sole mold that is made from over 39,000 components, it’s more complicated than a high-powered car engine. A limited, slip-on version alongside COMME des GARÇONS made the general release VaporMax even more enticing. “[The Vapormax] was all about reduction, getting rid of all the extraneous things that get in the way of that sensation, and amplifying the feeling of running on air.” -Andreas Harlow, VP and Creative Director of Footwear Design for Nike Running
Vans Old Skool
Few footwear brands are as universally appealing as Vans. The California company’s timeless sneakers transcended their roots in skateboarding to be adopted by suburbanites and tastemakers alike; name another brand that can collaborate with Supreme and WTAPS, as well as Disney and Winnie the Pooh, while still retaining its cool factor. The Old Skool was thrust back into the spotlight in 2017 as a shoe for the everyman, as well as celebrities and fashion tastemakers.
Sean Wotherspoon x Nike Air Max 1/97
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. “It was such a crazy journey, and I tried my best to involve my community. I also used a lot of design cues from past “grail” status Air Max, so I think mine just fell in line with those pairs as far as collectibility. The details play a major role in the 97/1s. I did that on purpose – I love finding small details I never knew existed before, or just the added texture and material variation always excites me, so I’m happy people feel the same way. You have to remember, I was just part of a contest. So my goal for the shoe originally was for it to win the contest and go into actual production. My goal later changed to trying to inspire as many other people as possible through the way of my sneaker. The 97/1s have beyond exceeded any expectations or dream fantasy that I had about them. It’s been unreal.” – Sean Wotherspoon
adidas Originals YEEZY Boost 700
The 700 silhouette marked a major change in the YEEZY sneaker aesthetic, as Kanye pivoted from the streamlined silhouettes of the 350 and 350 V2, toward a bulkier, more 90s-geared style. Kanye West brought on industry veteran Steven Smith (former designer for Nike, adidas, Reebok, New Balance and more) to co-design the sneaker. While further 700 colorways have been introduced since, it’s the very first “Multi Solid Grey” colorway that remains the most cherished by YEEZY fans.
JJJJound x Vans Old Skool
Right when the old skool was booming, vans slid in with this understated but super limited pack alongside JJJJound. Curator of the internet’s most curated moodboard, JJJJound worked with Vans to create a trio of simple-yet-effective Old Skool colorways. JJJJound – run by Canadian Justin Saunders – applied his keen eye for small goods like hats, tote bags, and mugs into an extremely unassuming collection of sneakers. While the colorways themselves may look like general release Vans, this collaboration truly came to life in the details, such as cork footbeds, heavyweight 8-ounce canvas uppers, and the plain-white shoe box, with a cute JJJJound hang tag.
adidas YEEZY Powerphase
Up to this point, Kanye West’s YEEZY designs mostly leaned towards the futuristic and avant garde, but to supplement knitted sneakers like the 350 and 350 V2, West added the simple low-top Powerphase to his YEEZY catalog in 2017. Adorned with simple gold text reading “CALABASAS” as a nod to the neighborhood enclave outside of Los Angeles which West calls home YEEZY, the Powerphase takes inspiration from early Reebok designs like the timeless Workout and Newport Classic.
Stüssy x New Balance 990v3
New Balance served up a handful of v3 and v4 990 collaborations throughout 2017, including those alongside Aries, No Vacancy Inn, Stray Rats, and Stüssy. While each is deserving of a hat-tip in its own right, it was the Stüssy version that seemed to stand out among the rest. The buttery v4 made use of a cream mesh base with light gray overlays, creating a highly wearable result. This particular collaboration also coincided with a page-turning year for Stüssy, as the brand tightened up its product and distribution.
“Chunky,” anti-beauty sneakers become dominant
Early in the decade, sneakers like the Common Projects Achilles, adidas Originals Stan Smith, and similar tennis-inspired silhouettes were beloved for their clean lines and versatility. Eventually, these minimal tastes were usurped by a more subversive aesthetic, a shift which arguably started with the overstated Raf Simons x adidas Ozweego.At the same time, with the rise of normcore in 2014, we saw the Nike Air Monarch and New Balance 990v4 rise in popularity, alongside anti-beauty silhouettes like the Acne Studios Sofiane and Balenciaga Triple S. Speaking to W, Demna Gvasalia noted: “At Vetements, it’s always very much: ‘It’s ugly, that’s why we like it.”Overstated shapes and ironic tastes became the flavor of the month, as sneakerheads started to reject aesthetics that were seen as traditionally appealing. In a development that no one could have predicted, Crocs actually managed to earn a place in the streetwear conversation. Crocs became the epitome of “ironic cool,” as brands like PLEASURES and Balenciaga (um, let’s not forget Post Malone) issued up their own Crocs collabos.
UK sneaker culture arrives on the global stage
The global sneaker landscape became more aware of UK-centric tastes over the course of the decade, be it Stone Island jackets, Gary Aspden’s adidas Spezial collection, or beloved silhouettes like the Nike Air Max Tn. One cannot discredit Skepta as a driving force behind this shift, as the Tottenham emcee’s love for Nike tracksuits and Air Max trainers made a splash far outside of the UK.To be sure, Skepta’s quartet of Nike collaborations helped propel UK tastes into mainstream consciousness. Aspden’s curated Spezial collection of classic adidas low-tops also developed its own following across Europe and even stateside, in a shift that is perhaps linked to the growing awareness of MLS football in North America.
Kiko Kostadinov x ASICS Gel-Burz 1 “Limeade”
After the ascendant designer and Central Saint Martins graduate started his eponymous brand in early 2016, he swiftly became a fixture in the sneaker world, thanks to his ongoing partnership with Japanese brand ASICS in 2018. His first sneaker release was a pack of archival GEL-Burz 1 sneakers, which started to establish Kostadinov and his eye for keen color palettes. The “Limeade” colorway was the most playful color scheme of the three, yet suited the technical Burz silhouette to a T.
Nike React Element 87
Nike’s React Element 87 cut through the noise of collaborations and refocused our attention, putting innovation back at the heart of sneaker development. The model made a huge impact thanks to its slim, technical silhouette based on pure research and development. The React Element 87 a was an instant street-style hit when it dropped in Europe during Paris Fashion Week in June. The shoe’s built-in customizability via the option to showcase your socks meant that, with the right sock combo, you could flex the 87 with almost any outfit. Despite the tech, the React Element 87 is still fairly straightforward. None of the individual details distract or detract from the overall design. It’s a sneaker that elicits an almost emotional response, making it difficult to pinpoint the shoe’s exact allure.
Union x Nike Air Jordan 1
Pioneering retailer Union dropped its own take on the Jordan 1 in 2018, creating a bricolage sneaker design made from OG Jordan 1 colorways. Two versions were made available, with an exclusive Union release made from “Black Toe” and white/gray color schemes, as well as exposed, intentionally imperfect stitching that fuses the two colorways together. A second, globally available colorway was made in white/blue with the iconic Black/Red ankle. The collaboration explored what these mismatch colorways could look like, while also nodding towards Union founder Chris Gibbs’ love of vintage markets and vintage Jordans. “The Jordan stuff I wear now is like, if I go to a vintage market and I find some really old stuff that’s kind of patinated or weathered in. To me, the vintage nature of it allows you to kind of wear it outside of its intended purpose.” -Chris Gibbs
adidas Futurecraft 4D
Created in partnership with California-based firm Carbon, 4D has been described by adidas as the first performance footwear made with light and oxygen by way of Digital Light Synthesis. Carbon Digital Light Synthesis technology uses light and oxygen permeable optics to craft a 3D object, and then a thermal baking step to achieve the desired properties. Thanks to Carbon’s innovative process, adidas was able to iterate over 50 different lattices for the midsole before settling on the current design. The creation of the 4D material itself can be simplified by explaining it as the transition from a liquid to a solid as a result of chemical curing, not so dissimilar from how concrete is made. 4D’s “Aero Green” colorway later became a street-level hallmark, via collaborations alongside designer Daniel Arsham as well as retailers Sneakersnstuff and Kith.
PUMA Thunder Spectra
Picking up from the brand’s iconic sneaker collaboration with Alexander McQueen, PUMA channeled retro ’90s aesthetics into a modern sneaker silhouette for the Thunder Spectra. The inaugural colorway boasted a predominantly black upper, punctuated with clever color pops. Featuring a slightly bulky shape without venturing into territory that could be considered ironic, the Thunder Spectra set the stage for an entire franchise from PUMA, as the brand later introduced shoes like the Thunder Desert, Thunder Electric, and more. “It had the right amount of chunk, it had those nice color pops, and it was also available in the right places. It was a riff on a trend in fashion, and we hit it at the right time. When the Thunder came out, it was still the beginning of the chunky sneaker trend – we brought something that was a much more commercially viable product that really hit on that look.” -Adam Petrick, PUMA Global Director of Brand and Marketing
Paris Saint-German x Nike Air Jordan 5
Jordan’s barrier-bending collaboration with Parisian football team Paris Saint-Germain issued up co-branded versions of the Jordan 5 and Jordan 1 silhouettes. The sneakers were part of a three-year partnership, fronted by PSG wunderkind and Paris-born Kylian Mbappé, who brought the Jumpman to the European football pitch with his teammates on September 18, 2018. Jordan VP of design David Creech told Highsnobiety at the time: “I’m extremely excited to see the Jumpman logo on the pitch. First time ever, so we’re kind of making history here.” “They’re beautiful, so I’m proud to wear them. For me, it’s an honor to be able to wear these shoes. It’s the quality that matters.” -Kylian Mbappé, Paris Saint-Germain
A clear homage to the classic Converse Chuck Taylor, Dior’s high-top B23 sneaker served up a classic sportswear silhouette at a time when high fashion sneakers were more-often chunky than not. One of Kim Jones first orders of business after taking over as creative director of Dior Homme, the B23 featured Dior’s archival Oblique patten underneath the translucent upper, in addition to a “Dior” badge and asymmetrical foxing on the midsole. Japanese artist Hajime Sorayama also collaborated with Dior on one version of the B23, which featured images of robotic dinosaurs on the upper.
Roughly coinciding with the re-emergence of Prada’s fabled Linea Rossa collection, the Italian heritage house also served up a contemporary sneaker design in the form of the Cloudbust. Featuring a bubbly (almost cloud-like), de-coupled sole unit and knitted upper, the Cloudbust was launched in plethora of vivid, eye-catching colorways. At the same time, the branded strap across the forefoot of the Cloudbust was becoming a recognizable detail via its use on apparel like Prada trackpants and outerwear.
A$AP Rocky x Under Armour SRLo
In an unexpected move, A$AP Rocky worked with Under Armour to create the SRLo (Skate, Rave, Lo), a puffy, 2000s-era skate shoe. Rocky tapped the original creator of the Osiris D3, Dave Mayhew, to lend some skate credibility to this one-off design project between Under Armour and the A$AP frontman. The shoe featured reflective detailing as well as UA HOVR cushioning, and came encased in special industrial-inspired packaging. “I want to make a skate shoe that I love, it just doesn’t matter that it’s Under Armour, it doesn’t matter that it’s A$AP, it’s just an amazing skate shoe. I’ve always loved and admired the D3, it’s just motherf*ckers in the hood wasn’t banging with that like that, they wasn’t really rocking with that. I kind of wanted to show them.”
Engineered Garments x Hoka One One Tor Ultra Low
A fascinating cross-pollination between Japanese, military-inspired sensibilities and maximalist running technology, Engineered Garments’ collaboration with Hoka One One was made all the more surprising by the fact that Engineered Garments doesn’t often do collaborations. The simple and wearable black and olive colorways fit perfectly into the color palette that Engineered Garments is known for, while the unexpected nature of the partnership made this a curiosity that many wanted to get their hands on.
Virgil and Nike collaborate for “The Ten” sneaker collection
Virgil Abloh’s “The Ten” collection with Nike was by far the biggest sneaker release event of 2017, arguably of the decade. After months of Instagram leaks and anticipation, the collection finally landed at retailers in November 2017, with the Jordan 1 in a “Chicago” colorway considered by many to be the highlight. 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. Products from the collaboration spanned Nike’s footwear catalog, ranging from the 1973 Blazer to the 2017 VaporMax to the 1990 Air Max 90, and more. Utilizing a deconstructed motif across the entire release, Abloh 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.” The designer 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. Abloh’s “AIR” in quotations almost became a brand in and of itself. “In one gesture, I wanted to underscore how the design system and manufacturing of Nike are so perfect. […] What we’re talking about here is larger than sneakers, it’s larger than design culture. It’s nothing short of state-of-the-art design. These 10 shoes have broken barriers in performance and style. To me, they are on the same level as a sculpture of David or the Mona Lisa. You can debate it all you want, but they mean something. And that’s what’s important.”-Virgil Abloh
Snekaerheads venture outdoors with hiking shoes
With sneakers like the Nike Flyknit Trainer and adidas Ultra Boost, sneakerheads started to wholeheartedly adopt performance shoes, a change that aligned with the rise of terms like “athleisure” and “health goth.” This continued to escalate near the end of the decade, when hiking and outdoor brands such as Salomon and Hoka One One became important parts of the sneakerhead lexicon. Parisian high fashion boutique The Broken Arm was the first to co-sign Salomon, collaborating with the outdoor brand in a move that was seen as unexpected, if not bizarre. Later on, Salomon models like the XT-4 and XT-6 became commonplace on the e-pages of Highsnobiety, while The Broken Arm continued collaborating with Salomon for seasons after their first partnership. At the same time, outdoor divisions like adidas Terrex and Nike ACG benefitted from our renewed interest in technical sneakers equipped with Vibram soles and GORE-TEX waterproofing. Other industry-facing names, like Cordura and Polartec, suddenly became buzzwords associated with limited sneaker releases. Function became a quality that was in demand from sneakerheads and collectors.
sacai x Nike LDWaffle
An updated hybrid of two vintage Nike shoes – the LDV and Waffle Racer – sacai’s clever design was perhaps the most popular collaboration of the year. Debuting in the beginning of 20119 at Paris Fashion Week, the shoe was steeply anticipated until it finally landed in summer. No, you’re not seeing double, the LDWaffle features twice-stacked soles, dual tongues, twin laces, and overlapping Swooshes. The colorways also derive from that same era of Nike design, and you might even recognize one colorway’s green hue as being similar to the signature pantone of Oregon University.
Travis Scott x Air Jordan 1 “Cactus Jack”
Following on the success of his Air Force 1 and Air Jordan IV silhouettes, Travis Scott took on the iconic Air Jordan 1, re-imagining the shoe like never before. Electing a brown, white and black colorway, the Scott-edition Jordans feature the addition of a velcro stash pocket, plus the shoe’s most eye-catching detail – an inverted Swoosh. Like his previous Nike collaborations, Cactus Jack branding is found on the heel and tongue of the shoe. Travis Scott stans will insist this was the best sneaker of 2019.
Cactus Plant Flea Market x Nike Air VaporMax
Under-the-radar streetwear brand Cactus Plant Flea Market is the brainchild of Cynthia Lu, who became one of the first-ever female non-athletes to receive her own Nike collaboration when she re-worked the Nike VaporMax sneaker. The irresistibly charming collaboration has a hand-made feel thanks to a re-jigged Nike Swoosh made from garden wiring, plus an offbeat smiley face graphic on the heel. This refreshing and original flip on the VaporMax was widely celebrated, and tough to obtain due to limited availability through Dover Street Market and NikeLab locations.
Louis Vuitton 408 Trainer
Inspired by vintage basketball sneakers, Virgil Abloh’s Louis Vuitton Trainer mixes sportswear and luxury, featuring timeless color blocking and classic details like a perforated toe box. Abloh’s first sneaker for the French fashion house, the LV 408 Trainer also boasts a hand-written Louis Vuitton signature on the side. According to Abloh, the made-in-Italy LV 408 Trainer takes six hours for each shoe to be stitched. In total, 106 pieces make up the sneaker, the sole alone is comprised from 20 components.
New Balance 990v5
New Balance’s 990 series is surely one of the most celebrated sneaker franchises of all time, and the V3 as well as the V4 variations are widely embraced as some of the most timeless, classic shoes on the market. First released in 1982, the brief for the 990v1 called for the best shoe that money could buy, and the original price tag of $100 was seen as quite steep at the time. With that, the debut of the new v5 was surely one of the biggest moments of the year. Arriving with a global campaign that cleverly touted the shoe as being worn by “supermodels in London and dads in Ohio,” the perennially cool gray runner is noticeably changed from previous iterations, but familiar enough that many New Balance fans instantly injected this shoe into their rotations.
Martine Rose x Nike Air Monarch
Martine Rose played with the proportions of Nike’s Air Monarch to create this divisive collaboration in early 2019. The idea took root after Rose considered how it would be to take a tracksuit fitted for Michael Jordan, and adapt it to her own body. For a size 9 Monarch, Rose then attached a size 18 upper, creating a purposefully disfigured design.
“We looked at some of the sneaker lasts that Nike have of the athletes and their feet and we applied that to the shoes to create these amazing forms.”
In April, adidas embarked on a journey toward embracing the concept of a circular economy. The Futurecraft.Loop project ushered in a running shoe that has been designed from scratch to be recycled. As part of phase one, adidas sent out 200 running shoes to beta testers. Once they were well-worn, the brand asked for the shoes to be returned, to be ground into TPU pellets and made into components for new shoes. All returned shoes within the Loop program were kept within a closed production process – nothing thrown away or wasted.
Off-White™ x Nike Dunk Low
Virgil Abloh was seen out and about in Nike Dunks with increasing frequency over 2019, including models like the Viotech Low and Michigan High. Months of speculation were confirmed when Abloh teased a pack of three Off-White™ x Nike Dunks. Taking colorways from the original “Be True to Your School” pack, Abloh’s trio of Dunks features colorways cribbed from UNLV and University of Michigan, plus the addition of a third “Pine Green” color scheme. Abloh updated the silhouettes with industrial cable traversing the upper, in place of his usual Off-White™ zip-ties.
Kiko Kostadinov x ASICS GEL-Korika
Ascendant designer and Central Saint Martins graduate Kiko Kostadinov started his eponymous brand in early 2016 and swiftly became a fixture in the sneaker world, thanks to his ongoing partnership with Japanese brand ASICS. Kiko Kostadinov’s pack of four GEL-Korika shoes included two colorways for men in black and gray and two for women, which arrived in candy-hued versions. Kostadinov remains one of the most exciting young designers, and his partnership with ASICS promises to keep the Japanese brand an integral part of the sneaker conversation. “We worked on the [Korika] together, bringing a basketball shoe and reducing it to look good as a low runner, and just making it a bit more fun with the metallic and the shiny material.”
AWAKE x ASICS GEL-Kayano 5 360
The first sneaker collaboration from Angelo Baque’s new clothing brand AWAKE landed with none other than ASICS. Baque was tasked with re-imagining the GEL-Kayano 5 360, a new hybrid silhouette featuring a Kayano 5 upper saddled on a 360 sole unit. The refreshing collaboration underlined how ASICS is putting its weight behind emerging brands, and Baque showed he was capable of stepping up to the plate, serving up two strong colorways inspired by New York and Paris. “All my projects are one degree of Queens or two degrees of New York City. I love being from New York, I love still living in the city.” – Angelo Baque
Amidst Dunk revival, Nike SB architect Sandy Bodecker passes away
Sandy Bodecker was instrumental in the success of Nike’s skateboarding division, acting as the first general manager of Nike SB – in fact, those at Nike who knew him well would joke that SB stood for Sandy Bodecker. Under Bodecker’s leadership, Nike reworked basketball silhouettes like the Dunk and Blazer into skate classics, and laid roots in the skate scene thanks to projects with the likes of Supreme, Antihero, and Zoo York. While interest in the Dunk franchise tailed off in the early 2010s, Bodecker’s passing came at a time when Dunks were starting to become a bigger part of the conversation, after the likes of Travis Scott and Virgil Abloh started lacing up pairs of throwback models. Abloh himself even issued up a collaborative Off-White™ Dunk pack featuring original colorways from the “Be True To Your School” series.
Celebrity sneaker endorsements become ubiquitous
Run-DMC’s 1986 anthem “My Adidas” is often (and rightly) credited with influencing later endorsement deals between brands and musicians, specifically in the hip-hop sphere. Three decades later in 2017, collaborations and endorsement deals created the idea of sneakers as artist merchandise, rather than strictly performance shoes. Sneaker brands needed celebrity partnerships to tap into younger and different fan bases, and the aforementioned celebrities all wanted shoe deals. Making the argument that musicians and celebrities possess the same – or more – influence as athletes do, these deals range from actual creative partnerships like Kanye West x adidas, to more traditional, billboard advertisements of Selena Gomez wearing PUMA. In 2017, several of the biggest endorsements included Kendrick Lamar for Nike, The Weeknd for PUMA, Gucci Mane for Reebok, Kendall Jenner for adidas, and the list goes on, and on. Are musicians the new athletes? Sometimes it seems like it. Can you buy the influence of a celebrity? No – but you can buy their sneakers.
- Text: Chris Danforth
- Product Manager: Harry Manion
- Designer: Nano Nansen
- Developer: Avery Lim
- Associate Visual Editor: Callum Leyden
- Senior Visual Editor: Manus Browne