There are a ton of sneakers that drop every year, and narrowing down the best ones can feel almost impossible when it seems like we’re inundated with a plethora of enviable releases every week. One sneaker I’m surprised did not make my list was the 2017 re-release of the Air Jordan 1 Black/Royal, which is hands-down my favorite sneaker of all time. I definitely copped a pair to keep on ice, but as it stands, my 2013 pair remains in my rotation until the soles are worn to the ground—though I’m still hoping to get my hands on a satin pair someday.

We now live in a world where men and women increasingly get dressed from the feet up, and I’ve generally viewed sneakers as the men’s equivalent of women’s handbags—signifiers of status, taste, and personal style. Even though side bags are a “thing” and visvim ballistic backpacks are admirable flexes for discerning men, there’s still something to be said about how we express ourselves by what we put on our feet. After all, if you’re going to try to vicariously walk in someone else’s shoes—they should at least be cool, right?

Nike x Tom Sachs Mars Yard 2.0

”I’ve lined up for shoes before, but have never had to work as hard for them as I did for this pair. Nike and Tom Sachs fabricated an entire bricolage Space Camp in New York City earlier this year, and anyone who wanted to buy the shoes had to endure an obstacle course literally built to fail. The point wasn’t to make it through with flying colors, but acknowledge that everyone has limits and shortcomings, and real progress is achieved through incrementally overcoming those. From climbing a rope, doing push-ups until muscle failure, or trying to land a remote control helicopter, the entire installation was an experience that almost overshadowed the fact that it was made to unlock a sneaker for purchase. The best part about these is the mantra emblazoned on the box: ’These shoes are only valid if worn, and worn to death by you.’ And that’s exactly what I plan to do.”

NikeLab x Skepta Air Max 97 SK

This sneaker is important for many reasons. Its association with Skepta, the nod to two of the most dominant trainers in U.K. subculture (the Air Max 97 and Air Max Plus), but most of all, wearing them is a way for me to commemorate Gary Warnett. He was instrumental in making this collaboration happen, and it’s a small way for me to remember him with every step I take.”

Virgil Abloh x Nike Air Force 1 “The Ten”

“I’ll admit it: My favorite shoe of ’The Ten’ is actually the Jordan 1. It’s a Chicago shoe in a quintessential Chicago colorway done by a Chicago native. But the Air Force 1s are another closed circle of sorts, as they represent the silhouette that started all the speculation about Virgil Abloh collaborating with Nike, which is finally seeing the light of day under the AF100. Having seen those shoes in person though, I will say I much prefer this deconstructed take, courtesy of Abloh’s “Ghosting” pack, which distills the essence of each sneaker under a lens of deconstruction. It’s sort of like how certain chefs create reductions out of sauces to elevate the familiar into a new realm. Plus, the fact that I have a signed pair makes them all the more sentimental.”

Nike Air Max Plus “Big Badge”

”The Air Max Plus remains one of my favorite kicks under the Air Max umbrella. Designed by Sean McDowell in 1998, I appreciated it as an American who liked to shop abroad. Going to Foot Lockers and JD Sports shops in the EU and UK always offered plenty of colorways I couldn’t get stateside, as this shoe in particular is a testament to the differences between US and EU sneaker culture. Runners get preference over b-ball shoes across the pond, and this shoe achieved a second life among seedy club types, UK casuals, and Italian paninaros as almost a consolation prize for the Silver Bullet AM97s. It’s a thinking person’s casual running sneaker, and the huge logo isn’t just trend appropriate, but reminds me of how superheroes always wear their symbols in a prominent way.”

Concepts x Mephisto Match “Magenta”

”I’m in my 30s and live in a city that requires a lot of walking. So as a certified old, orthopedic shoe company Mephisto gets an automatic co-sign for any purveyor of so-called ’dad style.’ The Match is the label’s more casual answer to the Rainbow, a shoe that looks like a Doc Marten breeded with a hiking boot. Concepts took the traditionally white leather shoe and did it up in a bright magenta and mint green upper. The Magentas I figured were slightly more me than the green ones. And they’re definitely a go-to for days when I know I’ll be on my feet a lot.”

visvim Black Huron Mesh Moc-Folk Sneakers

”The FBT is still a modern classic, but the Huron is as close to a streamlined visvim sneaker as we’ll get. It sort of flips the knit sneaker trend into Hiroki Nakamura’s universe, opting for a flexible herringbone upper in place of the ubiquitous knitted sock uppers we’re so used to seeing. It’s an old-school touch that feels refreshing in a world where minimal aesthetics are touted as performance features.”

Nike Air Max Plus “Silver Bullet”

“Another meta-referential shoe, the Nike Air Max Plus rendered in the colorway of the AM97 Silver Bullet was a must-have for nerds like me who like the layers of references buried in a single shoe. For people who doubt that simple colorways aren’t enough to tell a story anymore, the Silver Bullet and Gold Air Max packs proved it could still be done.”

Nike Zoom Fly SP “Chicago”

”Arguably one of the best new silhouettes of 2017, the Zoom Fly SP and its associated shoes—the training-oriented Zoom Fly and hardcore runner Zoom Vaporfly 4%—pay homage to Nike’s innovation in speed—the ZoomX sole. Although the 4% is the only shoe of the three to actually contain Nike’s proprietary ZoomX tech—meant to help runners like Eliud Kipchoge break a 2-hour marathon barrier—it’s a shoe that inspires you to move faster just by looking at it, and when it’s on-foot, you actually feel more aerodynamic. As much as a placebo effect that might be, I can’t deny this shoe made me want to start running again.”

Stüssy x New Balance 990

”The New Balance 990 is the ultimate dad shoe, equal parts classic sneaker and window into ’90s nostalgia. The contrast mesh and suede details predate today’s appetite for chunky shoes, and Stüssy’s cream-white interpretation lets the sheer power of the silhouette speak for itself, even foregoing any collaborative branding save for the insole. The collab aspect is almost its own best-kept secret, which is rebellious in an age where obvious branding is so prevalent.’

COMME des GARÇONS x NikeLab VaporMax Black

”The CDG VaporMax is one of those objects you didn’t realize you needed until you discovered its very existence. First debuting in CDG’s Spring/Summer 2017 fashion show, the slip-on silhouette just looked like the future. It was utilitarian, sleek, and weird in a new way. It was actually a breath of fresh air, instead of a rehash of the past. And it’s a shoe I can wear with practically anything.”

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  • Photography: Thomas Welch / Highsnobiety.com
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