Over the last few years, whenever it’s come time to assemble my top 10 sneaker list, I’m always amazed at how often I go back to variations on the same style over and over again. There are always a few new models put to the test that find their way in, but having grown up skateboarding in the ’90s, low-top skate/skate-inspired basics are the styles I feel most at home wearing.
Beyond that, and this year especially, the ones that stand out most are the shoes that encompass more than simply being a silhouette or colorway I like. Each of these 10 sneakers has a story that resonates with me, or is tied to a defining moment of my year. It’s the experiences and personal connections that make each one stand out. As Edward Chiu put it, “context is king.”
Check out my picks below and, as with the staff list, feel free to roast me in the comments if you aren’t feeling my choices.
Quasi x Vans ArcAd Slip-On Lite
“Vans Syndicate consistently produced some of my all-time favorite sneakers during their 10-year run, so I was pretty bummed when they shuttered in 2015. This year they quietly rolled out their new ArcAd division, as a sort of post-Syndicate range of more experimental releases from the Vans Pro Skate crew. I loved the ArcAd Powell and Santa Cruz releases by Taka Hayashi but the Quasi Slip-On Lite was the one that ended up as a go-to all year (most memorably in Tofino, BC during the Vans Duct Tape Festival).”
Vans Old Skool Lite
“I was featured in a Canadian campaign for the release of the Vans Old Skool Lite early in the year, wore the shoe out on the shoot and had a hard time taking them off. The new 13 oz. Lite build is insanely comfortable and of course the classic black/white goes with everything. I know the Lites aren’t even meant for skating, but one of my most notable sessions of the year went down in these; at Charlie Bowins park in Ottawa after the opening of my friend’s new shop Birling. Rest in peace Charlie.”
Salomon S/Lab Snowcross
“My better half detests these and I’m not huge on sneakerboots or the whole “ugly” footwear trend myself. That said, the Snowcross worked for me with real innovation and performance to back up the look. Under the S/Lab moniker, the outdoor experts at Salomon worked a tech-focused/fashion-forward silhouette that sits well alongside lines like Arc’teryx Veilance. I wore these in Montreal winters and my feet were happy. Our Fashion Editor Alec Leach even approves of the mainline edition.”
Alltimers x adidas Campus F&F
“NY-based Alltimers has been one of my favourite skate brands in recent years, and over the past few they’ve built up a prominent Canadian segment to their team. I was lucky to be blessed with the friends and family colorway of their Campus and it’s a good one. To be honest, I skated a bunch of models from the adidas Skateboarding line this year—Samba ADV, adiease, Matchcourt, Busenitz—and the Alltimers model is one of a few that I didn’t completely destroy, so this also stands to represents that collection overall.”
Common Projects Achilles
“I’ve been a big fan of the Achilles for at least a decade and finally picked up my own pair at a Sample Sale in NY this summer (admittedly one of only a handful of shoes I’ve bought in years). A bit boring/safe given what the footwear scene looks like in 2017, sure, but the the quality is fantastic and the look is just timeless. These Common Projects became an instant go-to for casual summer weddings and the like so I had a lot of good times wearing them. ”
Raised by Wolves x Reebok CL GORE-TEX
“Call it shameless self promotion if you will, but when presented with the opportunity to design a Reebok shoe with Raised by Wolves, the first goal was to create something the RBW team and I wanted to wear, and could wear a ton in spite of the harsh Canadian weather. Reebok built an all-new mold for us to create the first-ever GORE-TEX Classic Leather for the project, and it delivers. Even though they just dropped last weekend, I can attest I’ve worn them nearly every day since—through wet and cold weather—and my feet have stayed warm and dry. These go anywhere, anytime (in the city at least).”
Tyler, the Creator x Converse One Star
“I’ve been hyped on the return of Converse One Star since they started rolling out the Lunarlon versions through the CONS skate line a few years back. Although it took me a few tries to nail the sizing (still gutted my fragments are too big), I finally found a perfect fit with the ‘Golf Le Fleur’ edition and wore them through most of the 2017 Highsnobiety Global Summit in Berlin… where a bunch of other staff had the same ones on. Good times.”
Concepts x Vans Old Skool “Jamaica” F&F Edition
“I love Vans and I love Old Skools. Nothing can change that. This orange friends and family “Jamaica” rework by the masters over at Concepts was simply a banger and became a go-to for special occasions where a little low-key flex felt appropriate. Case in point: the first time I met TET of WTAPS. Similar to Chris Danforth and his Patta Old Skools, it’s an “if you know, you know” type shoe. Plus, they worked with the Pro Skate build which just fit better for me.
Skepta x Nike Air Max 97 SK
“The Air Max 97 has been a favourite sneaker design of mine for ages, but I never really got into a pair myself until this year. And though we were bombarded with a ton good releases—I enjoyed UNDFTDs and OG Silver Bullets as well—these Skeptas hold a special place in my heart. I’ll leave it at that. Rest in peace Gary Warnett.”
Off-White by Virgil Abloh x Nike Presto
“Prestos are my all-time favorite Nike silhouette and the ACRONYM rework was hands down my top shoe to come out in 2016, so Virgil Abloh’s OFF-WHITE take-down in 2017 was another welcome remix. I have to admit, I started out as a skeptic of “THE TEN” but the whole pack really grew on me. If you’ve read any of my previous lists you’ll know I’m a big fan of Jordans 1s as well, and if I had a pair of Virgil’s Js they’d probably be in my own TEN as well.”