As this year winds down, we’ve recapped its highlights to bring you the best of 2018 in fashion, sneakers, music, movies, and more.

Four years ago, The New York Times wrote about how the sneaker had “grown up.” Okay, editorial clout aside, it doesn’t take a seasoned journalist to notice how dudes often pick what to wear on their feet to impress, well, other dudes. Will Welch, editor-in-chief at GQ and holder of mucho editorial clout himself, said something in that article that stuck with me: “Sneakers are our purses.”

Welch’s prescience was proven earlier this year, when fashion search platform Lyst revealed data that showed searches for sneakers had outgrown searches for handbags. Indeed, sneakers are the new purses.

If you think about it, sneakers have become the de facto way to express your interests, tastes, and brand loyalty (cue someone commenting “checks over stripes, that’s what I like”). Hype kicks with a hefty resell value are as much a status symbol as a Dior saddle bag-inspired clout pouch with Matthew Williams buckle. The same could be said for designer sneakers themselves, ranging from the now-ubiquitous Balenciaga Triple S, the Maison Margiela Fusion, Prada Cloudbust, and the Dior B22.

The Cloudbust and Fusion would have made my year-end list, hands-down, but I wasn’t able to cop a pair of either. The colorways I wanted sold out the quickest. So sure, like last year, you’ll see plenty of Nike, adidas, and other sportswear collabs in this list. But perhaps next year you might see a pair or two from Kim Jones’ Dior debut or one of Virgil Abloh’s Air Jordan-inspired silhouettes from his upcoming Louis Vuitton collection.

I still love plenty of what the classic sneaker brands are making, but this year shows we’re in the middle of a seismic shift in terms of which kicks are the most flex-worthy. And I plan on coming extra correct in 2019.

Needles x Vans Slip-On

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Highsnobiety / Bryan Luna

Vans to me are the anti-dress shoe. It’s why I gravitated toward the Needles collab. The gold tassels really pop on the purple crushed velvet. This shoe screams “wealth,” but the retail price was far from it. I might even bust these out on New Year’s Eve — if someone (let’s be real: most likely myself) spills a drink on it, I wouldn’t even flinch.

New Balance 801

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Highsnobiety / Bryan Luna

This shoe started out as the OG trail runner when it first dropped in 1998. The classic muted colorway and hiking details scream “Camp Steve Jobs.” Given the whole trail shoe trend popping off right now, it makes sense why it got retro’d. One of the most sought-after GRs of the year, at $100 retail, they’re also a shoe of the people.

For me, it was one of those “scene” shoes I associate with the pop-punk and emo boom of the late ’90s and early ’00s. They even appear on the album cover of Saves The Day’s Through Being Cool — which is ironic given NB’s status making shoes you’d probably steal from your dad.

Commonwealth x adidas Consortium ZX 500 RM

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Highsnobiety / Bryan Luna

Commonwealth is a shop that hits close to home in more ways than one. I was born in the Philippines and my family moved to Virginia Beach when I was four, then up to Northern Virginia near DC when I was 10. Commonwealth’s DC store was one of the places I discovered OriginalFake, wings+horns, and 10.Deep, among others. Their aesthetic has always been low-key and all about the details.

That’s what makes this ZX 500 stand out to me. First thing I did was switch the laces out for the indigo color, which makes them pop more. But the woven stripes, heel embroidery, and subtle purple tag are my favorite hits on this. Now I just need them to make one in purple when these white joints inevitably get beat.

Highsnobiety x Mizuno Wave Rider Phoenix

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Highsnobiety / Bryan Luna

As you can see, I’ve worn the hell out of our collaboration with Mizuno. And yes, I paid for these shoes. In fact, when they dropped, I literally tried going to two different stores in Tokyo on release day, only to find out they were long gone. I scooped them when they got released online, though.

These kicks make me feel like a Power Ranger. Maybe it’s the bold contrasts on the upper, the red mesh contrasts on the toe, or the dynamic zig-zag hit on the midsole. There’s just something superheroic about them that I love, and it doesn’t hurt that they happen to be super-comfortable.

Sean Wotherspoon x Nike Air Max 1/97

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Highsnobiety / Bryan Luna

I truly appreciate Sean Wotherspoon and Round Two not just because they’re also from Virginia, but they’ve managed to create their own lane, stick with it, and got so many people to fuck with them, myself included. It’s a story of authentic community-building without compromising your individuality, and this shoe is a physical manifestation of that energy.

Don’t believe me? Watch the first episode of Round Two: The Show and try not to get sucked into a binge-watch k-hole. It’s Pawn Stars meets fuccbois, and I mean that as a compliment. As far as Wotherspoon’s Air Max 1/97 goes, there’s so much storytelling that went into this shoe, from his vegan lifestyle informing the use of corduroy to the vintage Nike inspiration touching everything from the colorway to the footbed. And for the record, I dig the vibrant changes made to the colorway, as opposed to the muted greens that dominated the initial mock-up.

Brain Dead x Converse Chuck 70

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Highsnobiety / Bryan Luna

Brain Dead is a really fun brand. Designer Kyle Ng’s references are all over the place, in the best way possible. In the past year, they’ve also made killer collabs with everyone from Sasquatchfabrix. and Carhartt WIP to Lil Wayne. And their Fall 2018 collection included a cow-print chore coat I instacopped.

What drew me to Brain Dead’s Chuck 70 collab was how bananas the patchwork prints are. You’ve got zebra, leopard, camo, and the American flag on one shoe. It’s so punk rock and such a fuck you to people with a more conservative sense of style. If it’s weird, I’m probably going to champion it.

Pyer Moss x Reebok DMX Daytona Experiment 2 (Chalk/Paper White/Green/Red)

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Highsnobiety / Bryan Luna

Kerby Jean-Raymond deserves all the love he’s getting this year. But what I admire most about the Pyer Moss designer is that even with the recognition he’s finally getting (winning the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund, his Pyer Moss x Reebok collab getting named Collaboration of the Year by Footwear News), he’s already working on the next thing. You can’t knock the hustle.

This shoe is hands-down my favorite out of several silhouettes and colorways Pyer Moss has done with Reebok. The white and green accents echo classic sneakers of the past (’sup, Stan Smith?), but the silhouette, with its hidden laces and clever magnetic tongue, places it distinctly in the future. It’s surprisingly versatile, too. I wear it with everything from track pants to stacked denim and cropped trousers and it still bangs.

UNDERCOVER x Nike React Element 87 (Light Beige/Chalk/Signal Blue)

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Highsnobiety / Bryan Luna

The React Element 87 is our Sneaker of the Year, and anyone who listens to our weekly Dropcast already knows I talk about this shoe like it’s a loved one. And truth be told, it kind of is.

Sure, the initial black and white releases have their merits, like the cork footbed, but when the UNDERCOVER collaborations walked the runway in March, my brain exploded so hard that I still require weekly rehab appointments to regain all of my motor skills.

The concept and execution speak to true UNDERCOVER heads, who like myself, probably liken it to Jun Takahashi’s Spring/Summer 2010 “LESS BUT BETTER” collection, which was largely inspired by the reductionist thinking of Dieter Rams. It strips away pieces of the body to give you something that emanates with a strong soul.

Engineered Garments x HOKA ONE ONE Tor Ultra Low (Simply Taupe)

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Highsnobiety / Bryan Luna

Everything Engineered Garments touches is considered, and its latest HOKA ONE ONE collab proves there’s much more to the brand than mismatched uppers. Drawing on the label’s military inspiration, it took a tactical boot and made it into an extremely functional low-top.

And when I say “extremely functional,” I mean they kept my feet warm in below-freezing weather. I hiked on a freaking Icelandic glacier in this pair, and my feet never got cold, nor did I ever slip. That combination of quiet performance, utilitarian design, and clean-but-not-boring colorway made these an instant inclusion.

Union x Nike Air Jordan 1 “Blue Toe”

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Highsnobiety / Bryan Luna

The Air Jordan 1 is my favorite sneaker of all time, so much that I dedicated an entire podcast to it. Union’s collab ticks all the boxes that hit the lizard brain part of an impulsive copper’s medulla oblongata. It’s a bit nostalgic, very new, and executed so well that you can’t help but want a pair. I gravitated toward the white/royal pair, and love that homage to the classic “Bred” colorway at the top.

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Words by Jian DeLeon
Editorial Director

Jian DeLeon is the Editorial Director at Highsnobiety. He is based in New York.

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