I’ll begin by admitting I’m not a sneakerhead. At least not compared to some of my colleagues at Highsnobiety. That said, 2017 was a fantastic year for sneaker culture with brave designs taking the market by storm and invigorating the community with fresh new ideas to accept or deny, and giving us at Highsnobiety HQ plenty to talk about over the last 12 months.
One thing you’ll notice about my selection below is that almost every pair is filthy and worn TF in. Probably I should take better care of my footwear considering the industry I work in. Screw it though, shoes are meant to be worn, a position that’s especially easy to stand behind when you’re admittedly not a sneakerhead.
You might also notice a conspicuous lack of any YEEZYs. Despite how much I love Kanye and almost everything he does or says, I simply can’t get behind the YEEZY Boost. It just doesn’t do it for me. On the other hand, I most likely would have included the YEEZY Wave Runner if I had managed to cop a pair. Those and the Desert Rat and Mud Rat really show Kanye coming in to his own with footwear design. Hopefully we’ll see those release in the coming months and I’ll have better luck on that front next year.
Converse Chuck Taylor All-Star
“A literal classic that has stood the test of time. Pretty much every year I go through another pair of both low and high-top Chuck Taylors, and this year was no different. There’s nothing I can say about them that hasn’t already been said over the course of the silhouette’s 100-year history so I’ll just leave it at that.”
Vans x Our Legacy Authentic Pro LX
“I was lucky enough to be invited on a press trip to London for the release of Our Legacy’s collaboration with Vans, a partnership which landed them a spot in this year’s Crowns. Our Leg has been among my favorite labels since I first discovered them about seven years ago so I was stoked to get the chance to talk to the brand’s co-founder Jockum Hallin.
In addition to learning more about Our Leg’s history, I got an early chance to scoop up the Authentic Pro LX. As the above photo shows, these were worn regularly and with reckless abandon. The material itself is always a talking point and the orange colorway provides a great accent to what otherwise might be a dreary outfit. Big ups to Jockum and the Our Leg crew for that one.”
adidas Ultra Boost “Rainbow Toe” (Friends & Family)
“Ok so these were given to “Friend & Family” in 2016 (but c’mon the Converse Chuck Taylor first released nearly 100 years ago #justsayin). And actually I wasn’t even considered part of adidas’ “Friends & Family” at that point as these were given to Highsnobiety’s Managing Director, Jeff Carvalho. Jeff, with his heart of gold, saw my eyes light up when I saw them on a trip to the New York office and bequeathed them to me.
It’s always difficult to keep white sneakers clean, particularly when they’re made of knit material, but I’ve managed to keep these ones looking relatively fresh. The rainbow toebox always gets questions and compliments, and it’s again a nice way to top off a muted outfit.”
Casbia x Champion Awol Atlanta
“Italian brand Casbia has been on my radar since being turned on to them by our NY photographer, Thomas Welch, many years ago. He was a big fan of them and praised them highly so when I got the chance to scoop up a pair I naturally went for one of the more divisive models.
A collaboration with Champion, these made-in-Italy mid-tops rank among my most worn this year. I’m drawn to the asymmetric styling as well as the use of a zipper in place of laces. All-black leather, meanwhile, naturally allows these to go with almost anything, at least part of the reason I wore them so frequently this year.”
New Balance 990 (Made in USA)
“Another pair from 2016, I hopped on the chunky sneaker trend this year with this made-in-USA 990 from New Balance. I’m a bit shocked how fresh these appear but that’s probably due to me pairing them with an overall #officecore look that necessitates looking at least somewhat respectable by having clean shoes.
They’re ultra comfortable and I’ll probably wear them more often now that I see them in the context of every other pair on this list.”
Raised By Wolves “Fuck Off” Slides
“Ok so these aren’t sneakers (obviously). But I didn’t wear any other slide, slipper or sandal as often as I wore these “FUCK OFF” slides from Canadian imprint Raised By Wolves. They’re my default around-the-house shoe and they got more use than any sneaker during my summer holidays so these deserve to be on this list as much as any other pair.”
Vans Old Skool UltraRange Rapidweld
“Our Footwear Editor Chris Danforth doesn’t approve of these but I dig the spin on the classic. Mostly what I like about these new-gen Old Skools is how light they are, alongside the pull tabs on the tongue and heel. It’s the little things that count. And like Chucks, they’re a silhouette I don’t have to worry about beating up.”
“Say what you will about Germany but its people know how to make shoes. These made-in-Germany sneakers from newcomer VOR are subtle enough to go with anything yet detailed enough to pick apart. They ended up becoming my go-to for any situation that required a bit of conservativeness. Also my grandma loves them.”
“Another hideously beautiful pair from Casbia, these asymmetric mesh joints never fail to turn heads. They automatically complicate any outfit (in a good way) and I always feel like a centaur when I wear them, which any centaur will tell you is a good thing.”
Virgil Abloh x Nike Air Jordan 1
“Alright so I haven’t actually worn these yet as they arrived the day of shooting but Virgil totally knocked it out of the park with these. The problem with collaborating on a sneaker as iconic as the Jordan is that it’s basically impossible to top the original. Dare I say Virgil managed to do that by channeling every percolating design trend in 2017 across 10 different silhouettes.
IMO the Jordans were the best of the bunch and the revamped details are subtle yet explicit enough to bring the classic into the new era. Most impressive is that he managed to do this without changing the colorway at all. He simply added details where he saw fit, perfectly capturing what made 2017 such a great year for sneaker culture: “custom” elements combined with respect for the past and an eye for the future.”
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