1.37 billion people live in China, so it comes as no surprise that the country is home to its fair share of sneakerheads, boutiques, and exclusive footwear collaborations. When the world’s most populous country throws its biggest party for Chinese New Year, the celebration, by extension, becomes one of the biggest sneaker drops of the year.
Sneaker brands have long since understood the significance of Chinese New Year, which is why you’ll see a lot of celebratory releases from the likes of adidas, Nike and Vans, to name a few. While each brand and their silhouettes differ from the rest, there is one constant when it comes to sneaker releases in China: the color red.
Highsnobiety spoke to Mike Chung, founder of ACU and Kaffiend, about why red is so popular in China. “Red is a color that traditionally symbolizes happiness, so it’s associated with a lot of festivals, holidays, and special occasions like birthdays and weddings. Red is also the main color on the China flag,” he told us.
Red is seen almost everywhere during Chinese New Year. Everything from lanterns to envelopes and, for quite some time now, sneakers, feature some shade of red. The color represents fire, good fortune and joy.
Speaking on how red went from being the color of Chinese New Year to being adopted by the sneaker community, Chung added: “I think it all began when [Nike] did the Year of the Horse Air Force 1 and then, as time went by, the [sneaker] community grew larger, while Chinese traditions also grew larger internationally. Eventually red became the color of choice for many sneakers. Now companies are using that to help promote products during this time of the year.”
Tradition and culture play a large part in Chinese sneaker culture, which is evident in the adoption of red as its main signifier. When Chung works on projects he uses a lot of Chinese festivals and holidays in order to “bridge my culture with things that I like and also to promote my culture in different parts of the world.”
On why red seems to sell better than any other color, Chung said: “Maybe because its a really sharp color. I personally don’t have that many all red sneakers or red ones in general.”
As we get closer to this year’s Chinese New Year celebrations, we take a look back at some of our favorite Chinese kicks. Check out our 10 favorites below, most of which feature at least a hint of red.
Vans x SANKUAZ Year of the Dog pack (2018)
In celebration of Chinese New Year, Vans teamed up with renowned designer SANKUANZ to design an exclusive collection of footwear for the Year of the Dog. The attitude of a rabid dog was the inspiration behind the project, which resulted in four footwear silhouettes, as can be seen above. The campaign message, “DO NOT PET ME I AM AGGRESSIVE,” can be seen throughout.
CLOT x Nike Lunar Force 1 “10th Anniversary” (2015)
CLOT celebrated its 10th anniversary in mid-2015 by collaborating with Nike on an updated classic, the Lunar Force 1. Composed of various shades of grey, the upper is constructed of Nike’s technical Hyperfuse Loopwheeler cotton, while two miniature Swooshes, alternating between blue and red, lie on either side of the shoe. Celebratory details feature on the tongue patch and heel embroidery, continuing through an additional sew-on patch and carry case which comes included in the bundle.
Air Jordan 12 Chinese New Year (2016)
This Air Jordan 12 doesn’t have any red on it, yet it still celebrates Chinese New Year. This Taxi-inspired colorway dons an array of detailed textures on the mudguard and heel tab, as well as a special Chinese New Year logo on the tongue and insole. Never one to keep things simple, Jordan Brand also decked out the upper in fully reflective materials.
Nike Air Foamposite One “Tianjin” (2015)
The Nike Air Foamposite One “Tianjin” is one of the rarest and most intricate basketball shoes in recent memory. Designed to pay homage to the city of Tianjin — often referred to as the birthplace of Basketball in China — the silhouette is decked out in imagery inspired by the country’s cultural heritage. Lotus flowers and carp decorate the sneaker’s upper, which comes with a decorative insole and a salmon-hued sole unit.
Vans Slip-One “Year of the Rooster” (2016)
Vans celebrated the year of the Rooster in 2016 with six silhouettes in collaboration with Shanghai-based designer Kim Kiroic. The Slip-On is one of several sneakers that draws inspiration from the rooster’s lifecycle from an egg to an adult. Featuring a custom three-color fringe pointing to the rooster’s tail feathers, this silhouette is one of the more literal homages on this list.
Reebok Instapump Fury (2015)
Celebrating Chinese New Year in 2015, Reebok reworked two of its iconic silhouettes, one of which was the Instapump Fury. The sneaker received a CNY-themed makeover, with a neutral suede construction and pink and blue accents throughout symbolizing the Year of the Goat.
adidas Originals Superstar ’80s “Chinese New Year” (2013)
Half a decade ago adidas Originals celebrated the Year of the Snake with two pairs of Superstar ’80s, one of which is the red variation above. The upper of the snake is done in faux snakeskin leather and features jade accents throughout. A classic sneaker that keeps it simple in homage to Chinese New Year.
Nike Cortez Classic “Year of the Tiger” (2010)
This is one of the wilder releases on this list, featuring a tiger-print upper that comes complete with faux fur detailing on the Swoosh, toe box and heel counter. Instead of using the popular yellow stripe print, though, Nike used a white tiger print to reflect its image of power and prestige in Chinese traditional culture. A very neat detail.
CLOT x Nike 1World Air Force 1 low (2009)
One of the craziest designs on the list, the CLOT x Nike World Air Force 1 features a lucky-red inspired upper that tears away to reveal a second layer. The peel-off double-layer design feature was created to inspire people to seek beyond the superficial and quickly made it one of the most sought-after sneakers to come out of China.
CLOT x Nike Air Max 1 “Kiss of Death” (2006)
This Air Max 1 is one of CLOT’s earlier collaborations with Nike, from way back in 2006. Suede, snake and ostrich skin adorn the upper, and are paired with a unique transparent toe box. The theme here was the traditional Chinese medicinal theory, which could be seen on the pressure point map on the insoles.
Next, check out what’s in store for Chinese New Year 2018 from Jordan Brand here.
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- Main & Featured Image: CLOT
- Gallery 1: Vans
- Gallery 2: Nike
- Gallery 3: Solecollector.com
- Gallery 4: Reebok
- Gallery 5: Freshness Mag
- Gallery 6: CLOT
- Image 1: Ryan Hursh / Highsnobiety.com
- Image 2: Vans
- Image 3: adidas
- Image 4: Stadium Goods