In an era where the hype surrounding a sneaker can often elevate its value more than the style and comfort of the actual shoe, the term sneakerhead has lost some of its meaning. Before everyone was lining up for the latest pair of ultra-hyped collaborative sneakers, there were a handful of classic sneakers that everyone considered essential to their collection.
Possessing an understanding of the stories and historical anecdotes behind these fundamental styles is part and parcel of the game. That knowledge can result in a greater appreciation for how sneaker culture has evolved over the last few decades, as well as the product itself. We’re not saying you need to be able to rattle off Michael Jordan’s stat line in any of his title-winning seasons to wear Jordans, but it’s probably a good idea to familiarize yourself with why the man, his legend, and the sneakers he wore have had such an impact on our community.
On that note, we’ve put together a Highsnobiety-approved list of ten classic sneakers you should own if you want to call yourself a sneakerhead. These are the shoes that have stood the test of time and which will be a mainstay in your rotation for 2022 and beyond.
Shop the best classic sneakers for every wardrobe below.
Nike Air Force 1
How many sneakers have their own (good) anthem? There’s something about the Air Force 1's crisp minimalism that speaks to so many people. Though there are unlimited choices, including the OG white-on-white, but recently Stussy has been nailing its Nike AF1 collaborations. Sure, mid-tops are always going to split opinions, but this pair is bound to sway the opposition to Nike's mid agenda.
adidas Samba Vegan
The Samba has always been a classic sneaker from the adidas' sneaker arsenal, but recently it has been impossible to ignore. With co-signs from the A$AP Mob and Harry Styles, collaborations with Gucci and Wales Bonnes, and an evergreen relevance on my Instagram feed, the shoe is being given the credit it deserves. This white and black colorway is the most classic variation of the shoe you can find, and this particular pair utilizes vegan materials.
Stepney Workers Club Dellow
With the majority of classic sneakers, it is their history that gives them the status of being a bonafide footwear icon. However, East London's purveyor of casual cool shoes, Stepney Workers Club, manages to conjure up the same classic aesthetic from its relatively new array of sneakers.
As co-founders, Roger Pereira and Simon See told us in a recent interview, the label's aesthetic looks as though, "It could have been around for the last 80 years and adopted by many sub-cultures."
HOKA Chunky Sole Sneakers
HOKA might be a relative newcomer in the field of athletic footwear, but that hasn't stopped it from making a name for itself thanks to the label's meta-rocker technology and cushioning. This all-white pair includes its signature technology in the silhouette of a classic runner.
New Balance 993
The New Balance 990 is one of the most recognized sneaker ranges in the world. After starting out as a high-performance shoe, the classic sneaker found a home among normcore enthusiasts and sneakerheads more recently. The shoe features a mix of dark mesh and suede across its body and a nice chunky ENCAP sole to keep riding the dad sneaker wave with.
adidas x NOAH Adria Sneakers
Since its debut in 1975, you will have undoubtedly come across the Adria. A no-thrills type of sneaker, this is the kind of classic shoe that you can rely on to wear with pretty much anything.
A collaboration with NOAH, which the shoe shown above is from, has pushed it slightly more into the limelight amongst fashion circles, but a shoe that's this simple and timeless is pretty much exempt from sporadic trends.
Converse Chuck 70
The Converse Chuck Taylor is arguably one of the most influential sneakers in history. You'll be hard-pressed to find someone who has not wanted or owned a pair of these basketball shoes at some point in their lifetime. Since 1917, the Chuck Taylor has been a fixture in pop culture, making waves across genres and fashion fits. In the early 2010s, Converse decided to refresh their iconic shoe, blessing us with the equally beloved Chuck 70.
The 70 features a beefed-up build and vintage aesthetic that pay tribute to earlier All-Stars. The sneaker uses a heftier and more luxurious 12oz canvas across its body. The shoe is more comfortable than its older brother, thanks to much-needed additional padding and stitching. The Chuck 70s have quickly become the "go-to" sneaker for fans of the silhouette, attracting a wave of collaborators like Virgil Abloh, Tyler the Creator, JW Anderson, and Rei Kawakubo.
Maison Margiela Replica Sneakers
The fact that this sneaker looks so similar to the adidas Samba higher up in this list (and countless other classic sneakers) is no coincidence. Martin Margiela has made no attempt at hiding the fact that this shoe is his take on a vintage adidas' sneaker made for the German Army, which is where the name Replica comes from. The adidas sneaker, which has colloquially become known as the "GAT", has inspired countless sneakers but none are quite as famous as Maison Margiela's rendition.
adidas x Wales Bonner WB Country
There's been a lot of hype surrounding the adidas x Wales Bonner Samba, but don't overlook the rest of the footwear in the brand's 70s-inspired collaborations. This pair of classic runners, which was originally released in the 70s, is given a high-end makeover by the British-Jamaican designer, who is being tipped to fill the open creative director role at Louis Vuitton menswear.
Last Resort AB VM002
When a shoe skates as well as those by Last Resort there's no need for loud design gimmicks, the brand keeps to a slim vulcanized design that can easily slot into anyone's rotation. Created by skaters Sami Tolppi and Pontus Alv, the veteran skaters ensure that the sneaker brand uses highly durable materials that mean you will be able to keep these in your rotation for years to come.
It might not have the lengthy history of other sneakers on this list, but the design has all the makings of an instant classic.
ASICS GEL-SONOMA 15-50
If you asked everyone on earth to draw a pair of running shoes, my money would be on most people sketching a pair of ASICS. With its signature GEL cushioning, this specific pair is geared towards multi-surface running. This means that the aggressive outsole grip that offers superior traction on roads as well as mountain trails.
Vans Old Skool
The Vans Old Skool has weaved itself into many subcultures from skateboarding to punk rock to streetwear while being a favorite of celebrities such as Rihanna and Kim Kardashian. It truly is a shoe for everyone, which is what gives the Old Skool such an iconic status.
Crafted in a suede and textile upper, with a leather Vans Sidestripe, it's an instantly recognizable sneaker — especially in this black and white colorway.
Prada Technical Fabric Sneakers
Initially created for the 1997 America’s Cup race, these Prada sneakers managed to build such a fanbase for their futuristic design that they are still around today — and considered a classic sneaker. No matter how old it gets, this shoe still manages to look cutting-edge.
New Balance x Aimé Leon Dore 993
New Balance's 993 sneaker, a sportier version of its signature 990, undoubtedly holds its own amongst New Balance's large archive of classic sneakers. But when you add a brown and olive colorway courtesy of Aimé Leon Dore it takes the timelessness to new levels.
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