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 was 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 classic sneakers. These are the shoes that have stood the test of time and which will be a mainstay in your rotation for 2023 and beyond.
Shop the best classic sneakers for every wardrobe below.
Nike Blazer Mid '77 Vintage
What better pair of sneakers to kick off the school season than a pair of Nike Blazers? There’s something about this silhouette that underlines a preppy style and it's been like that, since its release 50 years ago. These kicks are perfect to round out a casual fit or to pair with your school uniform.
Miharayasuhiro Wayne Sneakers
Classic silhouettes come in many forms, with new ones being added to the canon every year. While the Wayne does bear a huge amount of similarities to Nike's iconic AF1, its unique hand-molded outsole is originally crafted in clay giving the sneaker an arc of its own.
adidas x Highsnobiety 'Not In Paris' Stan Smith
Released in 1963 as adidas' first in-line tennis shoe, it was only in 1978 that this model was named "Stan Smith" after the Wimbledon-winning tennis star. The Stan Smith is now a mainstay for adidas and the pair above is an exclusive collaboration with this very magazine for our Not In Paris collection.
Nike Air Force 1 '07
A shoe that needs no introduction is the Nike Air Force 1 '07. This stone-cold classic is the kind of shoe that you should always have in your rotation: once a pair gets cooked, it's time for a fresh new one.
New Balance 576
Currently celebrating its 35th anniversary, the New Balance 576 is an elevated version of the brand's low-key 574 model made in the UK using premium materials. Initially designed to be an all-terrain running shoe, it's one of the last remaining New Balance models with the traditional “big N” branding.
Converse Chuck 70 Low Sneakers
From kids to teenagers, to adults, the Converse Chuck ’70s have always been a classic in — literally — everyone’s wardrobe. It would be impossible to deny the style versatility this icon’s construction provides. You can go for practical tones like this off-white colorway, or if feeling spicy, dive into the multicolored universe Converse offers.
adidas Samba OG
Though collabs and celebrity sightings have added to the Samba's lore lately, the truth is that few sneakers have remained as timeless. This is largely due to the Samba's enduring versatility.
Vans Knu Skool Sneakers
It's no news anymore that DC’s thick silhouette is making a comeback this season. Multiple fashion houses such as Gucci and Bottega Veneta have taken their most beloved silhouette and thickened the hell outta it. Vans has chosen one of its classic sneakers, the Old Skool kicks, and inflated the silhouette’s tongue and laces for a bolder effect.
New Balance 650
adidas Superstar XLG Sneakers
adidas is another label revamping its classic silhouettes and this time they choose the almighty Superstars. Keeping its original shape, this new pair slightly thickens its rubber outsole, and adidas’ signature three-stripe logo on both sides.
Maison Margiela Replica Sneakers
The fact that this sneaker looks so similar to the adidas Samba (and countless other classic sneakers) is no coincidence. The Margiela team has made no attempt at hiding the fact that this shoe is a riff 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 other shoes but none are quite as famous as Maison Margiela's rendition.
Reebok Club C 85
The Club C is about as classic as it gets. It’s a no-frills sneaker that comes in a variety of colors but is most recognizable decked in all-white.
adidas has had a huge resurgence when it comes to its retro silhouettes. The Samba and Gazelle, in particular, have stormed the world of sneakers with a stretch that most silhouettes can only dream of. While the adidas Gazelle Indoor took the spotlight for the Gucci collab, we're still backing the OG Gazelle.
Puma Palermo OG Sneakers
Originally, the Puma Palermo sneakers were released in the ‘80s as an ode to the Sicilian town. These underrated gems feature a sleek upper, thin vintage-looking outsole, and Puma’s classic white stripe on the side. These come in multiple colorways, but this navy iteration will match most of your everyday ‘fits.
Gucci Screener Sneakers
The Gucci Screener Sneakers were released four years ago, but their retro touch makes them look like they were taken straight out of the ‘70s. For all luxury lovers out there, these gems shouldn’t be missing from your collection of bougie classic sneakers.
New Balance BB550
Countless colorways and collabs have been released within the past few years to make the 550 one of the most hyped models around, but this monochrome pair is where it all began. From the minimal branding to the gum rubber sole, this all-white pair is not to be slept on.
Nike Cortez Sneakers
When it comes to classic sneakers, Nike is among our go-to choices. The Nike Cortez is another member of the large family, and this time it comes in a bright mustard colorway, with hues of black and white to epitomize that retro look.
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