2017 was a frustrating year for sneakers. Releases were hard to keep up with as you would often find yourself looking at 10-15 launches each week. It's no longer easy to buy a pair at retail due to resellers and bots, but I'm also glad that my taste is quite obscure as most of my top 10 were still available at stores/online a full minute after drop time.
It was also the year of PR and Marketing. adidas is always visible through regular releases from the never-ending Pharell NMD and YEEZY 350 lineups. "THE TEN" felt like a release that was spread out through the year with its clever social media strategies. A great example of how prolonged and inconsistent leaks and previews can get the fans hooked.
At the end of the day, it's important to dig deeper into the origins of some of the "hype" releases out there. I always find the backstory and design cues are way more interesting than the actual product itself.
Context is King.
Kirkland Signature Athletic Shoe
This is not a troll. With the chunky shoe trend going on recently, it's best to revert back to the original Dad Shoe. It reminds me of the Raf Simons x ASICS release from 2012 which I have in my archive, a pair that I probably won't wear again as it's a museum-level artifact. And besides being a trendy silhouette, it comes with Memory foam footbed! These are still available at your local COSTCO.
Converse GOLF le FLEUR One Star
One of the best low-key collaboration releases this year. Subtle details throughout, but just enough to create a sense of familiarity connecting the design language to Tyler, The Creator. The visual consistency can be seen from campaign images, packaging and to the sneaker itself. It's rare these days to see such connection between the concept and the final outcome.
Don't let 'em kill your flowers, water your garden and stunt.
ALYX x Vans OG Authentic LX
True Vans heads will know the significance of this collaboration. The two capsules that were released this year were not remakes of a classic Sk8-Hi or the iconic Era like other collaborative projects, but Matthew Williams decided to work with models that haven’t been used in over two decades. This is a collaboration that dug deep into the archive and reproduced alternative classics in their original glory. The added side tape is also a great nod to the past.
11 by Boris Bidjan Saberi x Salomon Hiking Boots Trail Sneakers
As mentioned in my previous lists in recent years, I'm a big fan of hybrids. The boot & sneaker silhouette here is a perfect combination of style and function. Not to mention the zips opening, which is something that I've always been drawn to in shoe design, a great reminder of how forward-thinking the Nike Alpha project was from the late '90s and the early '00s - Air Flightposite, Air Flightposite Kevin Garnett II etc.
The washed/worn effect also reminds me of the Battle of Hoth (BIG Star Wars fan here).
The ultimate Dad Shoe. Every detail on this screams luxury. The overall design is also stripped down to its bare minimum, as well as the very muted branding on the heel, all of which are welcome features compared to its other competitors in the same high-end sphere. The dirt application also doesn't make you feel bad if you scuff them when you're out and about. To the haters who are saying these are hard to break in, the Apollo features the softest leather that you can use on a pair of sneakers.
Air Jordan 15 Retro
Yes, these are the most hated pair of Jordans ever; they're also one of Tinker Hatfield's least-proud Jordan releases. But I would like to state that these are my favorite Jordans of all time. I even bought two pairs - one to rock and one to stock from this year's retro release.
I have always loved the irregular and weird designs from the early '00s era and this was a special continuation of the direction as this was possibly the first Jordans that were on par with what Nike was doing at the time. It was also great to see Public School's take on the model in its most recent Jordan collaboration.
Maison (Martin) Margiela Deconstructed Sneakers
Before anyone did anything, Margiela did everything. It's been crazy to see how much certain designers have "referenced" Margiela in recent years, and of course, the inspiration list also includes Raf Simons and Helmut Lang. It's hard not to really because these veterans have made it hard for their peers to "create" when they have explored so many different ideas in the past.
The deconstruction and reconstruction method seen on this pair (a re-release) is one of the key catalysts of the current DIY wave. Creatives such as Helen Kirkum and Elisa van Joolen have also created conceptual pieces that push the discourse. And the ideas presented from those fronts can be found in "THE TEN" project by Nike.
It's interesting to see how much brands can rework this technique commercially. Martin, please come back.
COMME des GARÇONS HOMME PLUS x Nike Dunk High “Clear”
As a supporting act to COMME des GARÇONS HOMME PLUS' Spring/Summer 2017 collection, the collaboration with Nike is a simple, yet effective interpretation of Rei's theme for the season: "The King is Naked," literally. It's also a good example of how to do a collab as it touches both brands' DNA directly, without overloading the outcome with unnecessary shenanigans.
I still haven't worn these yet due to the fact that it might look like a sauna after 10 minutes. But as David Casavant pointed out to me on Instagram, the trick is "clean the inner side of the plastic with shaving cream and it won't get condensation."
VETEMENTS x Reebok Genetically Modified Pump
Fell in love with these when they were first previewed in VETEMENTS' showroom back in January, as the overall construction has a strong Steampunk vibe to it, something that I personally like as a design direction. It was not until my conversation with Anastasia Franquillo, Reebok's Global Cultural Connector, however, that I learned to truly appreciate the model. I asked her about the concept behind the design and was told that they actually took elements from 12 different pairs of Reeboks to make this one pair. Mad Max would be proud.
NikeLab Zoom Fly SP
I don't think I ever bought six variants of the same model in one single year, but I did for the Zoom Fly. Three standard colorways, two NikeLab SPs and the deconstructed version from "THE TEN" later. This is my number one choice for 2017.
These are great to walk and run in due to the carbon-infused nylon plate that propels you forward every step of the way. It's also interesting to note that this particular version is an early prototype of the Breaking2 lineup, and it's also the seventh iteration and second material direction of the upper design, as stated on the heel via codes.
So many details can be seen throughout via subtle icons and graphics. The model can also be linked back to the original Nike Daybreak where the offset and stack height was key to aid Achilles strain and provide impact protection. #NoAd, just passionate about a good design.