My favorite part of drawing up these lists are the inevitable comments. 2013’s list was strong one comment-wise. People were upset I left Roshes off the list, during its banner year as an online sensation. I was told to re-title the list to ”Top 10 Ugliest Sneakers,” a comment I take certain pride in as we enter an era of sneakers where ”uglier” is better. This is the conversation that commenting allows—and I appreciate it, so thank you.
Conversation and opinion is what has always connected the world of sneaker culture. We critique every aspect of the product and the scene we love, and that’s a fantastic thing because there is more than ever at stake. The scene is getting bigger and shows no sign of slowing down, unless you see sneakers as a commodity, in which case, shit is about to get serious. Discussion and discourse is very much needed. Not having Gary Warnett here to give his insight sucks, but we can honor his voice by remembering to always keep pushing the conversation forward.
My conversation starter: A group of footwear that I loved and wore throughout 2017. It’s an honest list—you won’t find every hype shoe here. What you’ll find are personal choices and shoes that matter to me, and I’ll tell you a bit of the ”why.” Thanks for reading.
Pendleton x The North Face Camp Mules
“You’re right, this is not a ’sneaker’ in the traditional sense, but its rubberized sole makes it fair game in my mind. A fine collaboration by The North Face and Pendleton utilizing the very good Camp Mule slipper with an graphic grey wool upper.”
Aime Leon Dore Q14 Low Top for SSENSE
“Supple leather and a suede blue upper made this SSENSE-exclusive Q14 a go-to this past fall. Taking strong hints from a well-known uptown favorite, the Q14 is an elevated take on low-tops that dresses up nicely. The crew over at Aime Leon Dore are doing great things. This one is a favorite.”
“In my mind, 2014’s Nike Lunarterra Arktos Boot SP was pretense to Nike’s ACG revival. ACG had fallen to the wayside and was in need of newness. Years on, the line of apparel and footwear is under the watchful eye of designer Errolson Hugh, who has elevated Nike ACG back to a position of importance. The NikeLab ACG 07 KMTR is exceptional and outstanding as it is innovative and forward-looking. A magnetic locking mechanism, heel pulls, and tech fabrics show the road directly in front of us, while avoiding reliance on retro styles that tends to bottleneck innovation. Likely one of this year’s most underrated silhouettes.”
ALIFE x Reebok Phase 1 Pro
“Reebok’s had a very strong 2017, due in part to changing trends and the help a Kanye West silhouette that reignited a whole category of sneakers. While Reebok’s Pump Supreme, Pump Fury and classic Workouts lead the pack, my pick is the ALIFE edition of the Phase 1 Pro. Subtle touches like the ALIFE lockup on the sidewall and gums sole made this a winner. Released at the cusp of 2016—long after I made last year’s list— I wore out my first pair by August forcing me to hunt down a second pair. Well done.”
adidas Campus “Collegiate Burgundy”
“Sneaker editor Chris Danforth went with a suede Gazelle, but my low of Summer 2017 was a burgundy Campus. To my surprise, burgundy works with just about any look, worn up or down. This Campus traveled the world from Jordanian/Israeli border to the street of Berlin. A no-frills inline colorway that’s still available today. It’s likely on sale somewhere.”
adidas Garwen SPZL
“Two words: Noel Gallagher. The singer and songwriter from Manchester was crowned with his own signature model from the excellent Spezial, an adidas Originals sub-line with a focus on elevated cult classics under the helm of Gary Aspen. Of 2017’s Spezial releases, this Garwen leads the pack. Like NY Editorial Director Jian DeLeon‘s Mephisto pick, this look is classic, as well as being a well-deserved signature model for a musician that is bigger than Oasis.”
New Balance 990 v4 “Castlerock Grey”
“New Balance put energy behind the 990 v4 in 2017. I’m a sucker for inline sneakers—those basic, widely-distributed models that just work everywhere (the 990 v4 is far from hard to cop). Everything is right about the 990 v4: the ride, the fit, and the kicker is it’s still made in the USA. Berlin Editorial Director Brock Cardiner loved them too. I covered major ground in these.”
Virgil Abloh x Nike Presto
“Virgil’s “The Ten” was Nike’s success story this year. Nothing came close in energy nor in re-grams. Nike and Virgil changed how one thought about sneaker design through deconstruction and restructure. Early on, Virgil controlled the marketing, seeding and teasing pairs of Jordan 1s and Prestos before the collection had a public name, driving insane demand and blowing quantity models through the roof. I love Prestos in general, so I was genuinely drawn to this silhouette for its outside-the-box execution.”
Nike Flyleather Tennis Classic
“Craft, materials, and sustainability. Those are the important touchpoints shaping Nike’s new Flyleather technology, an innovative leather “composite” that is 40% lighter than typical full-grain leather, and five times more “abrasion resistant.” Flyleather is so close to the genuine issue that it’s quite difficult to distinguish the differences. It took some time to break in the Flyleather Tennis Classic, but once there, they are difficult to not slip on for a day out.
Nike’s Flyleather Tennis Classic are commercially easy to find. It’s an inline model that’s not exclusive at all. Simply put, it is a fantastic white tennis trainer that doesn’t boast. I’m two pairs deep.”
- Photography: Thomas Welch / Highsnobiety.com