We look back on 2014's 10 biggest trends and developments in the world of men's style.

365 days and a whole lot of Instagram browsing later and we're staring down the barrel of a new year while simultaneously wondering what happened to the last one. 2014 has blessed us with countless collections, lookbooks and sneakers, an ever growing pile of shoe boxes and a whole load of ups and downs in the exhilarating ride that is men's style. Instead of dwelling on broken New Year's resolutions and regrettable wardrobe choices, we're taking a look back on the 10 most important developments in the Highsnobiety universe this year and pondering the significance they may hold in the future.

1. Sneakers Become More Luxurious

Luxury labels have forever dabbled in exorbitantly priced sneakers, but 2014's infatuation with all things streetwear kickstarted a luxe arms race as everyone from startup brands to storied fashion houses vied for the most artisanal, outlandish or just plain ridiculous kicks. While Highsnob has always flown the flag for premium renditions of classic sneakers - first declaring our love for Common Projects way back in 2007 - this was the year where stylish (/financially irresponsible) men happily sacrificed a few months' rent on gold mid-tops with padlocks, handmade veg-tanned leather Jordans or Yeezy-affiliated Chewbacca boots. While the market for $400+ footwear is always going to be niche at best, if the preview collections we've seen for 2015 are anything to go by then many avant-garde footwear designers will find themselves in the oxymoronic situation where their aesthetics and motifs are re-appropriated by the very brands they originally paid tribute to.

Image: KithNYC.com

2. Sportswear/Performance Gear Shows No Signs of Slowing Down

This year saw the fashion illuminati acquire a newfound taste for practicality, as editorials, street style galleries, lookbooks and Instagram accounts were littered with utilitarian performance gear and a crew of upstart designers launched careers off the back of sportswear-inspired aesthetics. Menswear aficionados paired Flyknits with suits, people made everything out of neoprene (making it the new leather, I suppose), Alexander Wang took his adoration of performance apparel to perverse new extremes by dropping a jacket coated entirely in reflective 3M and sweatpants appeared in pretty much every single collection from every brand in every category. Time will tell if this signifies a real shift in people's sartorial preferences towards comfort and practicality or if it's just the latest manifestation of the tired (but no less relevant) high/low cliché.

3. Normcore Becomes the Norm and then Quickly Fades

When NYC trend forecasting agency K-HOLE's report on a new movement embracing the nondescript went viral, the normcore phenomenon was birthed and took the blogosphere by storm as editors, stylists and designers embraced anti-trend pragmatism and intentionally bland, awkward uniforms. While normcore raised a compelling point about the fashion world's capricious obsession with fads, it was quickly forgotten, leaving only hastily written op-eds and homeless-looking hipsters in its wake, ironically resembling one of the meaningless trends it supposedly defied.

Image: NY Mag

4. Retail Goes Conceptual

While it's unlikely that brick and mortar retail will ever recover from the irreparable damage wreaked upon it by the all-conquering e-commerce juggernaut, 2014 saw discerning boutiques the world over fight back, using their real world locations to deliver unique experiences away from laptops and social media. Whether it was Sneakerboy pioneering a direct delivery model via in-store iPads, KITH's grandiose installations by Daniel Arsham's Snarkitecture, Dover Street Market opening another genre-defying madhouse or the POOL aoyoma's breathtaking interior and rotating thematic collections, this year saw brick-and-mortar retail shift ever more experiential as online stores' vast product ranges and increasingly convenient shipping and returns policies made it easier than ever to shop online.

5. Wearable Tech Becomes More Wearable

It's been a tumultuous year for the burgeoning wearable tech sector, as Google Glass's public release, Ralph Lauren's bizarre tech polo shirts, Nike's phasing out of the Fuelband program and Motorola's hilarious smartwatch commercials kept the topic on the public's lips, even if they weren't reaching for their wallets. Center to the furore was Apple's announcement of the Apple Watch, the subsequent hiring of fashion execs Angela Ahrendts and Paul Deneye (formerly of Burberry and Saint Laurent, respectively) and editorial-style campaign shot by lauded fashion photographer David Sims. The move signified a major repositioning of the gadget as a fashion accessory, although time will tell if the wearable market's marriage of fashion and technology will be met with anything but skepticism from the sartorial community.

6. adidas Fights Back

adidas may have long trailed behind Nike in terms of sneakerhead devotion and athletic credo, but this year saw the sportswear icon play some major power moves as it controversially poached three of its arch-rival's hotshot designers, enlisted Kanye West, Pharrell Williams and NIGO for collaborative projects, resurrected a slew of archive models and dropped some serious sneakerhead heat in the form of the fearsomely on-trend Tubular runner. While the brand's financial performance is currently rocky at best, its injection of fresh talent and ongoing avant-garde projects with Jeremy Scott, Rick Owens, Raf Simons, Opening Ceremony and Yohji Yamamoto's Y-3, not to mention the yet-to-be-released collection with a certain Lord Yeezus, could mark 2014 as the year everything changed for the Brand with the Three Stripes.

Image: HYPEBEAST.com

7. Sneaker Hysteria Resembles Bedlam

While the Highsnob inbox is inundated daily with limited edition sneakers and frenzied responses to drops have long become the norm, any fears of hype reaching saturation point were easily dispelled as a spate of releases were met with typical bouts of sneakerhead lunacy. Although a far cry from some of the more violent moments in sportswear history, Supreme's NYPD Foamposite fiasco and the potential gun crime at Nikelab's Court Zoom Vapor AJ3 release, not to mention the week-long campouts for the Diamond Dunk and astronomical resell value of the Yeezy 2 clearly demonstrated that there is still something about athletic footwear that will cause people to abandon all sense of sanity and common sense.

8. The '90s Live On

The 1990s will forever be glorified as a golden era of urban style and 2014 saw a furthering of streetwear's love affair with all things '90s, as bucket hats were donned, denim was washed and ripped, flannels were tied around waists and Jordan Brand bankrupted sneakerheads worldwide with a seemingly never-ending flood of retro reissues. Standout moments of throwback fever include the resurrection of Coogi's iconic knitwear line, Packer Shoes' ingenious nod to Polo Sport's heyday and adidas's boxy sportswear collaborations with Palace and NIGO, proving that no amount of neoprene-infused technical innovation can stop streetwear from keeping one foot firmly rooted in the past.

9. Hip-Hop's Finest Flirt with High Fashion

The ever-intensifying dynamic between hip hop and high fashion reached new heights this year, as rappers' affiliations with clothing labels looks set to overtake record labels in terms of significance and street cred. Whether it was A$AP Rocky appearing in numerous high brow editorials, Travi$ Scott walking for Mark McNairy or Pusha T dropping a surprisingly refined take on adidas's EQT Running Guidance 93, 2014 proved that hip-hop artists are still yet to be phased by avant-garde aesthetics or perceived snobbery from the sartorial community.

10. Skateboarding Divides Further

The gulf dividing the skate world grew ever wider this year, as big name corporate sponsorship and the dominance of Nike's leviathan SB program was met with fresh resistance from a new wave of independent brands harking back to skateboarding's DIY roots. Spearheading the revival was London's Palace, who satiated their rabid skate following with with a board-friendly adidas collab while simultaneously being seen on the backs of every influencer and fashionista this side of Tumblr. Interestingly, the growing fracture between skating's corporate and independent factions has coincided with renewed interest from fashion designers sharing the sport/lifestyle's rebellious anti-authoritarianism, as Dover Street Market honored Palace and Bianca Chandon in their 10 year celebrations, Rick Owens dropped a completely unskateable $15,000 "RICKBOARD" and Selfridges enlisted the likes of Hood By Air, Dries Van Noten and Maison Martin Margiela for their contentious "Board Games" project.

Image: Rig Out

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