Last week, J. Crew announced it had filed for bankruptcy protection, becoming the first national U.S. retailer to do so. The menswear retailer was hit especially hard by the coronavirus pandemic and ensuing store closures. Regardless of its uncertain future, the retailer leaves a lasting legacy — at the center of which lies Nike’s Killshot 2 sneaker.
The Nike Killshot 2 remains one of Nike’s most popular sneakers to date, both instantly recognizable by those in the know and unassuming enough to be “just another low-top tennis silhouette.” The sneaker was introduced in 1979 as a court shoe for sports such as racquetball and squash. Earlier versions had a mesh upper, rather than the leather construction we associate with it today. Its low profile was characteristic of athletic shoes in the ’70s, as it made maneuvering across the court easier.
Much like other iconic sneakers that have withstood the test of time, the Nike Killshot was adopted by those outside of its intended demographic, which laid the groundwork for the silhouette’s sustained level of cool. Nike brought back the Killshot in 2009, giving it a leather update and retaining the OG suede detailing.
The sneaker’s return wasn’t what made it special, though, as Nike routinely brings back vintage models and forgotten classics every year — it was the fact that the sneaker was released through Nike’s partnership with J. Crew. That exclusivity came at a time when the sneaker world exploded into the mainstream and everyone began calling themselves a “sneakerhead.” It meant that everyone — not just the diehard sneakerheads of the early ’00s — were on the lookout for something different. The sneaker’s exclusivity and the sneaker boom, in turn, coincided with the rise of logo-less, normcore fashion. That three-way combination proved to be a recipe for success, as the Killshot subsequently sold out at J. Crew after every drop.
J. Crew’s stock and information on when the Nike Killshot 2 would be available was murky at best, making it a surprise whenever the shoe did drop (though usually it was sold out before you even had a chance). For many sneakerheads, the hunt in pursuit of the sneaker is the most exciting part, and it’s easy to see why the Killshot proved so popular.
Similarly, the sneaker is incredibly easy to style, characteristic of the archetypal ’70s tennis trainers. Sneakerheads were drawn in by its elusive nature, while people from other demographics with different tastes were convinced by the Killshot’s universality. It’s why sneakers such as the Nike Air Force 1 or the adidas Originals Stan Smith are seen on feet the world over — they go well with whatever you throw at them.
Cementing the Nike Killshot 2’s status as the ultimate low-key sneaker, Reddit’s Male Fashion Advice forum was obsessed with the sneaker for quite some time. Male Fashion Advice is made up of fashion-interested users from all walks of life, with different tastes and levels of interest in style. The fact that the Killshot 2 was unanimously accepted by the forum speaks to the model’s versatility.
The Nike Killshot 2 ultimately proved to be so popular that the Swoosh decided to make the sneaker a general release in August 2019, meaning it was to be sold directly through Nike in addition to J. Crew.
The sneaker had an aura of cool while simultaneously maintaining a sense of approachability — something only few models can boast. Whether you go down the route of hype or are drawn to the classics, they don’t often overlap. But when they do, you’re left with the likes of an Air Force 1, Stan Smith, or Killshot 2.
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