People’s fascination with the past and nostalgia is intrinsic to who we are and, whether you like it or not, archive-inspired collections are here to stay. Right now, the ‘90s and ‘00s continue to reign supreme and show no signs of slowing down. The latest brand to hop back in time is Umbro with its Archive Research Project (ARP), a collection that honors some of the English label’s most iconic footwear from throughout the 1990s.
The decade is perhaps best remembered as one in which the Umbro logo was emblazoned across the chest of many of the world’s best football teams including the Brazilian national team during its 1994 FIFA World Cup win and the England team. Manchester United also wore Umbro-made shirts during its historic 1998–99 season that saw them win the English Premier League, FA Cup, and UEFA Champions League titles.
Unbeknownst to some, the ‘90s was also a time when Umbro released a slew of sneakers as relevant today, if not more, as the day they released. Sometimes great ideas just aren’t given the recognition they deserve until years later.
The ARP collection comprises three core silhouettes: the Runner M, Neptune, and Exert Max. The first of the three, the Runner M was first introduced in 1997 and specifically designed for footballers during training sessions. Flexibility, cushioning, and breathability were, of course, key features installed to benefit players’ off-pitch performance while the instantly apparent support panels helped avoid injury by providing additional support and stability.
Many of these once purely functional features reappear in the new Runner M with more aesthetic value at a time when utilitarian details play directly into the gorpcore trend. Re-born, today’s Runner M — renamed Run M — reintroduces the breathable mesh upper with bold paneling in the midfoot while the oversized injected phylon outsole enlarges the look of the original. When combined, the Run M’s features create a striking silhouette with contemporary streetwear appeal.
The new Neptune inherits a technical mesh upper for breathability and a speed lacing system while the chunky outsole brings together the look of the original with contemporary midsole technology for comfort. Umbro realizes the Neptune in three colorways inspired by the original and one — the white, dark navy, and Vermillion red iteration — that directly replicates the original colorway. The Umbro Neptune pays homage to a technical, all-terrain running shoe originally designed to provide maximum stability and comfort on all surfaces. Its modern counterpart combines the Neptune’s most striking aesthetic features with today’s leading footwear technology to create a shoe that’s both fashion-forward and built to perform.
The final ARP revival, the Exert Max, was originally developed as an aerobic exercise model. Now, it taps directly into the fashion zeitgeist with a chunkier design atop a conspicuous oversized outsole. Suede and leather panels give the upper a distinctive look adorned in four colorways, including a sleek all-black and an on-trend turquoise hue.
Each sneaker’s practical value remains, comfort and wearability are of paramount importance to Umbro as a brand with a longstanding history in performance gear. But more so, this is a collection that appeals to the sensibilities of fashion today with its oftentimes outright dismissal of minimalism and embrace of statement-making design.
The Archive Research Project is available worldwide now. Visit umbro.com for more details and to check out the Umbro Projects Collection, a ‘90s-inspired apparel line with both feet in the fashion world. For all the latest from the brand, follow Umbro on Instagram.