Sneakers
From the ground up
Highsnobiety / Asia Typek

As this year winds down we’ve recapped its highlights to bring you the best of 2018 in fashion, sneakers, music, movies and more.

Today, sneaker collaborations are ubiquitous, and our appetite for brand x brand partnerships is more ravenous than ever. The very earliest examples of limited sneaker collaborations in the streetwear space include Supreme’s trio of Vans Old Skools in 1996 and Stüssy’s pack of two Nike Huaraches in 2001. Both those sneaker collaborations are still ongoing to this day.

In 2018, however, the state of collaborations has grown into a fully fledged marketing machine. This year, we’ve seen pop culture collaborations like NASA x Vans and Barbie x PUMA, artist collaborations like Daniel Arsham x adidas and KAWS x Air Jordan, and a near countless number of retail collaborations.

We’ve gone over this year’s sneaker release schedule with a fine-toothed comb and picked out a handful that stood out to us for having special concepts, execution, or details, while being overshadowed in a market crowded with nonstop, high-profile YEEZY and OFF-WHITE x Nike team-ups.

Here are 13 of the most underrated sneaker collaborations from 2018.

size? x adidas Originals Yung 1 “Acid House”

size? / adidas

The adidas Originals Yung 1 first launched in early 2018, and was initially mistaken by some for a YEEZY. After a handful of general releases, collaborations and SMUs started to trickle in from retailers like Sneakersnstuff, Solebox, END. Clothing and more. While each of those releases was noteworthy in their own way, the arguable highlight was an “Acid House” Yung 1 via retailer size?

The release was a reminder of the ubiquitous nature of the smiley face, an icon also used by Chinatown Market and for Travis Scott’s Astroworld merch in 2018. The theme was carried out on the shoe’s packaging also, which featured the smiley motif on the box and wrapping paper. size? took a relatively simple concept and executed it well.

Footpatrol x ASICS GEL-Saga

Footpatrol

Another UK retailer collaboration makes an appearance on this list in the shape of Footpatrol’s most recent joint effort with ASICS. The legendary GEL Saga silhouette (first released in 1991) is painted in grey, blue and pink, inspired by mech characters from the classic anime series Gundam Wing. The iconic Footpatrol gas mask logo is featured on the tongue of the sneakers, and dual branding is perfectly placed on the lateral side of each shoe, which we must say turned out extremely wearable.

Going above and beyond just a sneaker release, the first 50 pairs sold came in special edition packaging featuring a mini Gundam mech figure, collaboration stickers and a dedicated zine.

Aries x New Balance 990v3

The Drop Date

One of the more limited kicks to make our list is the Aries-edition New Balance 990. The sneaker released exclusively at the brand’s London pop-up shop, and was limited to just 75 pairs. As a brand, Aries originally hails from London and was created by Sofia Prantera and Fergus Purcell (the designer of the Palace Tri-Ferg).

Visually, the sneaker surely satisfied steadfast fans of the 990 with its predominantly grey upper, but the vivid color hits on the heel made it clear that this was not just your average grey New Balance 990.

Engineered Garments x Hoka One One Tor Ultra Low

HOKA ONE ONE

Hoka One One is a brand known first and foremost for creating high-quality outdoor footwear with maximalist sole cushioning. This October they teamed up with New York-based brand Engineered Garments to present their take on a modern and on-trend chunky sneaker. The pair features Vibram soles and a totally waterproof construction.

With this collaboration, Hoka One One aspired outside of their endemic market to produce an unexpected collaboration that easily stood out in a landscape saturated by brand x brand collaborations.

COMME des GARÇONS x Nike Air Mowabb

Highsnobiety / Jared Pearson

Few brands in the sneaker and fashion space have been collaborating on an ongoing basis longer than COMME des GARÇONS and Nike, and this year their partnership was added to. The first half of 2018 saw the two brands release three Air Max 180s featuring predominantly pink hues. 2018’s second CdG x Nike collaboration seems to have been more overlooked however, with the silhouette of choice being the Nike Air Mowabb, an original ACG model.

This shoe was all about the key details, from the ultra soft suede to the ACG/CDG logo flip, to the “AIR MOWABB” outsole tread.

Avnier x Salomon Speedcross 4

Salomon

Trail sneakers have become increasingly more popular in fashion circles, and Salomon has been leading the charge with collaborations alongside Salomon and Boris Bidjan Saberi. While those two aforementioned collaborations certainly got their share of love from sneakerheads and fashionistas, one other Salomon drop you may have missed was alongside Avnier.

The Parisian brand joined forces with Salomon to present a monochrome Speedcross 4, and it didn’t disappoint. The colorway is simple yet striking, with white used on the upper to accentuate the laces, and (perhaps coincidentally) creating a row of “A”s for Avnier.

Packer Shoes x adidas EQT Cushion ‘91

Packer

OG New Jersey sneaker outpost Packer Shoes served up this strong EQT Cushion ’91 rendition in September, featuring a muted color palette that spilled over onto the mountain-inspired EQT logo and three stripe branding. The silhouette and colorway both communicated a rugged vibe, while the details throughout were easy to appreciate, right down to the Packer-branded lace jewel. Given the amount of EQT collaborations and releases over the span of the last 12 months, Packer’s contribution certainly deserved a bigger spotlight.

Pyer Moss x Reebok DMX Run Fusion

Pyer Moss / Reebok / Pyer Moss / Reebok

The DMX Run Fusion is a modernized version of an old-school classic: The Reebok DMX Run 10, designed by Christian Tresser. This year Reebok drafted NYC-based fashion label Pyer Moss to really do a number on the silhouette. The outcome was an ultra-modern, avant-garde silhouette that featured a sock-like fit.

Triple-white and triple-black colorways released, both strapped with thick rope laces that encouraged wearers to come up with their own way of lacing the shoes through various straps, loops and lace toggles.

Ader Error x PUMA RS-100

Over the years PUMA has opened its doors to some fantastic collaborations: Rihanna, Big Sean, and Alexander McQueen to name just a few. This year the brand teamed up with cult Korean brand Ader Eror. Taking PUMA’s Running System line from the mid-’80s and revamping it for 2018, the collaborative RS-100 sneaker featured classic Ader Error color schemes and a protruding sculpture on the heel, which was non-functional but still made this sneaker a major head-turner.

Maison Mihara Yasuhiro x DC E.Tribeka

MIHARA YASUHIRO

Better known for classic skate shoes rather than runway sneakers, DC joined forces with Japanese fashion label Maison Mihara Yasuhiro in the summer to create sneakers for the label’s FW18 runway show. The model of choice was the E.Tribeka and it was certainly one of the most memorable and imaginative sneaker releases we’ve seen all year. Period. The colorway offered striking color blocking and textural details, such as branded laces and a furry, oversized DC logo on the tongue, all making this one hell of a sneaker.

Patta x Mizuno Sky Medal

Patta

Just like when they co-signed footwear brand Mephisto with a collaboration in 2017, Patta linked up with Mizuno this year on a sneaker silhouette that many were probably unfamiliar with. Lending their Amsterdam flair to the Sky Medal, the resulting sneaker hardly looks anything like the OG version of the shoe, yet this Patta x Mizuno team-up with predominant grey plus hits of orange and purple (and of course Patta’s script logo on the tongue) was a great alternative to most of the shoes we swipe past on Instagram on a daily basis.

Stray Rats x New Balance 990v3

While the New Balance 990 is currently in its fourth iteration, newcomer streetwear brand Stray Rats elected the 990v3 for this 2018 collaboration. Although 990 fans tend to gravitate toward in-line grey colorways, Stray Rats went in a different direction with this green, purple and black version, a three-way color combination that could have seemed like a good idea on paper but fallen short in the flesh. Thankfully it turned out perfectly.

Fingers crossed that this head-turning colorway is only the first sneaker collaboration from Stray Rats, because we’d love to see what else the brand can cook up.

Mindseeker x Vans Old Skool

Mindseeker

In October, Mindseeker came through with two of the most original and unique Vans Old Skool executions we can remember. The pack was split into fire and lightning motifs, both featuring standout details like “Protect Your Brain” script on the midsole and “Mindseeker” embroidery on the tongue and heel. Not to be outdone, the shoes also included some extra special details that sneakerheads love, such as branded sole inserts, extra laces, and special edition co-branded shoe boxes.

Now, check out our recaps of the most important sneaker moments, and the best retro releases of 2018.

To stay updated on everything happening in the sneaker world, follow @Highsnobietysneakers on Instagram, check our sneaker release date calendar and subscribe to our sneaker chatbot on Facebook to receive lightning quick updates to your inbox.

  • Co-Author/Research: Jack Aldrich

Vancouver-born, Berlin-based writer, photographer and editor with a steady hand on the keyboard.

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