When Ronnie Fieg and Kith go big, they go big. The latest collaboration with New Balance featured an astounding six different pairs, each one with a third collaborator: United Arrows & Sons or Nonnative, brands that created some of Fieg’s own favorite New Balance collabs. The shoes are well-developed—starting with the originals as inspiration, the shoes use grays and tans as base tones and build on them with purple, pink, bright blue, and brown. The 997 acts as the base for half the shoes, but the other half is a new mashup of retro styling with more contemporary tooling. There’s a ton to choose from in this collection to meet any taste.
The past decade of sneaker culture has been all about making a statement, and we’re approaching the end of how much the community is willing to continue that trend. We’re nearing a future that demands subdued aesthetics, making the Mocha III release from Jordan Brand perfectly timed. The Jordan III will never go out of style, but the Mocha has often been forgotten—it’s just not a visually exciting sneaker. A white upper includes the traditional combination of smooth and tumbled leathers, with a heel wrap and details done up in brown. “Brown shoe” is typically code for dressier (or more boring) shoes, explaining why we rarely see the shade on sneakers, but with the culture moving back towards minimalist color schemes, now is the perfect time for the return of the Mochas.
The Air Jordan XI Concord is one of the most famous sneakers of all time—not even for basketball or Jordans, but of all time. It's not just that they're a total 10 out of 10 on aesthetics, but they also carry cultural weight that few other sneakers can. It was the Concord release in 2011 that brought sneaker culture into the center of the wider conversation, and that news-cycle changed everything for sneakerheads all over the world. Suddenly we were on the national news, and even though it was for bad reasons (riots, violence, theft), the world was finally paying attention. This release was much easier to get than the 2011 pair, but they still hold the same significance.
Nike’s Air Max line is a staple in the industry and it grows each year as the family expands. Some silhouettes stick around, like the Air Max 90, while others from more recent years fall away. This year, the brand introduced the Air Max 270. It was so named for the 270-degree air bubble at the heel, a design that seems poised to stand the test of time. One of the first releases of the sneaker was this Black Pack that employed black uppers as the neutral counter to a bevy of bright colors on the bubble. After all, that bubble is the heart of the sneaker. This pack is still the best usage of the silhouette to introduce it to the world, and these will be considered classics for the 270's archive.
We’re calling it now: 2018 was the last year that Off-White sneaker collabs were able to maintain their omnipresent dominance, and one of the last releases of the year was also one of the best. We’ve seen earlier incarnations of the Zoom Fly before, but this blisteringly pink take is a neck-breaker. We’ve been living with Off-White sneaker remixes for more than a year, so the premise has become familiar and Abloh needed to raise the bar—this shade of pink does exactly that. There’s only so much that can piled onto a single design, and while this combination of “reimagined sneaker” with “bright color” approaches being too much, its just the right balance without going over.
If 2018 represented the transition from bold design to subtlety, few projects straddle that change as well as the Paris Saint-Germain collaboration with Air Jordan. The partnership resulted in two pairs: a Jordan V and a Jordan 1, but we're only including the V on this list because it's the one that did the most. At first blush, the shoe doesn't look so different from the classic Black/Metallic colorway, just rendered even darker. The tongue and quarter have been transitioned from grey to black, and an inclusion of "75" is embroidered at the heel. The shifts are subtle enough that the shoes catch the attention of older sneaker heads, but have the added hype details to make the younger generation take notice. This is what we're looking forward to in the future of sneaker collaborations.
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It's no secret that the Air Max 270 Bowfin is one of the stranger silhouettes that released this year, but it suddenly made sense when we caught the Atomic Violet colorway. The shoes are wild: The uppers are a mess of materials with an attached tongue, a ribbon-constructed lacing system that culminates in a lacelock, and even a ripstop top that acts as a shield for the rest of the shoe. The sole is a triumph on its own: texture and line come together with a bright mudguard, and then a 270-degree air bubble at the heel. There are subtler colorways of the kicks, but with a blend of lavender, pink, mustard, white, and black, the details of the shoe are elevated and we get to see what makes it truly unique.