At the end of every year we take the time to look back on how the past 12 months have affected the street fashion scene we know and love. Shortlisted by us, but chosen by our readers, the Highsnobiety Crowns are our way of celebrating the leading forces in our field, and the changing face of our industry. And like last year, the winners will receive special aluminum key trophies designed by Snarkitecture and Highsnobiety.
Sneaker culture is mainstream and there’s no way around it.
Endorsements and collaborations from celebrities reached peak levels in 2017, and when Hollywood’s millennial elite like Bella Hadid and Justin Bieber are spotted at a local juice spot in the latest kicks, paparazzi photos circulate like wildfire. In some sense, seeing A-list musicians, actors (and celebrity offspring) embracing sneaker culture hugely validates what was once, for decades, a very niche interest, and in turn, we love wearing the same sneakers as celebrities.
It’s hard to pinpoint the genesis, but somehow, the tail end of normcore’s New Balance 990 obsession morphed into chunky, unconventional sneaker releases – largely championed by luxury brands – a prominent trend in 2017. Raf’s adidas Ozweego led the way, followed by the Balenciaga Triple S, YEEZY Wave Runner and many others.
Knitted sneaker textiles also plateau’d as a must-have for any sneaker brand, and as a result, we saw more sock-sneakers than ever before in 2017. While Nike and adidas continued to push Flyknit and Primeknit respectively, nearly every other competitor brand trumpeted their similar solutions, from Reebok UltraKnit to PUMA EvoKNIT, as well as knitted sock-like fabrics from Dior and Balenciaga.
While all that was going on, the roots of sneaker culture are still very much intact. A vast majority of the first-mover retailers, brands and characters are still in it, leading the way and being inclusive of a culture that started small, and has become so broad.
With that, here’s how you voted in this year’s Highsnobiety Crowns awards for Best Sneaker, along with one extra Editors’ Choice, chosen by us.
The face of curated consignment shop Round Two, Sean Wotherspoon was the winner of 2017’s Nike Air Max Day “RevolutionAir” contest. Designed in collaboration with the likes of Ben Baller and A$AP Nast, his concept sneaker saddled the Air Max 97’s upper on an Air Max 1 sole unit, going even further to replace the 97’s rippling 3M panels with characteristic corduroy in a pastel color palette. Wotherspoon made sure to really finesse the details, also including Velcro patches on the tongue for mixing and matching, in addition to an infrared air bubble.
Although the shoe is slated to drop on Air Max Day 2018, several limited release events were held before the end of the year at Union in Los Angeles and Need Supply in Richmond, Virginia, the latter of which was actually canceled when a mob showed up at the shop’s front door.
In July, Tyler officially confirmed his departure from longtime partner Vans, finally going public with his new Converse deal. The project brought to life his Golf le FLEUR* footwear concept, using the One Star silhouette as a canvas. Initially arriving in four color choices, the low-top featured Tyler’s signature flower motif, with GOLF le FLEUR* branding on the tongue and insole, overlaid floral panels on the upper, and a floral outsole.
In an interview with Dazed, Tyler made it clear that he wants people to enjoy and wear his shoes, but not belabor the designs: “It was literally pick four colorways I want to do and that was it. It’s not as intricate and deep as people be making shit out to be.”
While the 26-year-old was candid about his straightforward design process, this doesn’t detract from the instant appeal of the colorful low-tops. With this collaboration, Tyler once again reinstated himself as one of the most influential characters in both fashion and music, and although the sneakers launched just this year, you can be sure to expect more drops in 2018.
Virgil Abloh’s “The Ten” collection with Nike was arguably the biggest sneaker release event of the year. After months of Instagram leaks and anticipation, the collection (minus the Converse Chuck Taylor All-Star, which releases Spring 2018) finally landed at retailers in November, with the Jordan 1 in a “Chicago” colorway considered by many to be the highlight of the pack.
The pack is seminal for a number of reasons, largely because it features a total of 10 reworked sneakers, technically including silhouettes from three brands: Nike, Converse and Jordan. Utilizing a deconstructed motif across the entire release, Virgil noted to Nike: “The Jordan 1 was done in one design session. I work in a very like dream-like state. I see it, and it’s done.”
Abloh was given unprecedented permission to chop up the iconic silhouette, unstitching the shoe’s top and bottom lace eyelets, delicately pinning Nike’s iconic Swoosh onto the shoe’s upper, and irreverently placing “AIR” branding on the midsole.
In straight terms, Virgil Abloh’s “The Ten” collection with Nike was the biggest sneaker release event of the year. From the grand total of ten shoes, Abloh’s re-work of the Nike Air Jordan 1 possibly best exemplified the spirit of the collaboration, becoming the unofficial flagship model of the ten, and showing a universally loved, 32-year-old sneaker in an entirely new way. A trained architect, Abloh’s deconstructed take on the high-top basketball silhouette became covetable after months upon months of teasing and celebrity co-signs on Instagram. The shoes quickly became major status symbols far before they were even available.
The iconic silhouette was presented unfinished, and unstitched on the shoe’s top and bottom lace eyelets, with Nike’s iconic Swoosh delicately pinned onto the shoe’s upper, and irreverent “AIR” branding on the midsole. In terms of profile, collaborations of this magnitude don’t come around that often, and it seems unlikely that Nike would soon let any other collaborator go as far to drastically upheave the fundamental design of the Jordan 1, which was presented in “The Ten” alongside sneakers from Converse and Nike. Even with other strong Jordan 1 executions throughout 2017 – “Top 3 Gold,” the Art Basel pack, and Aleali May’s collab – Virgil’s iteration should remain unprecedented even in years to come.