You were probably surprised when you saw Brooklyn-based sneaker brand Greats created a collaborative sneaker with Showtime hit show Billions. We were too. Greats is all about getting high-quality Italian craftsmanship at an affordable price, and when collaborating with a show about how money changes people and relationships, they leaned in. The sneakers are subtle, with a black suede upper, waxed laces, and an off-white sole, but it's the sockliner that tells the story. "What's the point of having FUCK YOU MONEY if you never say 'FUCK YOU'," is printed on the inside of the sneaker to help remind you who you are with every step.
The Yeezy brand has taken a status hit this year, with a dizzying amount of releases in super high volumes, fronted by Kanye—who has become an embattled figure in his own right. But in terms of aesthetics, the Mauve Yeezy Boost 700 represents a high watermark in design. The right tones of deep purple are on grand display thanks to the textural variations of leather and suede, and get just the right break from two hits of neon green. If you can separate style from politics, these are the best sneakers from Kanye and Adidas in years.
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.
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.
Adidas's Handball Top is a real throwback and a true example of how great shoes were in the 1980s. Once basketball and running took over sneaker trends, soles got pretty boring. If a company wasn't trying to inject as much air as possible into the sneaker, they were just creating waves of EVA and rubber. The sole on these relatively understated kicks have vertical ridges that would be unexpected in 2018, while the upper is old school without feeling tired. The Oyster Holdings collaboration utilized muted tones for sneakers that make a statement but don't scream.
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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.
Another near subversion of a classic, the coral colorway of Nike’s Air Force 1 Foamposite Pro plays with expectations in a bright and fun way. Usually, the Air Force 1 Foamposite is marketed to the most fragile and masculine consumers in the community, so for Nike to release the shoe in a bright pink was a gauntlet thrown. This sneaker represents a challenge to consumers to expand, and that’s a challenge we can get behind. The color works great on the Foamposite material, highlighting the curves and ridges without being too abrasive.
We actually put Louis Vuitton's Archlight on our list for 2017 and the shoe didn't even drop that year. At the time we put it on our list the name hadn't been made public and all we saw were pictures. Now that we've had a year to see the shoe in action, it's good enough to make the list again (this time it's at least it’s official). The Archlight is a truly amazing in sneaker design for a few reasons, but the biggest is the most obvious: the sole. At a time when heavy, chunky soles are in vogue, Louis Vuitton has created a sole that plays with the eye to different ends: This was all about reshaping the perception of the foot and making it far more dynamic. And it works. For reconfiguring how we see our own biology, the Archlight is definitely one of the best of the year.
2018 can boast some truly innovative steps in sneaker design, and the DMX Fusion 1 from Reebok and Pyer Moss is squarely in the pantheon of that arena. The silhouette itself is like a dozen other sock runners, but the lacing system is almost mind-boggling. The laces start at the very toe and help inform the shape of the vamp as they pull back to the quarter. Once at the quarter they crisscross a few times through loops, which are rigged so low on the shoe, they're almost at the sole. The laces then wrap around the heel before coming back to the tongue for closure with a lacelock. It's a complicated but refreshing system, and it opens the door for a lot of customization.