Every year, the greatest basketball sneaker brand in the world brings together the greatest technology in the industry to create a new shoe in the name of the greatest player of the game. It's a heavy task and it doesn't always mean that the shoe will end up being the most aesthetically pleasing pair, but this year it all came together. The last few years Jordan Brand has drawn inspiration from the past, but this year it looked to the future. The upper is mostly a single piece of knit, the lacing system is simplified to wires, and the internal pieces of the shoe are top-of-the-line. Rather than trying to hide all the technology under an aesthetic perfected in the '80s, the shoe looks like it's as futuristic as it is, and one of the launch colorways—Desert Ore—leans into the smattering of colors we've come to expect from cutting-edge design. The shoes represent practically the entire color wheel, but they blend together into a chorus, making for a sneaker that sings.
Not to outdo the original Ash Green 4D from Adidas, Taiwanese brand Invincible brought the shoe to the next level. The "Prism" pair is here because the upper sets it apart. Where the OG 4D is remarkable for its sole, these Prisms stand on their own even if they didn’t have a 4D sole. Adidas and Invincible basically hacked the Primeknit process to hide a rainbow of yarns into the knit under a gray outer shell. The result is dynamic and textural. Knit sneakers have been around for a minute, and while they've made advances in textures, this is the best use of color we've seen industry-wide.
For many sneakerheads, the Black Cement 3 is considered the greatest sneaker of all time. A combination of silhouette, colorway, social significance, and basic wearability created a perfect storm. The shoes were made available to the public again for the first time since 2011, introducing a new generation to the GOAT sneaker and letting the rest of us refresh our collection.
If you know Bape, you know it rips heritage designs from other companies, but that's also sort of their thing. Also sort of why we love them. The Bapesta is a shameless rip-off of the Air Force 1, and while Bape consistently puts Bapestas out year after year, it's far rarer that we see them in Bape's iconic "1st Camo." The 1st Camo is the graphic camouflage that made Bape famous, so the combination of camo and sneaker promised a firestorm of hype. And the shoes made good on that promise. Even if you're not caught in the hype, they have a unique charm to them and will ultimately prove to be one of the best releases of the year.
Pharrell caught some flack for this "Blank Canvas" collection with Adidas, offering white knit versions of everything from the Stan Smith to his signature Running Hu. The problem: They were released as a canvas around the Hindu holiday of Holi, where bright powders are launched into the air to fill the world with color. Whether it was an act of appropriation or reverence is a debate for another time. Either way, the sneakers were a very fresh option and set the scene for popular customization like we'd see later on the Off-White Air Prestos.
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.