The world of sneakers, for the longest time, was one about ‘convenience’. As a shoe, it was always conceived to be easy on the feet thus ‘convenient to wear’ and cheap to produce. Mass-produced in mechanised factories at an industrial scale, its growing popularity made behemoths out of sports shoe makers like Adidas, Nike and Puma. It was this mass scale of appeal which prevented them from being considered a luxury.
Then along came 3D printers and laser-cutting machines, which made design rendering and producing pairs not just fast but also economical on a small scale. The result was a limited run of a given design only to be never brought back again, thereby heightening its ‘covet quotient’ (CQ). Instead of launching one sneaker model a year and updating every year or two, brands came up with new designs often, ran it for a few weeks (at best) and moved on. The last five years have seen more sneakers being launched than the previous two decades.
As if this wasn’t generating enough profits, someone came up with the idea of partnering with celebrities to launch limited edition sneakers. Of course, it wasn’t an entirely new concept. There was the Adidas Stan Smith, and also the Puma for Clyde by Puma, and the most renowned partnership between basketball superstar Michael Jordan and Nike to launch Air Jordans in the 1980s.
As the sneaker graduated from a sports accessory to a lifestyle necessity in the noughties, the game changed for ‘collab’ shoes as well. Sports people gave way to stylish celebrities who teamed up with shoe companies to launch lifestyle oriented sneakers. Unlike in the earlier era though, these shoes were invariably launched as expensive limited edition pieces, ensuring more demand than supply.
Here are the best of these collabs in the market today.
Vans X Marvel
Vans is always the one to break things down to their most straightforward and still not lose any of its cool factors. Its latest launch is a collab with Marvel comics, and if you have a favourite comic character, chances are they have it on their shoes.
Nike X Off-White
Virgil Abloh is the present-day King Midas — anything he touches turns to gold. He has brought his street-inspired, teleological brand philosophy to every shoe he has launched; so, naming one is very difficult. Since I am a big fan of the Air Max 90s, I will go with that.
Few shoe models have the strength and star power like the Jordan collabs. The brand has spun off from the Nike ship to exist almost unto itself. From their old school Gatorade to the more recent Cactus Jack and ‘Dunk from Above’, these are all iconic pairs. Even Eminem has done some work with them, but chances are you will have to sell your house to acquire one of those.
Adidas X Stan Smith
The original tennis shoe, probably one that has seen more action off-court ever since its public release, remains an iconic must-have-one kinda shoe. Since then, many interpretations and further-collars have been launched for this silhouette, and none of them has ever not found a significant following.
Adidas Pharrell Williams
This man has all my respect and admiration. Whatever he does, he does it superbly well. Pharrell Williams has released many a successful shoe with Adidas. Not a fan earlier, his new SolarHu NMD won me over.
Adidas Kanye West
I know, this is turning out to be a bit one-sided, but since I hate most of what Kanye West stands for, his Yeezy brand stands to propel him into the ninezeroes club. I’m not a major fan of this look, but it still proves my point; anything else he puts his mind to, he is better at than his day job.
Jordan X Levi’s
This one combines the rich heritage of Air Jordan IV with the Levi Strauss & Co. denim trucker jacket. The shoe stands out for its simplicity. The pair looks everyday, yet shines through from under your jeans. Extremely hard to find but even harder on the bank balance.
Lv X Supreme
The funny thing about this collab is that neither of them is really a sneaker brand (one is a luxury fashion house and the other an urban skateboarding brand). Nonetheless, the attention and following they have garnered is indeed a milestone in sneaker history. Also, while most sneakers pick up in value in the after-sales market (mostly due to their scarcity), the shoes under this collab were pricey, to begin with, and from there, their stock sky-rocketed further.
Nike X Parra
Among the most colourful patterned sneakers on the shelves. Well, on the re-sale e-shelf because they sold out faster than impossible upon release. Dutch brand Parra adds stripes and polka dots in bright colours to the Air Max 1 silhouette to create a quirky look, one which is wacky Willy Wonka and pulsating psychedelic at the same time.
Adidas X Parley
This is a pretty novel one. Not luxury again, but a conscientious effort to clean up the oceans. Parley has always been at it, and Adidas teamed up with them to model shoes out of all the plastic that was being removed from large water bodies. The shoe has been released in many standard Adidas models (from Ultra Boost to NMD) but in limited numbers, unique colourways and at a slightly higher price. Part of the proceeds goes to fund ocean clean-up drives. Now that’s another reason to acquire a new pair, not that we needed one.
Asics Tiger X Foss Gel Mai
This is a cool two-tone shoe, orange and grey in their first-release avatar, with both colours running down along its length. Perhaps not as highly-coveted in general, but Asics fans are a particular breed and hardly stray from the brand, which for them is almost like the Holy Grail.