Sneakers have become an integral part of our wardrobes. In fact, they’re high on the list of reasons why there’s been a more casual slant across the board in the way that we dress now. Sneakers with tailoring, sneakers with a good ol’ LBD, sneakers with embellished tights, sneakers with mini, midi or full-length skirts — you get the idea.
We’ve grown so accustomed to wearing sneakers with just about everything and anything. And brands are putting out newer iterations almost on the daily. It’s forecasted that the sneaker industry will reach a value of USD119.5 billion in 2026 from its 2020 value of around USD79 billion. The resale sneaker industry is on a whole other level too, with last year’s most expensive sneaker being the Air Jordan 1 High OG Dior sneaker that went for an average of USD10,115 on the resale market.
Basically, sneakers are a big deal.
The good thing though is that it’s never too late to get into building your own sneaker collection. We’re not talking about creating an entire shelf of grails. But more of pieces that will never go out of style and are icons in the sneaker world. And all you need to start with are these eight sneakers:
The adidas Stan Smith has quite a history that involves two tennis players and favouring one over the other. But eventually, Stan Smith reigned supreme over Richard Haillet (who was retiring) and the name stuck ever since. The Stan Smiths are the sort of sneaker that’s versatile in so many ways because of its sleek profile and minimalist design. In fact, it was fashion designer and former creative director of Céline, Phoebe Philo, who catapulted the sneaker into high fashion-approved stardom when she was sported in a pair after presenting the brand’s autumn/winter 2010 collection. And if Philo — a too-cool-for-school icon — says it’s chic, it no doubt is.
There are differences between two of Converse’s flagship sneakers — the Chuck Taylor and the Chuck 70. The latter has a beefier build, especially with respect to its canvas material. And when it comes to comfort, the Chuck 70 has a better cushioned construction with a more supportive sole. Then there’s the fact that it also looks a bit more worn, especially when it comes to the laces and the outsole as compared to the Chuck Taylor’s too-white finish. The Chuck 70 is an upgraded version of the Chuck Taylor that was released in 2013, and in this instance, it may not be broke but thankfully Converse fixed it and made it even better.
Like most of the sneakers on this list, the New Balance 574s were first designed as running shoes. And because they were designed as such, the sneakers are built to last and packed with the same level of cushioning and support as a pair of solid running shoes. The special thing about the 574s is that they’re one of the first New Balance sneakers to be reworked in a variety of colourways. New Balance may have some iconic styles within its own line, but the 574s are a true testament of the brand’s versatility in terms of form and function.
You simply can’t have a list of iconic sneaker styles without including Nike. The brand is arguably the most eminent sneaker brand in the market with some of the most revered styles created by the brand. But for starters, the Air Force 1s are a true Nike classic that will truly never go out of style. First conceived in 1982, the Air Force 1s have seen through various interpretations and modifications since their original run. The one thing that remains is that the sneaker is instantly recognisable — lightweight construction, padded collar, and a sturdy rubber outsole all wrapped in a not-too-chunky silhouette.
There’s no doubt at all that the MEXICO 66 is Onitsuka Tiger’s most renowned sneaker style. The design was first created for the Japanese sports team for the pre-trials of 1966’s Mexico Olympics. Its original silhouette reminds us of ballet shoes with its curved down toe. But that has since been redeveloped into the MEXICO 66 that we’re all familiar with now, complete with a more defined toe cap (panelled with a contrasting material at times) as well as a slim outsole.
Originally called the Puma Crack (a name derived from a slang that referred to skilled players: ‘a crack ballplayer’), the Suede Classic is a Puma signature through and through. Just like the aforementioned Onitsuka Tiger MEXICO 66, the Suede Classic (then the Crack) was first seen during the Mexico Olympics. From sports, the sneaker then landed it into hip-hop where it became a b-boys and b-girls favourite. And since then, the simple design elements of the Suede Classic has made it a force to be reckoned with — versatile to the very end.
Reebok Instapump Fury
The Instapump Fury is by far the most odd looking pair on this list. But at the same time, that has become part of its draw. Officially released back in 1994, reception to the Instapump Fury was mixed because of its design. Perhaps it was ahead of its time, but even now, the sneaker still cuts such a futuristic profile that it’s difficult to comprehend that it was designed in the ’90s. Among other things, the Instapump Fury is recognisable by its Pump technology that allows the user to customise the sneaker’s fit around the ankle through inflation or deflation. The sneaker may not be for the typical wallflower but it is an important part of sneaker history, whether you get it or not.
Skate shoes are quite a niche market and Vans is quite possibly the biggest player in the scene. Among its many icons, the Sk8-Hi remains a true Vans classic. Designed with a rather low vamp before cutting off into the sneaker’s high collar, the Sk8-Hi is often credited as the sneaker that changed skate shoes after its introduction in 1978. But beyond skateboarding, it’s distinct silhouette (especially in the original black-and-white colourway) is what makes it a standout in streetwear.
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