Warning: This list is going to piss some people off. Some will agree. While others will leave a trail of comments on shoes that should’ve made the list and why. If you happen to fall into either of these categories—GREAT—we’d love your feedback!
From grails to staples, sneakers have always occupied a unique space at the convergence of self-expression and cultural style. I made this list taking a few things into consideration:
Styles standing the test of time
This top 10 is a collection of sneaker culture. Favorites as well as some of the most influential and commercially successful sneakers of all time. These styles have been around and continue to be re-imagined for gen Y & Z.
Impact on sneaker culture
A moment in time that defines a period, a movement, or a mind-shift. Example: The white cement Jordan 4s from Do the Right Thing by Spike Lee. :/ hard lesson in sneaker culture
Styles that are (brand) Staples
Reissues are great but what about styles that define the brand? Also, styles that can live in the product line and perform well at retail season after season. Staples are a specific style(s) that come to mind when people think of that brand.
Grails aka the Holy Grail:
These are the most desired pair at any cost. This rare offering is known as a special type of sneaker to a collector, reseller, and the aficionado who knows the value of investing in the pair.
A Style’s influence on other designs:
Every brand looks to see what their competitors are doing. Retailers (buyers) routinely discuss other brands’ hits, misses, and what their customer is asking for. This means you will sometimes see a specific “reference” style(s) that make it into a product brief (cough cough). Success leaves a trail and successful styles are no different. Without further ado ENJOY.
TOP TEN SNEAKERS PERIOD(.) No particular order men’s & women’s: standing O
- NIKE AIR JORDAN 1: The Godfather of sneaker culture
- JORDAN 4: A holy grail
- NIKE AIR JORDAN 3: MJ Dunk contest in Chicago… the END
- JORDAN 11: Designer Perfection
- ADIDAS SHELL TOE: from RUN DMC to now
- STAN SMITH: The classic tennis shoe silhouette never goes out of style
- CHUCK TAYLOR: The Godfather of all sneakers PERIOD!!!
- AIR FORCE ONE: Still going strong and the envy of every brand
- NIKE DUNK: From the BIG EAST, the TIFFANY’S collab, skater adaptation(s), and now a BEN & JERRY’S collab this is reinvention at its finest.
- AIR MAX 1: The start of a revolution, AIR. Outside of CMEVA and PU (nevermind), this is the holy grail of technology + footwear.
Honorable mention: slow clap
- REEBOK FREESTYLE: Women’s (one of the most popular & disruptive styles of all time).
- CONVERSE WEAPON: Any of these shoes worn by Magic, Bird and Isaiah at the same time, gets on this list.
- PUMA SUEDE CLYDE: From the Original King of NY style, to a hip hop / B-BOY classic staple, and beyond.
- AIR RED OCTOBER (YEEZY): Need we say more?? Try buying a pair. Good luck BTW. $$$$$$
- ADIDAS YEEZY: The potential to make the top 10 but it is honestly still too early.
- REEBOK PUMP: When NIKE adapted a similar, bulkier concept in the same year (1989) Nuff said! Reebok still uses their PUMP technology today. $$$$
- VANS Slip-on: From prison-issue footwear, to skate culture, and many versions from other brands taken from the original VANS design is over 30 years of social proof here.