Not that long ago, attending a special event wearing a pair of sneakers was a sure-fire way to signal yourself to your peers in shiny shoes as a sartorial outcast. However, attitudes have changed in unforeseen ways and what was once the scruffy outlier is now the gold standard of footwear.
The transition from race track to track has been slow and gradual, but in recent years it has reached a crescendo. A crescendo that seems ready to erupt indefinitely.
This is in large part thanks to a number of key designers and sneaker brands pushing the shoe to its limits in every direction imaginable.
Some have created white leather shoes that blend perfectly with the stitching. Others are inventing technology that could just as easily have come out of an Area 51 lab (or just Back to the future). Meanwhile, there are those who have elevated the sneaker from its utilitarian roots to the absolute pinnacle of high fashion that it is today.
Here we take a look at the most influential sneaker brands in the world right now and what they are doing to help make the world’s favorite shoes.
The undisputed masters of the hype
Yeah, in 2016 Nike really stepped back into the future and produced Marty McFly’s self-lacing sneakers. But this is just one example where the brand has seemingly gone through a tear in space-time and brought us something straight from the future, making it the biggest sneaker pioneer and a reliable barometer for what awaits us.
The brand has a long history of world-class performance footwear as well as technological innovation (Flyknit upper and NikeID customization over the past decade). More than that, Nike knows how to create products to live up to their considerable hype. It has more icons in its back catalog than any other brand of sneakers. Air Max, Air Force 1, and Air Jordan are all sneaker dynasties in their own right, and go back one step further and you’ll find even more classic retro sneakers like the Cortez and the Blazer.
Still the most recognizable. Still the most wanted. Still those to beat.
The brand that turned sneakers into science
The ongoing technological arms race between the world’s major sportswear players has produced some of the most daring innovations in footwear. Luckily for us, this shows no signs of slacking off.
Ask any sneakerhead on the street who’s on pole, and they’ll tell you it’s Nike. However, with lightweight materials like a feather and mind-blowing sole technology, one could easily argue that good old three-stripe bands maneuver for a pass.
Yes, there are some beloved classics – the Superstar, Stan Smith and Gazelle come to mind – and they don’t go away, but in recent years the brand’s R&D lab has become the Q branch. of the world of sneakers. Forget the Yeezy collaboration, it was the Ultra Boost that changed the game, and more recently the German sports giant experimented with 3D printing as a production method for revolutionary webbed soles. Keep your eyes on them for a second.
Centenary design icon
It’s amazing (and a little terrifying) to think of how much the world has changed over the past 100 years. Commercial theft, television, cell phones and the Internet are just a few of the inventions that have revolutionized the way we live.
With that in mind, it’s a true design triumph as something introduced a century ago is still in use around the world today.
Converse’s famous top, the Chuck Taylor All Star, is one of them. Born in 1917, the iconic basketball shoe has remained 99.9% unchanged and is now the best-selling shoe in the US, UK and far beyond. Yes, the brand has other great shoes, but it’s arguably the most iconic sneaker ever made. And besides, it’s for everyone.
The luxury pioneer who made minimalism cool
When New York-based luxury sneaker brand Common Projects first presented its model Achilles Low in 2004, the menswear world went crazy. But why? Was it innovative? No. Was the next level comfortable? Barely. Was it offered at rock bottom prices? Rather the opposite.
This shoe was nothing more than a plain leather sneaker. However, the thing that wowed the fashion group about this minimalist trainer was that every little detail was meticulously executed to the nth degree. It was a sneaker created as an Oxford shoe handcrafted in Northamptonshire.
Buttery Italian leather, streamlined elegance and timeless portability that have made each pair the perfect accompaniment to everything from suits to shorts. This arguably kicked off today’s burgeoning luxury sneaker market, and all of it, in a world now dominated by Balenciaga beetle crushers, is not to be taken for granted.
Make ugly must-have sneakers
Balenciaga’s production under the direction of Georgian fashion maverick Demna Gvasalia may be the sartorial equivalent of Marmite or Björk, but whatever you think of his work, there’s no denying that he’s changing the face of fashion. , one broken ankle at a time.
The sleek, minimalist speed sock was the brand’s first notable sneaker with Gvasalia at the helm, but it was the now must-have Triple S that really took things in a new direction.
This shoe beast on its own reshaped the fashion footwear landscape and made tall, chunky silhouettes the new gold standard. Minimalism gives way to maximalism, and this Spanish fashion house is at the center of it all.
Always the purist’s choice
Over time, there are fewer and fewer brands ready to take a financial ball in the name of quality know-how and have products manufactured in their own territory. When it comes to sneaker companies, the numbers are even lower.
This is what makes New Balance one of the best in the game. Not only is the Boston-based company responsible for some of the most comfortable and iconic running shoes ever made, it also produces its premium line. half in the United States and half in the Lake District in the United Kingdom, in factories staffed by highly skilled craftsmen.
It is because of this approach to manufacturing that New Balance has a resounding reputation among athletes, sneakerheads, and just everyday people, earning a place for itself in the world. FashionBeans Hall of Fame.
The veteran is quietly innovating
It might not make as much noise as some of its contemporaries, but as they all battle to try and find the next big thing, Puma is quietly working in the background, perfecting the classics. And invent some new ones too.
A good example of this is the brand’s take on the chunky sneaker trend. Puma took the look, put their own stamp on it, and made it accessible to those whose wallets might not be able to withstand the strain posed by a pair of Balenciagas that cost up to a month’s rent.
Look to the Thunder Electric model for a chunky but athletic shape and bold ’90s colors, or the coveted Tsugi line for a more striped mix of mesh and neoprene on a chunky cushioned midsole.
The reliable old shoe
From driving empty pools in the suburbs of LA to jumping on stage on the Warped Tour. Over the years, Vans has built a deserved reputation as the footwear brand of choice for alternative lifestyles.
Much of its appeal is due to the simple styling, timeless appearance, modest prices and, of course, the many color options offered by its designs. The Old Skool, Classic and Authentic models are all instantly recognizable that haven’t changed in decades, mainly because they don’t need them.
What has changed is the way people wear them. Once a shoe just for kids and skateboarders, it’s now just as comfortable on rock stars as it is on hip-hop icons, with jeans or a casual suit. From the mid-1960s to today, Vans has always offered people a way to add a splash of color and charisma to an outfit without breaking the bank. Something that has seen its products remain relevant over the years, regardless of the sneaker trends.
The most powerful collaboration game in the industry
Can you confidently call yourself a sneakerhead if your wardrobe isn’t filled with Jordans? Maybe not.
Technically, a Nike creation but also a brand in its own right, the story is one of the most successful examples of sports marketing in history. After designing the first Air Jordans exclusively for the basketball legend himself, it wasn’t long before Nike opened up production and brought their new creation to the masses in 1984. People went crazy for it, which has led to a wave of crime in the United States. people had their sneakers stolen.
One of the main draws of shoes for some is the collectible element, with many special versions and collaborations released in very limited editions. Some recent partnerships have included Supreme, Off-White, Levi’s, and Kaws to name a few, making this an example you should definitely believe the hype in.
Bring back the retro
Okay, so that doesn’t exactly shape the future with its shoe offerings, but when you do the classics (and classics) so well, why would you need them?
The British-born company, now a subsidiary of Adidas, is one of the oldest sneaker brands in the UK. Something that is evident when you look at her retro silhouettes.
His best sneakers, like the Club, Classic, and Workout, are simply iconic and all ooze that comeback charm we all love so much. They might not be made of knitted mesh and 3D printed, but they look great, are undeniably comfortable, and will never go out of style.
Setting the benchmark for luxury sneakers
Gucci’s sneaker game has taken giant strides in recent years, thanks in large part to a bit of TLC from Creative Director Alessandro Michele.
In fact, one could argue that the Italian house’s offerings have set a new standard for luxury sneakers, with the Ace’s clean lines and eye-catching embroidery making it the new favorite white sneaker for the elite of the fashion.
And it’s not just the classic styles that Gucci has turned to. The brand has also combined two of the most important trends of the moment with its chunky Rhyton sneakers, featuring the oversized Gucci logo on the side.