It is rather perplexing and surprising, this is the seventh installment of our top sneakers of the year. Over the last six years; we’ve chronicled the top releases each year, and this year continues the tradition in grand style. By far, the most difficult year to assess as a whole; through much debate and banter and utilizing a criteria system that challenges the merit of each release and its position…we confidently can say, this is the best of the best and no stone was left un-turned.
With that said. Thanks must be given to the entire brain trust who was assembled to help recap the year that was in releases and to place the top 30 into a list we stand behind and believe clearly reflects the entire scope of the year that was. 2017 did not make such a task easy by any means…with that a debt of gratitude goes out to “Mr. Shoe” Cam himself, “Big Brother” Dino, the incomparable KevyKev and the entire Sole-U team.
Without further adieu, our the top 30 sneakers of 2017 list:
30. Balenciaga Triple S Trainer
This would mark the first year a luxury sneaker has made our year-end countdown. But in a year where clunky dad sneakers reigned largely; it is only fitting to take the unlikeliest of brands to deliver us one of the unsung gems of the past 365 days. Sure they’re a little weird-bodied but the color schemes worked perfectly together enhancing the casual look rather than the obscure nature of the silhouette itself. Kicking off this year’s countdown, the Balenciaga Triple S Trainer.
Yes, “Big Brother” Dino did help craft the list with us, but what nobody knows until this moment is that he did not even vote for his own collaboration to make our list. Sure he absolute could have been partial to his own sneaker but humility was shown instead. Which did not go unnoticed but what also did not go unnoticed was the year Under Armour had. For the Baltimore brand to step out and take on the challenge of a collaboration was new territory and from our conversations and the interview with Dino; the challenges were there.
But from it came something we all in the city could get behind. And that was a homegrown brand with a homegrown name and brand. And the ‘Masterpiece’ was everything Baltimore. So with that a heartfelt tip of the cap to a fellow Baltimorean.
Click here to read our exclusive interview with Dino.
Under Armour did not disappoint once the Curry 4 hit the market after being some months after Steph debuted the signature during the NBA Finals in June. And to start it off was the ‘More Magic’ colorway which coincided with Steph’s first tour of Asia with UA. The colorway served as the launching pad to a bevy of hits including the ‘More Rings’ Championship Pack and ‘More Power’ exclusive kit.
The Curry imprint expanded vastly with the Under Armour Curry 4 and is further making Steph a household name in performance footwear.
Click here to read how Steph Curry has already “shocked” the sneaker game.
You know the saying; the sequel usually is not better than the original and that might hold true here but the caveat in that is, this sequel gave the original a run for its money. PSNY came back with the Air Jordan 12 Retro executed just as the release the year prior but with three releases in three separate locations. But with an expansive nature, the PSNY x Air Jordan 12 Retro finds itself on the Top 30 Sneakers of 2017 list.
26. Adidas Yeezy Wave Runner 700 OG
Adidas took some risks with the Yeezy line this calendar year…risks that utterly paid off. There was the Yeezy Powerphase and the Yeezy Mud Rat 500 and even a kids line. From the modern vibes of the Yeezy Boost to the old school inspired vibes of the aforementioned silhouettes, one stood above the rest out of the new bunch; the Yeezy Wave Runner 700. This “dad sneaker” further accentuated the range and taste the Adidas Yeezy line holds with the clunky but sleek runner. Perfect for just a day around Calabasas.
25. John Geiger Collection 001
What can be said about John Geiger that we have not said in the last two years on this countdown. His work has Geiger as a consistent fixture on the year-end countdown but this year Geiger took his game to a new level. He still had time to collaborate on a custom, but launching your own footwear line and moving the resources and pieces to make that happen and for it to be successful and revered is definitely a feat to be acknowledged. Perhaps the hardest working man in footwear to somehow still fly under the radar, the John Geiger Collection 001 is equally causal as it is daring and multifunctional. Easy to adapt to any fit, thanks to its premium tooling and it is a testament that excellent craftsmanship will always be in style but most importantly appreciated.
24. Supreme x Nike Air More Uptempo
Supreme’s take on the fun loving classic Scottie Pippen silhouette made this collaboration what it is was. The spelling of SUPREME around the entire model was the basis for the ‘City Series’ Nike Air More Uptempo from a couple weeks back. But also it helped spawn an OFF WHITE rendering, loosely. But with Supreme, execution is key and from there the hype just takes off. Not overdoing it with colorways, the trio was just the perfect touch.
23. Fear of God x Vans Era 95 DX
This was one that was perplexing for us honestly. But based on the criteria in place, we could not avoid the buzz surrounding the FOG x Vans project. Jerry Lorenzo’s Brand has garnered quite the attention and following; one he hopes inspires a deeper meaning as the name is meant to be a reverence to God but it also plays to the literal fear in addition. But one that he sees as far greater than himself. His Vans project is the embodiment of building something out of nothing virtually and it is to be respected certainly as Lorenzo assists in ushering in this wave of luxury streetwear alongside other marquee names of the cultural framework.
22. Adidas Yeezy Boost 350 V2 “Beluga 2.0”
Could it be that the Yeezy Boost 350 V2 had a rather pedestrian year? Well even if it was pedestrian it was enough to make the list. And Kanye’s pull and range is enough to move the needle, even some do not agree. We’re all looking at you Matt Powell. But all joking aside, the Yeezy Season catalog is as deep and vast as it has ever been in the existence of the project. So that only shows the staying power of the Yeezy Boost 350 V2 with the emergence of various new Yeezy x Three Stripes silhouettes.
21. Nike Air Max 1 Anniversary “The Master”
The 30th birthday party of the Air Max 1 witnessed a mix of OG colorways, returning collaborations and new colorways including this comprehensive mashup known as ‘The Master’. Released way back during the Air Max Month celebration in March, the launch sports a blend of patterns used on the AM1 over its lifetime. A touching homage to the three decade odyssey that has been Tinker Hatfield’s baby.
20. CLOT x Nike Air VaporMax
All-red silhouettes are so 2013…yeah okay. Because CLOT ignored that train of thought and went with an alarming red VaporMax that was absolutely stunning. And with the slightest of black branding on the heel tab giving that subtle accenting that goes overlooked. Just the most minute feature on the silhouette but one that spoke volumes. Bringing people out to the Los Angeles pop-up in droves and created a bit of good old fashioned summer hysteria. And it is creating a spot on the countdown.
19. DJ Khaled x Air Jordan 3 Retro “Grateful”
DJ Khaled for some time has been his own advocate, his best advocate when it comes to linking with Jordan Brand. And being his own spokesperson finally paid off with his own We The Best x Air Jordan 3 Retro. What made this release so interesting was the message behind the heel tab that featured a typo; saying “GREATFUL” instead of “GRATEFUL”, thus making the misspelled pairs that much more rare. Even when you might have played yourself, if you rise above and keep shining, good things will happen.
18. Virgil Abloh x OFF WHITE Nike Blazer “The 10”
With Virgil Abloh, he might have been the wildcard of the year. Because he has a plethora of options to choose from, especially from ‘The 10’. And of the nine that released the first to make an appearance is the Nike Blazer. Remixed materials acting as a collective hodgepodge with oversized Swooshes, Virgil was able to modernize the Blazer in a manner not seen before but then again 10 silhouettes in one collection is daunting and that does not even include his AF1 from the 100 Collection.
17. KITH x Nike LeBron 15 “LONG LIVE THE KING” Collection
LONG LIVE THE KING.
Four words, both poetic and profound in nature for centuries…the mantra has expanded far beyond its medieval scope and in 2017 was the premise for the KITH x LeBron James collaboration.
Ronnie Fieg’s year has been a steady diet of quality work. Everything may not have had that usual Ronnie “sting” but each featured his growth as a designer. 2017 will go down as a prolific year for KITH as we look back at the ebbs-and-flows in the brand’s history as time progresses. New territory, expansion, new product, new collaborators; after all Fieg said it best when opening the brand’s newest New York location:
Kith World? Not sure what to call the new building..
— Ronnie Fieg (@RonnieFieg) October 3, 2017
One of the newest collaborators to enter the fold was Nike and granted projects were done on a smaller scale but nothing quite like this. A feature length film, comprehensive journal and three releases…all with a day to spare too.
16. N*E*R*D x Adidas Originals NMD Hu “You Nerd”
Pharrell Williams has put together quite the portfolio with Adidas Originals. And when the second Complex Con rolled around…Adidas Originals went all-out for the event. Including the release of the N*E*R*D x Adidas Originals NMD Hu in honor of the reunited group. Spacey in nature, the silhouette was just a smooth black but a metallic silver, 3M dream with the phrase ‘YOU NERD’ cascading down each pair. Simplistic yet incredibly dope all the same.
15. Travis Scott x Nike Air Force 1 “100 Collection”
Travis Scott’s wave is pretty much at the height of a tidal wave right now. After linking officially with the Swoosh, Scott proclaimed on wax “Nike Boys. We don’t do Three Stripes” just as a slight tongue-and-cheek dig at Nike’s direct competition. And his initial foray into life with the Swoosh was one that was definitely Travis Scott. Just like his tracks and artistry there are multiple layers to his Air Force 1, but each work together and flow in this chaotic symphony that is unique to the Houston native. With multiple Swooshes, detachable Swooshes and a number of ways to freak the look…the Travis Scott x Air Force 1 certainly belongs on the list with the best of the best.
14. Aleali May x Air Jordan 1 OG High Retro
Aleali May’s Air Jordan 1 OG High Retro seemed to have transcended the footwear industry or the sneaker collaboration in 2017. It served as a symbol of empowerment for women across the fashion industry. Taking inspiration from the house slipper, the silhouette was flipped with a satin look matched with a corduroy overlay that was just visually stunning. Just a small taste of Los Angeles for everyone.
13. Virgil Abloh x OFF WHITE Nike Air Presto “The 10”
As stated earlier, back at no. 18 with Virgil Abloh’s x Nike Blazer, the hardest part of about placing Virgil’s collaborations was that each could have easily found themselves on the list. With nine pairs to choose from, it is a task determining which pairs are in and which pairs are out and then ranking them accordingly. The second silhouette from “The 10” to make the countdown, comes in the form of the Nike Air Presto. The silhouette is as daring as it is comfortable and was the first of the November launches to crash the SNKRS app. If you’re keeping score at home, another Virgil offering will be sure to land on the countdown.
12. Air Jordan 1 OG High Retro Satin “Royal”
Releasing rather under the radar like its ‘Black/Red’ counterpart in 2016, the ‘Royal’ Air Jordan 1 OG High Retro Satin proved something to the world about Jordan Brand…when they decide they want to turn up the heat…they can whenever they please. And the Satin Royal 1s was perhaps the most evident of that notion in 2017 for Jordan Brand. Without rhyme or reason, the remixed release went without a storytelling angle that we’ve seen from Jordan heavily in the last few years…but it served as a one-off that could just be appreciated for its look and for simply being fire.
11. ASAP Bari x Nike Air Force 1 Low VLONE
Indeed a touchy subject, one that is not only sensitive but one that should be treated with respect to the all parties involved given the scope and severity. Much dialogue was had upon assessing if the release should make the list. We ultimately came to the conclusion, to thoroughly articulate the separation of the man and the design. This ranking is in no means an endorsement or condoning or ignorance of such activity and such vileness. We stand opposite of acts of this ilk and nature.
Certainly ASAP Bari’s name is connected to the aforementioned acts, even in the scope of evaluating the placement of a sneaker on a list designed to celebrate. Solely from the perspective of design, reception and impact; the VLONE x Air Force 1 Low belongs on a superlative year-end list. After making its debut at Complex Con in 2016, the silhouette boasts a rich premium touted black tumbled leather with bright safety orange accents throughout. And while impressive, it is the embroidery that ultimately makes the silhouette.
Overall, an incredibly clean silhouette befitting of a spot on the countdown.
10. Tom Sachs x NikeCraft Mars Yard 2.0
The best part about some things are even when you don’t personally understand how or why something is so big…yet you have to come to respect it. That is the the Tom Sachs x NikeCraft Mars Yard 2.0. No earthly clue as to how this project got so large, but it did and we’re not sure if anyone can explain it. The sequel to the May 2012 collaboration featured an updated material composition that was built out of necessity:
“It passed the abrasion test. It passed the strength test. It passed the folding test. It passed all the tests, but when we started using it, it didn’t meet our expectations,” – Tom Sachs
And sometimes that is just what you need to captivate an entire culture and land you a top 10 spot out of nowhere seemingly. Sometimes the best things don’t need to explained, just embraced.
9. UNDFTD x Nike Air Max 97 “Flight Jacket”
UNDFTD graced us with three pairs of the Nike Air Max 97 this year during the silhouette’s 20th anniversary celebration. And just as the anniversary as a whole, the collaboration did not disappoint. But one stood above the rest, the UNDFTD staple ‘Flight Jacket’ olive and orange motif. Another Complex Con gem, the project served as the third installment to the collaboration and the coup de grâce for UNDFTD x Nike for 2017.
8. Atmos x Nike Air Max 1 “Elephant”
When the Atmos x Nike Air Max 1 ‘Elephant’ won the Air Max Day 2016 #BRINGBACK contest for 2017, the sneaker world was ecstatic to see the return of the legendary collaboration. And while time had passed the original release by from its retro counterpart by more than a decade, it still managed to draw a lot of the same buzz that made it a cult classic to begin with. And it even helped marry two of Tinker’s designs with the Air Jordan 3 Retro x Nike Air Max 1 Max Pack. Just another showing of its influence all of which is befitting of a top 10 spot.
7. Nike Air Force 1 Low ’07 Roc-A-Fella
Clean. On-point. Crisp. Straight forward. Everything about the ‘Roc-A-Fella’ Nike Air Force 1 Low ’07 is just that and so much more. The reissue is just as dope as the original and being packaged with the Nike AF100 Collection, the silhouette joins the Travis Scott x AF1 as the only ones to make the year-end countdown. Somewhere Dame Dash is probably doing his classic dance moves with a giant bottle of Armadale…or at least we’d hope.
6. Just Don x Air Jordan 2 Retro “Arctic Orange”
What can be said about Don C that hasn’t been said over the last three years. Everything he has created comes with a penmanship and touch and care that is very much so unrivaled. His vision to take something and put his spin on it in a way that does not hurt the product but further accentuates it and creates this feel that makes you do a double take. We’ve seen it with the Just Don x Air Jordan 2 Retro over the last two years with both Blue and Beach colorways, 2017 was no different with the ‘Arctic Orange’ Air Jordan 2 Retro. But spreading the wealth to the kids and ladies was the main purpose for this third installment. Making it a family affair, luxury is for the entire family.
5. Chanel x Pharrell Williams x Adidas Originals NMD Hu
Perhaps the phrase to adequately describe the Chanel x Pharrell Williams x Adidas Originals NMD Hu is just that, Chanel Vintage. Simplistic in nature just like the N*E*R*D x Adidas Originals NMD Hu…the Chanel project sports a black and white color scheme with a white CHANEL and PHARRELL spelled out across the left and right foot. With resale asks going through the roof, the release was not quite low key, but rather extremely limited and extremely coveted as it dropped at the now defunct Colette. Another hit for Pharrell and Adidas in what has been a banner year for the Three Stripes.
4. Virgil Abloh x OFF WHITE Air Jordan 1 OG High Retro “The 10”
The centerpiece of Virgil Abloh’s mega-project nicknamed “The 10”, the Air Jordan 1 OG High Retro wore the sheer magnitude of an undertaking of this nature. Choosing and redesigning each pair within the collection with a tethered and modernized look unique to Virgil’s OFF WHITE brand was something unparalleled in footwear.
3. KAWS x Air Jordan 4 Retro “Black”
So if we’re this deep in the top five and this is the first mention of KAWS…safe to say chances are high for a dual top three finish for Brian Donnelly’s Air Jordan 4 Retro collaboration. Releasing on Cyber Monday, the black color scheme of the KAWS x Air Jordan 4 Retro first garnered attention when the colorway was captured in KAWS’ office in an Instagram posting. And since that time…rumors swirled abound of a launch until that faithful Monday. A dual top three finish is in-store for the KAWS x Air Jordan 4 Retro.
2. Sean Wotherspoon x Nike Air Max 97/1 Hybrid
Sean Wotherspoon’s Air Max 97/1 Hybrid collaboration was announced to release in 2018 as part of the Air Max Day celebration. But because of a couple minor launches in late-2017, the project qualifies to fit this year’s list. And does it ever. Coming in at no. 2 on the list, the release’s prequel if you will shows just how much of a buzz Wotherspoon’s project will have when the calendar flips over to 2018. Smooth yet textured corduroy really hits home as a funky colorway works in tandem with the Air Max 97’s contouring all atop the Air Max 1’s classic sole.
Will Sean’s Air Max 97/1 Hybrid make an encore on the 2018 list?
- KAWS x Air Jordan 4 Retro “Grey”
Somewhere around no. 4, this perhaps became most evident…and that fact is, the KAWS x Air Jordan 4 Retro is indeed the no. 1 release of 2017. What can be said that has not already been said about this release. From the onset, Brian Donnelly’s concept was sure to succeed, and especially when Jordan Brand released the behind-the-scenes imagery featuring Donnelly surveying the Camo Supreme x Air Jordan 5 Retro and an in-studio session with pinboards depicting various vectors.
Any fan of Donnelly’s work could appreciate the attention to detail and keen eye that supplied the subtleties that is the stitched companion imagery on the model’s upper and glow-in-the-dark outsole providing the finishing touches. Taking into account the craftsmanship, critical reception and impact on footwear in 2017, it was easy to make the call.
Here’s to the no. 1 sneaker of 2017, the KAWS x Air Jordan 4 Retro ‘Grey’