It is that time of year again…another 364 days has come and gone and the annual tradition continues on. Reconnecting with our brain trust we spent time sorting through the absolute insane slate of releases throughout the last 12 months across all brands and devised our final countdown of the best and brightest that the year had to offer. As we say goodbye to 2018 and hello to 2019; the New Year’s Eve festivities must include a look back what was a year filled with twists-and-turns, surprises and gems.
Usually takes about 2 weeks to get the Top 30 of the Year Countdown sorted between our brain trust…
This year: 53 minutes
List coming earlier than NYE this year. Stayed tuned. pic.twitter.com/PBby7IGpbC
— Sole-U (@SoleUniv) December 5, 2018
From all of us, to you and yours, Happy New Year. And without further delay…the top 30 sneakers of 2018…
30. NASA x Vans Old Skool ‘Space Voyager’
I once had an astronomy professor in college who repeatedly decreed “black holes do not suck.” The poorly delivered pun was a constant reminder that black holes do not possess some extraordinary gravitational pull – but it’s a reminder that space doesn’t suck. Space is dope. NASA is dope. And that’s what the National Aeronautics and Space Administration brought us when they tagged with Vans for a lunar-friendly Vans Old Skool release. Adding bulk to the model, the low-cut skate silhouette took on a bit of a low-cut moon boot and traditional spacesuit white motif. True to NASA. True to Vans.
29. Nike Air VaporMax Plus ‘BETRUE’
The summer is usually about vibrant colors and in that time comes Nike’s annual BETRUE collection. Bringing awareness in the cause of social acceptance in the name of the LGBTQ community. However the 2018 iteration featured a slight twist in the form of the pink triangle being prominent on each silhouette.
Originally used to identify LGBTQ individuals during WWII, the triangle was reclaimed in the 1970s by pro-gay activists and was later adopted by the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) in their memorable 1980s-era “Silence=Death” campaign
Utilizing the popular Nike Air VaporMax Plus – a hybrid of the VaporMax and Nike Air Max Plus…the silhouette came alive with its rainbow colored translucent outsole. One color for each section of the pod coming together in a technicolor barrage that was both eye popping, friendly and sweet. As well as a transitioning colored upper anchored by a black cage flowing along the length of the model. A summer beauty indeed.
28. Nike Air Force 1 Low PlayStation
Having dropped exclusively in Los Angeles during the 2018 E3 Convention…the AF1 PlayStation has gone under the radar since its June release. It marked the first time Sony’s gaming console was styled with the Air Force 1 in nearly a decade. But helped by the success of the Nike PG 2 collaborative release in February. And spawning two additional drops of the Nike PG 2.5 PS in December. No telling if the release will actually have a widespread drop or if this was just a special one-off for E3. Either way, coming in at no. 28…the Nike Air Force 1 Low PlayStation.
27. KITH x Adidas Consortium 4D Boost
Surprisingly KITH has yet to open a permanent brick-and-mortar location Aspen but one would have to believe we’re not too far off from seeing it come into fruition. 2017’s debut installment of the KITH x Adidas Consortium ‘Aspen’ theme featuring a modified Ultra Boost was matched by a late-November updated Futurecraft 4D Boost. Featuring the three-dimensional midsole resting below a 4-yard Primeknit designed upper. Equipped with over 20,000 individual strands tightly worked together to provide comfort and stability…this is one instance where the sequel is certainly on par with the original.
26. Travis Scott x Air Jordan 4 Retro ‘Cactus Jack’
“Ain’t by the book, yeah. This how it look, yeah.
‘Bout a check, yeah. Just check the foots, yeah.”
-Travis Scott – Sicko Mode
Check the foots indeed “La Flame”. Travis Scott’s first Jordan Brand project came in the midst of an unreal summer for the Houston rapper. As his third studio album ASTROWORLD brought back all the feels of Six Flags AstroWorld to his hometown which closed in October 2005.
“’99, took AstroWorld, it had to relocate.
Told the dogs I’d bring it back, it was a seal of faith.”
Remixing the Air Jordan 4 Retro with a University Blue, Black, Bleu Carolina and Noir color scheme indicative of old Houston Oilers (now Tennessee Titans); the drop is as Houston as chopped & screwed music and candy paint. The smooth styling of retro made for a perfect precursor to August’s ASTROWORLD.
When the North Carolina colored OFF WHITE x Air Jordan 1 OG High Retro made its debut at the hallowed carpet of the Met Gala….the internet was abuzz. But also it was a reminder that streetwear has humble beginnings and impact that can you from PYREX VISION to Louis Vuitton and the Met. Just as the humble beginnings not making the varsity team at Emsley A. Laney High School can take you to a National Championship-clinching jumper and to GOAT status. With that juxtaposition, the OFF WHITE x Air Jordan 1 ‘UNC’ was a match made in heaven.
When the release hit SNKRS it came on a June afternoon out the clear Carolina Blue causing hysteria but also the most readily available OFF WHITE x Air Jordan 1 to date. And perhaps the final at that.
When Ronnie Fieg crafted 2017’s KITH x Converse Chuck Taylor it was in a clean canvas white look with the iconic Coca-Cola red script wrapping around lateral to medial quarter. So in 2018, Fieg had to take the project up another level. Continuing KITH’s epic run with its in-house branded pieces the collaborative effort had an international feel. As Coca-Cola is historically depicted across languages and cultures the world over. Adding four separate drops instead of the one for the United States, France, China and Russia…the global message of humanity was made real with an assist from KITH and Coca-Cola.
We Live As Many. We Stand As One.
23. OFF WHITE x Nike Blazer ‘All Hallows Eve’
Halloween is one of the more festive times of the year. Pumpkins, Jack O’ Lanterns, spooky and ghastly creepy crawlies and more. But autumn itself is a fashion oasis. Cooler weather equals opportunity for layering, seasonal colors and hues…and Virgil Abloh played to the season perfectly. The dark styling of the ‘Grim Reaper’ Nike Blazer was met by the more fall-traditional look of the ‘All Hallows Eve’ color scheme. The Canvas and Orange Peel Swoosh dominating the entire model was excellently accented by a teal tab atop the lateral Swoosh. Just a little capstone helping to tie together a clean motif overall.
22. Parra x Nike Air Max 1
How could I do something that has not already been done?” – Piet Parra
That was the question facing Piet Parra as nearly a decade had passed since the last time Parra x Nike collaborated on a release. 2009 to be exact, a long nine years…and since then a new generation of sneakerheads have entered the fold. So how do you introduce yourself to those who may not be familiar with your work…well…you come in hot with the no. 22 release of 2018 according to our brain trust. Moving away from the City Pack concept that made Parra a household name with Nike fans over a decade ago….Piet stepped out of his comfort zone for an eye popping and fun project featuring the Nike Zoom Spiridon and Nike Air Max 1. The latter making the list – with the exclusive Swooshless family and friends pair floating about.
21. John Geiger 002
At this moment in time…if you are in true to the culture and highly intrigued and curious of the inner workings and behind-the-scenes process of sneaker design and crafting; you must be impressed with John Geiger. The Pittsburgh native has taken the momentum of his Misplaced Checks projects with The Shoe Surgeon and executed a natural progression that brings his vision to life. Luxury is the new streertwear…streetwear is the new luxury. Curating his own luxury footwear brand, Geiger successfully launched his second silhouette, the 002 in 2018. A far different look from 2017’s 001 which made the countdown last year. But one that reinvents once again what is possible with just a vision and indelible will.
20. OFF WHITE x Nike Air Max 97 ‘Queen’
Just her first name alone is profound and holds a sense of elegance and grace that is unparalleled in all of sports. Dominant is the 23-time Grand Slam Tennis Champion. Virgil Abloh’s rise has been nothing short of meteoric and his pairing with Serena Williams for the 2018 US Open was nothing short of iconic. From the performance apparel and off-court pieces exclusive for Serena herself to the OFF WHITE x Nike Blazer and of course the OFF WHITE x Air Max 97 truly befitting of a….
19. KITH x New Balance Collection
The annual Black Friday tradition was alive and well in 2018 as KITH x New Balance renew their long-standing partnership. Three models released across six colorways; the 997 OG, the 997S, and the 997S Fusion each with homage to United Arrows & Sons. The collection made for a super-sized Black Friday delivery that followed a full Thanksgiving plate. Each armed with the keen eye and attention to detail and quality level Ronnie Fieg has hung his hat on….the partnership continues to be a healthy marriage. Coming in at no. 19.
18. Atmos x Nike Air Max 1 & 95 ‘Animal Pack 2.0’
Atmos x Nike have created gems during the lifetime of their partnership. In 2016, the storefront and Swoosh re-imagined the ‘Safari’ Air Max 1 in 2016 with a slightly altered look. In 2018, the original Animal Pack with featured white pony hair was swapped for a black pony hair as we’ve seen with other repeat collaborators with the Swoosh. But this rendition was not only well received but truly kept the spirit of the original intact. Thus introducing a new era of sneaker enthusiast with a modern-day Animal Pack. Both fierce and wild.
17. Pharrell Williams x Adidas Originals NMD Hu ‘N*E*R*D ‘Homecoming’
When Pharrell Williams x N*E*R*D reunited in 2017, the trio’s return naturally produced a Pharrell x Adidas collaboration. Having dropped exclusively at ComplexCon 2017…the NMD Hu gave birth to a new look for the silhouette. Releasing exclusively in Virginia Beach; Pharrell’s hometown, the ‘Homecoming’ edition of the NMD Hu became an instant success. And with such a small run…becoming very sought after by sneakerheads and N*E*R*D fans the globe over.
16. Sean Wotherspoon x Nike Air Max 1/97 (2018)
After taking the no. 2 spot in 2017’s countdown…Sean Wotherspoon’s Air Max 1/97 re-released in 2018…thus making it the only silhouette to appear on the countdown in consecutive years. But the thrifty, colorful-California like appearance of the model made it a must have for those who desired and anticipated its launch in 2018. The winner of 2017’s Air Max Vote Forward contest has even spawned a smaller toddler sized release and a sample of what may be a cyan follow-up sometime down the line. Despite dropping back 14-spots from its debut in 2017, the release was still just as nice the second time around.
15. OFF WHITE x Nike Air Max 97 ‘Menta’
2018 was an extremely busy year for ‘THE 10’…in fact; Virgil Abloh recently “alluded” to the end of the run. However it is yet to be confirmed. One of the more exclusive and elusive releases of the year featuring the OFF WHITE x Nike branding was the ‘Menta’ Air Max 97. A smokey menthol grey provided the base for a technicolor transitioning Swoosh that completely brightened up the model. Having released virtually in Europe only and OFF WHITE flagship locations; good luck finding a pair…but you can below:
14. DJ Khaled x Air Jordan 3 Retro ‘Father of Asahd’
DJ Khaled has successfully utilized his influence to weave his way deep into the Jordan Brand family in the last few years; having paid off with 2017’s ‘We The Best’ Air Jordan 3 Retro. In 2018 the sequel featured a special appearance of a retro inspired by Khaled’s son, Asahd. Asahd who has been a social media darling since his birth, and influencer in his own right with Kids Foot Locker and Jordan Brand….the two-year old Khaled heir, was honored with a blue suede textured Air Jordan 3 Retro. Matched alongside his father’s leather based make-up. With son having beaten dad in this particular joust. We’re sure Khaled won’t mind taking a slight L to Asahd here.
13. Nigel Sylvester x Nike Air Force 1 iD
Nigel Sylvester broke the BMX glass ceiling having dropped his own project with Jordan Brand. Establishing the Jordan Biking Co. by virtue of the collaborative effort…the release was only the beginning as his Air Force 1 iD offering kept the momentum in GO MODE! Available in a bevy of swatches and pallets and materials…the iD run was not only dope but humbling for Sylvester. Who continuously shouts out patrons and owners of his Air Jordan 1 and Air Force 1 iD alike on Instagram. Redefining the notions of higher heights…Nigel Sylvester’s 2018 was the personification.
12. UNDFTD x Nike Zoom Kobe 1 Protro ‘Camo’ Collection
In honor of Kobe Bryant Day we’ve teamed up with the Nike SNKRS App to release the Nike x UNDEFEATED Kobe 1 Protro PE exclusively through SNKRS Pass. Head to Undefeated Chapter Stores in Los Angeles and Phoenix to unlock unique colorways. Tip-off begins at 8:24am. pic.twitter.com/7FVxzHyU6E
— UNDEFEATED (@UNDEFEATEDinc) August 24, 2018
Undefeated was just in 2018 when it came with the All-Star rendition of the Zoom Kobe 1 Protro. From the original army green camo look to the red PE of Kobe ambassador, DeMar DeRozan, to the Phoenix orange color scheme…light green and LeBron shutting down the game with the Lakers gold camo motif. The entire collection released regionally throughout the year via the SNKRS Pass and made quite the impression on the sneaker world. Helping to bring the cozy vibes of Southern California to the world.
11. CNCPTS x Nike SB Dunk Low ‘Purple Lobster’
CNCPTS capped off 2018 with the ‘Green Lobster’ SB Dunk Low Pro but the Purple Lobster stole the show. The release was just about a decade in the making.
“Initially, I felt we shouldn’t touch the theme again. It was a moment. We celebrated it. We loved it. Ten years later, I’m in more Lobster conversations than I can believe,” – Deon Point, CNCPTS Creative Director
The release stirred up nostalgia but it also stirred but some brand new excitement for the collaboration. Having researched the multitude of colors lobsters can take on under the sea…the CNCPTS team led by Deon Point beautifully captured the creature in this SB Dunk Low Pro. Capping off Q4 2018 for CNCPTS with the help of Kyrie Irving and the Nike Kyrie 5. Making this year truly special for the Boston-area shop.
10. Air Jordan 3 Retro ‘Black Cement’
Timeless. Classic. Perfection.
That is the ‘Black Cement’ Air Jordan 3 Retro returning in its OG colorway and to its OG roots with the return of Nike Air to the heel tab. The release came during the star studded and jam-packed Nike x Jordan Brand All-Star Weekend festivities. With the Black Cement sticking out above the rest in a year that also featured a bevy of Air Jordan 3 Retro releases. But you just cannot beat the classics. A classic…is a classic…is a classic. Beginning our journey into the top 10 – the ‘Black Cement’ Air Jordan 3 Retro.
9. David Arsham x Adidas Futurecraft 4D
Arguably the best Adidas Futurecraft 4D Boost to hit the market…David Arsham changed the game for the Three Stripes with this one in a year that on the surface was underwhelming for Adidas. Equipped with a glow-in-the-dark like green motif, the silhouette donned Three Stripes along the quarter when revealed under UV blacklight. The duality in the model’s simplicity yet its detailed and highly complex design and hidden features make this collaboration one Adidas can hang their hat for 2018.
8. Adidas Yeezy Boost 350 V2 ‘Reflective Static’
Despite having released literally last week….the ‘Reflective Static’ Adidas Yeezy Boost 350 V2 comes in hot with the top-10 finish on this year’s list. Being exactly what both the Adidas and Yeezy brands needed to cap 2018…the calendar was filled with a high volume of Yeezy drops in terms of frequency and quantity with September restocks boasting higher numbers in terms of stock available than ever before. That ultimately had Adidas x Yeezy products hanging around well after its launch date and even under retail. But the recovery was swift…the question now becomes if the duo can parlay that into a successful 2019.
7. KITH x Nike LeBron 15 ‘Closing Ceremony’
Ronnie Fieg’s vice grip on the year had us quite conflicted when it came to just which KITH x Nike LeBron 15 launch would make the countdown. But we opted to go with the final – and it was incredibly close between the ‘King’s Cloak’ from the All-Star Weekend quartet and ‘Closing Ceremony’ with the latter winning out. Releasing a shock drop the project hit KITH randomly thus writing the final chapter in the story of the Nike LeBron 15. While the Fieg x LeBron pairing was hinted at since the early stages of the 15…the project proved to be more than anyone expected in all the best ways possible.
6. Air Jordan 3 Retro JTH ‘2 Minute Warning’ (Super Bowl)
Justin Timberlake’s 2018 was pretty strong…after all he debuted a new album early on; followed that up with performing at halftime of Super Bowl LII in February. But on top of that, Timberlake x Jordan Brand linked to help bring Tinker Hatfield’s original sketch of the Air Jordan 3 to life with the fabled ‘White Cement’ colorway for his SB LII performance. Nicknamed the ‘2 Minute Warning’ the Air Jordan 3 Retro JTH was an instant SNKRS sell-out…that had many crying a river. But Timberlake’s 2018 rolled on with the Man of the Woods Tour and another drop of the JTH in a MOTW-inspired motif. However the original was the clear cut winner of the two. Coming in just outside of the top-5.
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5. Diamond Supply x Nike SB Dunk Low ‘Canary’
When the ‘Canary’ Diamond Supply x Nike SB Dunk Low made its way to the blogs and social sphere…the release was both gifted and cursed. Gifted because it returned the glory of yesteryear with the ‘Tiffany’ SB Dunk Low. Hell, the release even brought out “Canary Kid” in similar fashion how “Tiffany Kid” was born with the release of the OG. So when the model hit the floor of ComplexCon and the release had to be shut down not once…but twice. Safe to say the hype was at a fever pitch. Limited to 250 pairs at retail…the release became the most sought after for the duo since the one that sparked it all.
4. OFF WHITE x Air Jordan 1 OG High Retro Euro Exclusive
Virgil Abloh makes yet another appearance on the countdown. In a year that featured a litany of OFF WHITE x Nike x Jordan Brand x Converse drops…the man behind OFF WHITE and the direction of the men’s line at Louis Vuitton was a busy, busy man. And the European exclusive OFF WHITE x Air Jordan 1 OG High Retro acted as the bridge between the ‘Chicago’ colorway of late 2017 and the ‘UNC’ release which made our countdown earlier, back at no. 25.
3. Nike Air Fear of God 1
Jerry Lorenzo’s Nike Air Fear of God 1 project took the world by storm to end 2018. The silhouette captured the spirit of basketball and the model takes the game into a pristine “holy land”…high fashion meets the squeaking of the sneakers on the court.
“It is a shoe that should only be judged by the emotion it gives the kid when he first sees it — however it makes him feel” – Jerry Lorenzo
The emotion invoked by the game is returned to the collaboration….where at the heart of it is a design that pays its respect to the era of the 1980s and 90s, the era of Lorenzo’s youth, when the game first captured his imagination. Taking cues from the Nike Air Max 180 and with an assist from the OG ads, the Nike Air FOG 1 gets its beauty and aesthetics, even down to the translucent visible double-stacked Air unit…with the light peering through.
Lorenzo showcased his God-given gift for vision and shape and joined exclusive company when it comes to outside collaborators to have their own unique Nike silhouette.
2. Nike React Element 87 ‘Sail/Light Bone’
Just hold on…we’re almost home. The no. 2 sneaker of the year arguably is the no. 1 sneaker of the year depending on opinion and media outlet. After all, we’re just pulling straws right? (Sarcasm) But the Nike React Element 87 arrived in a dope Sail/Light Bone color pallet that caused quite the stir. The silhouette came from Nike’s innovative kitchen and out of the oven came this fresh baby that will be the pillar of a Nike run in 2019 that will feature the React technology. No doubt a top-2 silhouette of 2018.
- Union LA x Air Jordan 1 OG High Retro Pack
Our countdown for the year concludes with a two-for-one offering courtesy of Union Los Angeles. Reaching into the recesses of the past to curate a design for the present…the Los Angeles storefront curated a modern masterpiece. Simply by texturizing and Peter Moore’s 1984 Air Jordan 1 with color pallets established in the silhouette’s humble beginnings. By simply not reinventing the wheel and playing to the vintage aspect of the signature in the decades that have followed, the release was not only aesthetically pleasing but true to yesteryear with a timeless flair.
Check out this special look at the no. 1 sneaker of 2018 below: