Believe it or not, we're living in the golden age of sneakers. As the culture becomes more and more mainstream, not only are other industries starting to pay attention, but there are literally college classes tailored towards the sneaker business now. Sure, the old guard is as important as ever—word to Mark Parker, Michael Jordan, and Tinker Hatfield—but there's a new crop of talent and a new relevance to certain industry vets too. You've got guys like Jon Wexler bringing in Kanye West to adidas, and Nathan VanHook tasked with taking Nike's legacy of beautiful pragmatism into the future.
As technologies like 3D printing and digital platforms continue to have a visible impact on sneakers, we took some time to gauge how far sneaker culture has come, and why we're still as psyched as ever to see where it's going. In no particular order, here's the hodgepodge of sneaker-related stuff that we think comprise The 25 Most Exciting Things In Sneakers Right Now.
Nike and adidas battle the bots.
Nothing can ruin a Saturday more than getting beat to the latest and greatest sneaker by other people with bots, which snatch up every pair at the drop of a tweet. Sneaker brands have long been criticized for lack of technological infrastructure to combat this issue, but Nike and adidas took big strides towards a solution in 2015. For Nike, that meant postponing a few Air Jordan releases to rollout a program that allows users to reserve a pair via Twitter and pick them up on Saturday. So far it's worked. adidas, on the other hand, has implemented its "Confirmed" app, allowing those who use it to lock down a pair of Yeezys in a fair way. There still have been complaints with both methods, but they're both steps in the right direction. —Matt Welty
Stadium Goods goes for Flight Club's neck.
New York City's sneaker consignment retail scene got a much needed shake-up with the recently opened Stadium Goods shop in SoHo. Opened by Flight Club veteran John McPheters, nightlife impresario Jed Stiller, and founder of SneakerNews and Sneakercon Yu-Ming Wu, the trio are combining top-notch customer service with a sleek e-commerce experience and an Apple-inspired interior to give the resale retail market a facelift. Gone are the days of the pretentious "cool guy" sneaker boutique—Stadium Goods hopes to usher in a new age of premier NYC sneaker retail. —Jian DeLeon
sneaker culture gets its own museum exhibit.
"The Rise of Sneaker Culture," which ran at the Brooklyn Museum from July 10th to October 4th, may have been a bit too heavy on the "sneaker" part and too light on the "culture." But that's kind of missing the point. What mattered was that there was an entire exhibit dedicated to sneakers—to sneaker CULTURE—at a museum. Moreso than any magazine article or film (although those help too), this legitimized sneakers and sneaker culture as a real thing worthy of study. We've come a long way. —Russ Bengtson
the spread of the luxury sneaker.
It seems like ten years ago, minimal, fashionable kicks from brands like Common Projects were well...anything but common. Funny how the NYC-based sneaker company has become the archetype for an entirely new market of subtle, stylish sneakers. Factor in labels like Givenchy, Céline, and Saint Laurent aping classic silhouettes like the Air Force 1 and Jordan 1, and it's evident that high-end sneaker brands are here to stay. In addition to companies like Golden Goose offering up pre-distressed kicks for half a grand, adidas and Nike have enlisted the help of big-name fashion designers like Raf Simons, Rick Owens, and Riccardo Tisci to redo some of their most iconic silhouettes. Talk about stepping their game up. —Jian DeLeon
JOHN GEIGER AND THE SNEAKER SURGEON MAKE CUSTOMS INTERESTING AGAIN.
The custom sneaker has evolved a lot since the days of Bobbito painting the Swoosh on his Air Force 1s. It went from people painting actual designs on shoes to recreating footwear from scratch. Then John Geiger and The Shoe Surgeon stepped on the scene. They started with the "Misplaced Checks" Air Force 1s, a sneaker with multiple Swooshes on it, and are now mashing up whatever comes to mind: placing different soles on different uppers and even adding zippers to the midsole of the Air Force 1. A lot of their work will make people say, "Duh, I should have thought of that first," but they didn't. And that's why they're killing it right now. —Matt Welty
SNEAKERS DONE RIGHT ON THE RUNWAY.
Public School designers Dao-Yi Chow and Maxwell Osborne gave the Jordan 1 its runway debut when they laced models with pairs for their Spring/Summer 2015 fashion show, and a couple Jordan collabs later, it seems the fashion world's sneaker moment isn't going anywhere. Sneakerhead favorite designer John Elliott has been pairing looks with dope kicks for a few seasons now, even cooking up a pair of LeBron 12s on Nike ID to show with his Fall/Winter 2015 collection. At the inaugural New York Fashion Week: Men's this past season, he had models rock everything from the Air Rift to the Air Max 1 with clothing inspired by a recent trip to Vietnam. —Jian DeLeon
Corgishoe keeps it 100 on The SitDown.
Sneaker reselling is big business, and no one keeps it realer than Corgishoe. His Instagram account is a treasure trove of sneakers people have been searching for or forgot about. He's also gained infamy from how he's approached his business: flaming people on social media and not caring what anyone has to say about him. Outside of his posts, though, most people don't know much about Corgi. He hopped on The Sit Down, hosted by The Don Drew, and sounded off on everything people have wanted to know. He spoke on his reselling practices, but also things such as his prison record and the future of making money off sneakers. If you don't mind a curse or two, listen to the whole thing here. —Matt Welty
SNEAKER RESELLING IS A 1 BILLION DOLLAR INDUSTRY.
Like Justin Timberlake says in The Social Network: "A million dollars isn't cool. You know what's cool? ...A billion dollars." And that's exactly the valuation placed on the resale sneaker market this past year. More than enough money to move out of your parents' basement (word to Mom's spaghetti), but also a number that proves there's serious money to be made from selling hard-to-find kicks. Not only are there more players on the field—ranging from shops like Flight Club to the peer-to-peer resellers on platforms like Kixify—but there are literally so many ways to cop aftermarket kicks now. It's not just about taking shoes to a consignment store or throwing things up on the 'Bay and hoping for the best. Sneaker conventions and social media platforms like Instagram have become rife with sneaker resellers, but while the gray market is growing, the rule of caveat emptor stays intact. Don't get got. —Jian DeLeon
the triumphant return of the Nike Sock Dart.
The Nike Sock Dart was ahead of its time when it made its debut in 2004: It was the first-ever sneaker to use a computerized knit make-up. A little over a decade later, the re-release of the minimalist sneaker couldn’t have come at a more perfect time. It’s quickly become a staple to the booming athleisure trend, and the sock-like silhouette serves as the perfect lifestyle alternative to a market filled with runners. With fragment design's Hiroshi Fujiwara putting his double lightning bolt stamp of approval on the sneaker, the Sock Dart retro hit the market with undeniable fervor, and there are no signs of demand slowing down. —John Marcelo
STEPH CURRY GETS EQUITY WITH UNDER ARMOUR.
The Golden State Warriors' Steph Curry is having one of the best years any athlete has ever had in recent memory. In addition to an NBA championship and MVP title, the sharp shooter's year got even better when Under Armour made the wise move to extend his contract. The new deal basically keeps him under contract with the growing sportswear brand for the remainder of his NBA career to 2024. To make the pot even sweeter, Under Armour awarded Curry with an undisclosed amount of equity in the company—a benefit you seldom see with sneaker endorsement deals. With the rapid pace Under Armour been growing, only second behind Nike in the U.S. Sportswear market, it's safe to say Curry is poised to make more money off the court when his NBA career is all said and done. —John Marcelo
THE RISE OF FEMALE SNEAKER CELEBRITIES.
Say what you want about the Kardashian/Jenner clan—on second thought, don't—but they've collectively brought more attention to women in sneakers than anyone since Lisa Leslie and Sheryl Swoopes. Sneakers have long been a male-dominated interest, or at least marketed as such, with "shrink 'em and pink 'em" being the predominant gesture towards women. But with Kim and Kylie and Khloe and them in Yeezys, attention is finally being paid to the female foot when it's in something other than heels. Add in Rihanna's not-overly-girly line with Puma, and it's a downright revolution. About time. —Russ Bengtson
Ronnie Fieg opens up a cereal shop.
Leave it to Ronnie Fieg to mix sneakers and apparel with a cereal bar, and for it to actually work. The “why-didn’t-I-think-of-that idea” of the year is Kith Treats, and it’s the latest bucket list moment for Fieg, who has dreamt of opening a cereal bar since he was a child. Kith Treats is just part of the brand’s expansion of the Brooklyn location, that now features 750 Daniel Arsham-designed Jordan IIs hanging from the ceiling. Every store owner hopes that their space becomes a must-visit NY shop, and the Kith on Flatbush Ave now has a leg up on every other player in the sneaker market. It’s crazy to think Fieg’s best collab to the date may not have even been on a sneaker. —Joe La Puma
VICTOR CRUZ'S SIGNATURE SHOE: THE AIR CRUZ.
It’s basically been exactly a year since Giants Wide Receiver Victor Cruz suffered a devastating injury that has kept him sidelined from action. While Cruz's on field #TheReturn seems imminent, off-field he got laced with his first signature shoe with Nike. We’ve seen past football players (Deion Sanders, Calvin Johnson, Darrelle Revis) get their own signature shoes, but we think Nike’s rollout plan for the “Air Cruz” is going to be special. Think about it: When’s the last time you saw Jimmy Fallon talk about sneakers? The Internet seemed a bit skeptical when the black/cement and all-red make-ups dropped, but Nike confirmed with us the real 4 colorways—and they’re even better IRL. —Joe La Puma
CELEBRITIES LET US INTO THEIR SNEAKER CLOSETS.
There was a time when celebrities rocking a fire pair of kicks was enough. Remember John Mayer's Infrared Air Max 90s, Jerry Seinfeld's collection of coke white grails, or that time the gawd Robin Williams rocked BAPE and Raf Simons kicks on Letterman? Yeah, we used to have to hunt for our celebrity sneaker idols. Now, the new flex is all about quantity. As Victor Cruz or DJ Khaled's bonkers sneaker closets will show you, it's not just about what's in your quiver, but how you store your illest darts. —Jian DeLeon
THE SWEATPANTS REVOLUTION.
The conundrum of how to wear pants while still exposing sneakers has faced people since the dawn of time. Not exactly, but it's still a pressing issue. No one wants to get dragged, like the bottom of their inseams, through the Internet for wearing baggy carpenter jeans with a great pair of sneakers. The rise of athleisure has afforded people the opportunity to wear sweatpants, track pants, and the like in public without looking like slobs who just rolled out of bed. It's also made it easier to wear different sneakers that they wouldn't dare to lace up in the past. Sneaker brands and shops have started their own lines of sweatpants, and they've been well-received. It's also made being a footwear enthusiast more comfortable in the process. —Matt Welty
The New Age of Sneakers on YouTube.
YouTube is an integral part of sneaker "culture" on the Internet, but it comes under scrutiny, too. Many of those with large followings don't do much more than unbox sneakers in the same format, which are usually sent to them by brands. But there's a new wave of shows and channels that have revived interest in this platform. Brad Hall, although many view him as a person trolling the YouTube unboxer, has brought his own brand of dry humor to these videos. And without tooting our own horn too much, Sneaker Shopping has become a must-watch in its own right.—Matt Welty
9. James Harden signs with adidas.
Talk about perfect timing. When adidas Basketball needed a superstar—with Derrick Rose perhaps not one anymore and Andrew Wiggins still on the come-up—there was James Harden, the league's leading scorer and, at 26, a sneaker free agent. Presented with a 13-year, $200 million offer and the chance to dictate his own style both on and off the court (through adidas Originals), Harden left Nike for the Brand with Three Stripes. And if The Beard's latest jump is as successful as his last—from supporting cast in OKC to flat-out star in Houston—it should benefit all involved, Harden most of all. —Russ Bengtson
NIKE’S FLYKNIT TECHNOLOGY, STILL.
It seems like there’s a new Flyknit Racer that drops every week, and trust us, we’re not mad—at all. What really has us still psyched on Flyknit is that Nike’s doubling down on the technology and incorporating it into not only new silhouettes but also in classics like the Presto and the highly-debated Flyknit Air Force 1. Whether or not you’re feeling the Air Force 1 treatment, Nike expanding their use of Flyknit—something we already named the best from both a function and fashion standpoint is a win for everyone. —Joe La Puma
THE SUPREME JORDAN V.
The legacies of Supreme and Jordan Brand couldn't be further apart on the spectrum. One is a streetwear brand rooted in counter culture, while the other is a multi-billion dollar company with distribution all over the globe. And while both have established themselves in their respective subcultures, the two intersect in the world of skateboarding. In the '80s, skaters looked to the Air Jordan 1 high-top for extra comfort, while Supreme is a brand rooted deeply in skate culture. This fall, the two come together for the first time to combine their signature aesthetics on a highly anticipated collection of Air Jordan Vs. —John Marcelo
adidas steps it up with boost and tubular soles.
Sneakers are just as much about aesthetics as they are function. Often the most popular styles are such because they served an innovative purpose at one point or another. Right now that means Boost sole units for adidas, which uses a technology innovated by BASF. What's great about Boost isn't just that it's comfortable, although it's made up of tiny beads that are soft and return energy, but it looks cool, too. Adidas has been able to implement it on everything from its highest-performing running footwear to sneakers for Kanye West and other lifestyle models such as the Pure Boost and offerings from Yohji Yamamoto. The same can be said for adidas' Tubular sole, a reinterpreted take on a '90s design, which takes cues from Yamamoto's Qasa Racer. Both are proof positive that when people buy a sneaker, they want something that feels good on their feet. —Matt Welty
drake teams up with the jumpman.
Jumpman, Jumpman, Jumpman, them boys up to something! When Yeezus closes a door, Jordan Brand opens up a window. Pretty sure the old adage goes something like that. Drake teaming up with Jordan Brand is about as fire of a collaboration as his recent mixtape with Future, What A Time to Be Alive. Speaking of fire, so are Drizzy's sneaker collaborations, where retro models like the X, XII, and VIII are infused with the low-key appeal of his October's Very Own clothing line. Think clean black-and-white colorways with luxe gold accents. Drake also used the recent OVO Fest as an opportunity not just to further roast Meek Mill, but bring back the Jordan flight suit as a fashion statement. People might've thought he looked like a Power Ranger, but admit it: The Megazord was pretty trill. —Jian DeLeon
retro sneakers brought back the right way.
There is a difference between retroing sneakers and retroing sneakers properly, and while the difference may not show up on end-of-year balance sheets it's an important one that at long last companies are paying closer attention to. What started with programs like adidas' Consortium has spread to their rivals, as Jordan introduced "remastered" versions of their classic models and Nike brought back the Air Force 1 in much the same way they initially did in 1986. And as sneakerheads increasingly become part of the companies they grew up supporting, maybe we can look forward to more carefully crafted retro products like adidas's Spezial line. I, for one, can't wait. —Russ Bengtson
kanye west's tumultuous adidas partnership
Ever since Kanye West first announced his collaboration with adidas, sneakerheads and Kanye stans have chomped at the bit for any and all new information. Yeezy Season 1 ushered in the adidas x Kanye West-era proper, culminating with the release of the Yeezy 750 Boost via the adidas Confirmed app and select stores, as well as giving a preview of the Yeezy Boost 350 low-top knit sneakers. As the release date for the rest of the pricey collection (and the duck boot-like Yeezy 950) nears on the 29th, people have already given the recently shown Yeezy Season 2 a lukewarm reception. Oh right, and the rumors that the second season's clothing was produced independently of adidas were all but confirmed after the show. Looks like West and adidas' collab will be footwear-focused moving forward, good thing Obama was gifted a few pairs of his own before that Kanye West 2020 presidential run. —Jian DeLeon
oct. 21, 2015 is back to the future day.
Great Scott! Oct. 21, 2015—the day Marty McFly traveled to in Back to the Future II—is practically here. While most sneakerheads are anticipating some big Nike Air Mag-related news, the anticipation has led to some interesting pop cultural crossovers: Pepsi made novelty Pepsi Perfeect bottles, Universal Pictures released a fake Jaws 19 trailer, and more and more people are getting around on things that have been dubbed hoverboards, even though they're not as cool as the ones depicted in the film. Back in January, Tinker Hatfield himself confirmed a release of the coveted shoe some time in 2015—and it would have power laces. It's about time, indeed. —Jian DeLeon
big shoe companies experiment with 3d printing.
The tech world has made enormous strides in 3D printing, and the footwear industry hasn't hesitated to embrace it. Nike already made a football cleat with 3D-printed plates, and New Balance put the new technology to similar use by creating 3D-printed spikes on track shoes. While these products show great strides and clearly demonstrate where the future of footwear is headed, adidas took it a step further with the Futurecraft, a runner that resembles the Ultra Boost with 3D-printed midsoles. And this is just the beginning. As Nike COO Eric Sprunk revealed, don't be surprised if you'll soon be able to 3D print your own sneakers right from home. —John Marcelo