There’s no brand that can be attached to a sneaker that will drum up more hype than Supreme. And when the New York City skate brand works with Nike, forget about it. Since the two first joined forces in 2002 for two of the best Nike SB Dunks of all time, it’s been a constant cycle of madness that’s engulfed the majority of Supreme x Nike collaborations over the past 15 years. The public’s desire to wear anything with a box logo on it has never been greater, and with that brings bigger expectations for the brand’s marquee projects. Which brings us to the upcoming Air More Uptempo, one of Supreme’s most divisive Nike collaborations to date.
A few months ago rumors started circulating that Supreme was going to rework the Nike Air More Uptempo, a shoe first designed in 1996 by Wilson Smith for Scottie Pippen. Pippen would go on to win an NBA championship and capture Olympic gold in the shoes, and they’d forever represent the era of loud, statement-making Nike Basketball sneakers. The shoe would go through the retro cycle multiple times over the next 20 years, but it caught lightning in a bottle in 2016 when Nike re-released the black/white version, and it was adopted by the fashion crowd thanks to John Elliott using the sneaker during his New York Fashion Week show. It felt like everyone, at least on Instagram, was wearing the shoe again. It was refreshing. It bucked the trend of lightweight running shoes for one of Nike’s bulkiest basketball sneakers in its catalog. So Supreme tinkering with the shoe should mean instant success, right? Well, results are mixed.
It’s clear that whenever these shoes release they will sell out and have a decent resale value, but there’s something about this sneaker that's making people question its creativity or overall design. The first colorway that everyone got a look at was a take on the original black/white version, which simply flipped the words "Air" that run through the upper for "Supreme." But, to some extent, that's the least of concerns that have been swirling around these Uptempos amongst connoisseurs or older fans of the brand. It's more so that a Supreme Uptempo feels late at this point.
The Uptempo had its moment last year, and everyone who wanted them was able to get a pair. There's literally no need for a pair of Supreme Uptempos in 2017. Supreme hasn't been known for introducing Nike silhouettes, instead choosing to work on tried-and-true models such as the Nike Dunk, Foamposite One, and Air Force 1, but the brand has been able to elevate the design of those shoes in a way that is uniquely Supreme. Even the Air Max 98s that were released last year were mind-boggingly basic yet amazingly good, with a simple flip on Prada's America Cup. The same can be said for the near-O.G. colorways of the Air Jordan V that Supreme did with Jordan Brand in 2015. (The desert camo pair was more out there.) But the Uptempos are lacking that special feeling that gets reserved for Supreme's Nike collaborations.
People rioted in the streets for the Foamposites the brand put out in 2014, which caused the NYPD to shut down its Lafayette retail location for the release. It's not just because the resale value is sky high on anything Supreme touches, but rather the brand has its finger on the pulse of its consumer at the right moments. And I could be wrong: Maybe the Uptempos will go down as one of the most-heralded sneakers that Supreme has ever worked on. The shoes were officially debuted by Derrick Jones Jr. in this year's lackluster NBA Slam Dunk Contest in an all-gold colorway with a white midsole. Even Neymar has his own pair, while ASAP Bari showed off the red-and-white pair, which, for the record, is the best of the three.
Maybe this Uptempo project is a sign that Supreme has gone all the way mainstream, which isn't a bad thing. It's to be expected. Hell, Michael Jordan himself was in the rollout campaign for the brand's Air Jordan collaboration. It's a sign of positive growth for the streetwear brand that routinely has people standing outside of its doors for hours and hours. Maybe the Uptempos are the brand taking something that's already popular with its consumer and making it more lustworthy in their eyes, but it will draw the criticism of, "Throw the words 'Supreme' on anything and the value instantly goes up." Right now you can get yourself a pair of the original Uptempos for a little over $200, so if you want to sidestep the bullshit that's going to surround this release, maybe that's the better choice.