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There are books that look good on coffee tables, ones that are great for shelf decor, and others that demand a whole different type of respect. The new Sneaker of the Year book from Complex is an example of that last kind—a visually-arresting, culturally-relevant tome that captures special moments in sneaker history, and delivers both knowledge and inspiration. Curated by the highly-attuned Complex editorial team, this new publication captures 35 years of sneaker culture from an insider's perspective and crowns the best sneaker released each year, from 1985 till today.

The individual sneaker stories are conveyed vividly with photos, illustrations, and intriguing anecdotes. The new book is currently available in the Complex SHOP, and we spoke to three of its writers: Brendan Dunne, Joe La Puma, and Matt Welty (co-hosts of The Complex Sneakers Podcast) about how it all came together.

On how the sneaker selection process for the book happened:

Joe La Puma: Like everything we do at Complex, there are always great, passionate debates when it comes to lists. We’ve been doing them for years. Everyone on staff is not always going to agree, but you can be assured that a strong case for why something landed in the position it did will be made.

Brendan Dunne: We really thought about the immediate buzz and long-tail historical impact for each sneaker selected. It was also important for us to focus on new models over retros, as we believe in highlighting the models that are pushing the industry forward.

Matt Welty: We argued over and over on the shoes, held a boatload of meetings, and then got things wrong, went back, fixed them, and then argued some more. I'm glad that's all over with.


On some of their favorite sneaker stories in the book:


Joe La Puma: I really enjoyed the Nike SB Dunk chapter. We are currently in a sort-of second coming of the SB Dunks, and this chapter is really going to cut through the present day hype and really give some context to how the popular Nike skate shoes came to fruition.

Brendan Dunne: I love the story about Nike thinking about buying up a whole company in the Air Presto chapter. Also, selfishly, the design background on the Off-White Jordan 5 for the chapter I wrote for 2020.

Matt Welty: I might be a bit biased, because I wrote the chapter, but the Reebok Instapump Fury was a great story to capture. Steven Smith, the designer behind the shoe, now is the design director at Yeezy and has a load of industry knowledge.

On why all sneaker lovers need to check out this book:

Joe La Puma: We have seen sneaker books before. No disrespect, but a lot are pretty similar in concept. This one is different. The stories and the historical value will be educational, nostalgic, and a refresher as to why we love sneakers as much as we do. I love that it’s organized into years because reading this will take you back to exactly where you were when certain sneakers dropped.

Brendan Dunne: This book is important because it contextualizes the best sneakers of the past 35 years. For the people who weren't there, it explains exactly why certain sneakers are significant on a cultural level.

Matt Welty: A love of sneakers usually starts with a pair that you own, then you somehow start to care more about footwear, and then you start to dive into the history of footwear. For me, it was Bobbito's Where'd You Get Those book that captivated my interest, and I hope that this book can do that for a new generation.

And of course, being that this is a Complex book, readers can definitely look out for some controversial sneaker inclusions that are bound to get heads reacting and talking.

Sneaker of the Year is available for purchase now - just click here.