It’s nearly the end of the year, which means it’s time to classify and compartmentalize a year into winners and losers. We already gave you the breakdown of what we thought were the best sneakers of the year, in addition to the best collaborations of the year, but there was a particular trend we wanted to bring attention to. And we know it’s something everyone else noticed.
When it comes to sneakers, the color red won 2014. That’s right, a color was a victor, and there's actually some science behind it.
It was just a few years ago that “all-red everything” pairs were rare and coveted. But now, we can’t seem to escape them, and never have we seen as many as 2014.
Why? The easiest answer is influence. The laziest among us will point to Kanye’s "Red October" Air Yeezy IIs, saying that the hype over them has carried from that early February afternoon all the way through the rest of the year.
It’s impossible to deny they are, and will continue to be for the foreseeable future, one of the most stuntable pairs of sneakers ever made. The hype around them, combined with the sheer visibility, and the production of quite a few of them, all has combined into a self-perpetuating machine of thirst, lust, and bragging. But the first time we saw the "Red Octobers" was in May 2013, and all red sneakers hit the scene way before then and were selling out.
Any sneaker buyer or designer could tell you in early 2013 that an all red sneaker was a guaranteed sell through, but it seems like it was only 2014 where the brands took advantage of it.
As far back as February 22, we were already crowning Red the king of colors, but the roster for 2014 filled up quickly. Some of the most sought after pairs proved to be all red sneakers ranging from the "Infrared 23" Jordan VIs, to Pharrell’s Stan Smiths, to the latest Supreme x Nike Air Force 1 effort, and too many sneaker collaborations to count with Saucony, Filling Pieces, PONY, and even British Knights. Don’t forget that even Timberland's boot collaboration with Billionaire Boys Club, which isn’t a sneaker but still solidly in our world, boasts four figure asking prices on eBay.
It wasn’t just the sneaker world that noticed the crimson king, even Pantone (the company that lords over all color, not the street name for the Air Jordan XIs that came out last week) named Marsala as its color of the year for 2015 (it’s a dark red, like Marsala wine).
The important thing to consider is what this tells us about ourselves and what we can expect for the future.
2014 was truly the year that popular culture started taking cues from sneaker culture. In years past, the only way the local news was going to cover anything that happened with sneakers was when releases went insane (like the 2012 Air Jordan Concord release), or when violence erupts. Sneakers weren’t inherently news on their own, instead producers and editors only looked to us to document where we went wrong. This year, however, saw a deeper investigation of who we are from the outside, attracting attention even from sites like FiveThirtyEight Economics. You cannot go a month without reading that “Sneakers Are In!” from a women’s style magazine. Even the year-end blockbuster Mockingjay saw one of the main characters killing in a pair of Margielas.
Red offers something that the colors from the past don’t. When looking back at colors that won the day, you’ll see neutrals. Black, white, grey, and blue. They’re jammed into interesting combinations, but where a sneaker used to pop against a sea of black and brown shoes, it’s no longer enough. Red will cut through even the most varied collection of kicks. Don’t believe me? Check that FiverThirtyEight reference you skimmed over a few lines ago. What sneakers do you recognize immediately? "Ferrari" XIVs, "Metallic Red" Foamposites, and "Chinese New Year" Dunks. Everything else takes a second to recognize, but those pop immediately.
This year was the year of trying to stand out from the crowd, and the easiest way to do that was with an all-red sneaker.
But if everyone’s a stand out, is anyone a stand out? We'll just have to wait and see which color will pop for 2015.
Pete Forester is a contributing writer for Complex Sneakers and you can follow him on Twitter here.