In an industry run by nostalgia, the best retro sneaker of 2015 is one that no one was asking for. First introduced in 2004, the Sock Dart, a slip-on runner, has seen an interesting reboot in 2015 thanks to fragment design and the man behind the shadowy agency, Hiroshi Fujiwara.
For once, the coveted sneaker of the day was lauded for being futuristic and not just because a celebrity wore it.
More than a decade after its first release, the Sock Dart has found its proper footing thanks to a consumer base that prefers lightweight sneakers. It's a silhouette that few people remember, but it's the first sneaker of its kind. In today's market, several brands now offer digitally knitted sneakers, but the Sock Dart was the original to experiment with this technology. Now 11 years later, it looks more like a new design from Nike than a call back to a previously executed concept.
At this point, much retro basketball product feels old and a few years too late. Brands have run out of signature models from yesteryear that tug at the heartstrings of millennials trying to relive their elementary and middle school days. Even runners from the late '80s and '90s are starting to feel stale. A different approach to reviving product had to be considered, and the Sock Dart was the perfect candidate.
The appetite for anything designed by Hiroshi, Nike Vice President of Design and Special Projects Tinker Hatfield, and Nike CEO Mark Parker — Nike's avant-garde collective referred to as HTM — is at an all-time high. While not technically an HTM collaboration, the Sock Dart is considered to have a heavy hand in the group's DNA, according to 032c magazine, and shows the left-field thinking that Parker's praised since day one.
What makes the Sock Dart special is that Nike has treated it in such a way. Starting late last year, the first four pairs to be released were all co-branded with fragment design, and three subsequent versions were released only at NikeLab retailers. The numbers produced were extremely limited. In a day when "Remastered" Air Jordans are flooding the market and every reputable sneaker boutique is involved in three collabs per quarter, the Sock Dart served as the antithesis to that mess. It wasn't released in an O.G. or over-the-top colorway. Hiroshi opted for monochrome uppers in muted tones such as Dark Loden, Navy, Photo Plue, and Black. Instead of letting an intricate color story do the talking, the see-through straps on the upper served as the sneaker's centerpiece — and the discussion around the Sock Dart was about its challenging aesthetic.
For once, the coveted sneaker of the day was lauded for being futuristic and not just because a celebrity wore it. Nike released the Sock Dart with the intention that not everyone would get a pair. It was able to make an odd-looking sneaker even more rare. In a day where exclusivity is forced and used as a marketing tool, the Sock Dart embodied an ethos that the public wouldn't understand. But those who appreciated what Hiroshi had done would search out their pairs.
And Hiroshi's no stranger to creating a buzz around small-run items. He's been doing it his whole career. “Hiroshi’s style is very calm and thoughtful. He has a high level of sensitivity, particularly on an aesthetic level," Parker told 032c.
It might have been right time, right sneaker, and right strategy, but the Sock Dart has been able to energize a weary group of sneakerheads in a way that's shaken them out of their retro-induced slumber. It just took Hiroshi's touch to do so. It also showed that sometimes we need to trust Nike and let them give us what they want, not the boring ideas we've asked to be reproduced over and over again.
They say people want what they can't have, and that's why limited-edition sneakers have become so popular. But it's even more frustrating when we want something that comes in without warning, much like the Sock Dart has this year. It's such an intriguing alternative to everything going on in the sneaker world right now that people are getting excited by fake versions, which pop up online and force Hiroshi to address these non-legitimate make-ups.
Only time will tell if Nike will let the Sock Dart go down the same road as the Roshe Run and Flyknit Racer and get released too many times, to the point where no one gets excited over it anymore. But until then, we need to live in the moment and strike out on Nike Store release days with everyone else, hoping to capture gold and get the best sneaker of 2015.