It’s way too early to declare anything the best of 2019, or even “so far,” but I’m going to jump off that ledge right now. The Adidas ZX 10000 is my favorite sneaker of the year, and I don’t see much changing that.
I know it’s not going to be “The Best Sneaker of 2019.” That’s going to be some boring project from a high-profile collaborator on a Nike sneaker that makes it easy to spot the cornballs by who you see wearing it in public, but more than likely on Instagram. An Off-White x Air Jordan 1. An Acronym x Nike Air Presto. Something along those lines. A Sean Wotherspoon x Nike Air Max. Boring, right? I couldn’t agree more.
There’s a huge debate every year on what qualifies something as the best sneaker. Can a simple retro be the best sneaker of the year? We’ve said yes, but I can also go back and say we were completely fucking wrong. Should it be a completely brand new silhouette? There’s a case that it should be something along those lines. A collaboration that reworks the framework of an existing shoe into something new fits the bill, too.
It also has to be something cool. A sneaker that makes you happy.
That’s where I’m at with the ZX 10000.
The shoe itself is a new “retro” sneaker. It imagines what the Adidas ZX series would have looked like after the ZX 9000 was released in 1989. Adidas even enlisted the shoe’s original designer, Jacques Chassaing, to work on this project. It’s as if there was a missing sneaker in the Air Max or Air Jordan lines, and you brought Tinker Hatfield back to fill in the gap. But it wouldn’t be Tinker designing a sneaker for 2019, it would be as if he was creating a sneaker for, say, 1994 with the correct materials and design aesthetic, but in the modern year.
It’s something—to my knowledge—we’ve never seen done before. Tinker’s gone back and redesigned the Air Jordan XV, his self-admitted worst sneaker, for the Kubo film, but that was revisionist history. The ZX 10000 was like someone going back and finishing up their Masters degree, which they were just a few credits short.
That’s only part of the reason why the shoe is my favorite this year. The ZX thousands series has always been good, and it’s nice that Adidas is investing in it again. The brand has put serious consideration into the shoes, too. It all started at the tail end of last year with the first ever re-release of the ZX 4000. The shoe’s remaking was done with superb attention to detail, down to the shape, materials, and laces.
The same preciseness was paid to the ZX 10000, although the shoe has no blueprint to follow. It looks like it could have been plucked off a shoe wall in 1990 and Back to the Future’d to 2019. What’s better about the shoe, though, is that Adidas didn’t make a big deal about it. It just kind of appeared.
Yes, there was a ZX exhibition in London at the end of 2018, curated by Mr. Spezial Gary Aspden , where the shoe was unveiled to the public alongside a limited-edition book on the line’s history. But Adidas didn’t make a big hoopla about it. They put the shoe in a case, invited friends and family, and called it a day. Let it spread organically.
The next move for the shoe was bold, but also on a small scale. The first version of the shoe to hit the market was through a collaboration with Berlin sneaker boutique Overkill, which brought a unique concept to the ZX 10000. The shoes were released in boxes with three sneakers. Two matching shoes and a third mismatch sneaker. You’d have to two buy complete boxes to potentially get a matching set of the odd sneaker.
It also helped that the person behind the collaboration, the shop’s owner Marc Leuschner, is known as a ZX fanatic and has a strong understanding of the history of the line.
“My first memory of ZX was around ‘98 or ‘99, when they had a retro of the ZX 9000 “Aqua” O.G. There was also another colorway that close to the German flag,” he told us earlier this year in an interview. “I was part of the football culture. The big guys [at the match] were wearing Adidas EQT or Torsion.”
The shoes have proven to be popular. They’ve been co-signed by Ronnie Fieg and Sean Wotherspoon and are reselling for over $700 on StockX, something that no one saw coming for such a niche shoe.
This was followed up by the release of the O.G. version ZX 10000 that was teased late last year. It instantly sold out in Europe and has seen some success in the States, too. But no one ever expected this shoe to be popular in America. Its extended history lies in Europe, where the ZX series was massively popular among the acid house scene in the U.K. in the late '80s and early '90s. The bright colors on the shoes and cushioned soles made perfect for dancing all night under the influence of various designer drugs.
What ultimately makes me like this sneaker more than others is that I hold it hand or put it on my foot and say, “That’s a good shoe.” Simple as that. Sometimes we overthink things and worry about what others think about our sneakers. We also have to be objective at the end of the year. We can’t rank the best sneaker something that no one’s ever heard of and make the audience trust our taste. That wouldn’t be fair and too self serving, which is exactly what I’m doing right now. All I’m saying is that you should take a chance and like a new shoe. Don’t like something just to be different, but find the outlier products that speak to your interests and get into them and tell the world. Or just put them on your feet.