It's impossible to neatly pack the summer of 2020 into a clean, coherent lede sentence, so let's just move on to the meat of this topic. This is a sneaker site, and summer’s nearly over, so what was the sneaker of the summer this year?
Every year when we put together this story, there's a couple things we take into consideration. First off, this is not the same as the sneaker of the year, just over the past few months. It's not the critically acclaimed best sneaker, produced likely in limited numbers, that you only saw on Instagram and on the walls at Flight Club. It's a pretty decent shoe that you saw everywhere. Think about it as the sneaker counterpart to "song of the summer," the one you couldn't escape no matter where you went.
In the past we've mentioned all-black Yeezy 500s and the white/blue pair of Off-White x Air Jordan 1s. This summer there was a lot of talk about the Ben & Jerry's x Nike SB Dunks, but let's be real, you haven't seen anyone wear them. It's not just because we're in the middle of a pandemic and everyone stays inside, it's because they're too valuable and everyone that wanted them didn't get them.
There were also the Grateful Dead Dunks from Nike SB. You didn't see anyone wear those in person either, unless you only hang out with sneaker resellers or rich people. Union released an Air Jordan IV, but it came out too late in the summer to leave any real impact. And no one said they liked them from the start anyway, we didn't forget. The Air Jordan 1 collaboration with Dior came and went. There were too few pairs to make them into anyone's rotation, and the $2,000+ price tag and resale value of them made them a sneaker for the rich and famous.
Some Yeezys released. People are wearing them. But they're too nondescript these days for anyone to remember. No one could get the Kobe Bryant sneakers that Nike finally released after the late great's tragic passing at the top of the year.
The Off-White x Air Jordan IVs have been getting some traction, and Virgil Abloh had a good rollout strategy for them, offering up a women's shoe to women first, but it's far from the shoe that dominated the conversation or the streets this summer. The re-release of the Air Ship? Nope. Any random Air Jordan retro? Not this time.
The closest thing we had this summer to a sneaker of the summer was Nike's reissues of the original Dunk Low in colorways such as the Syracuse, Kentucky, Brazil, and the white/red pair that could pass for a couple of schools. Even the Samba Dunks were quite popular. It would be easy to just say the Nike Dunk, as a model, was the sneaker of the summer. Joe La Puma told me that was a cop out, though.
New Balance has had a big year and a big summer. The first retro of the 992 picked up where the 990v5 left out, although it's more limited and has been able to gain steam amongst the brand's die-hard collectors and casual sneaker fans. The biggest shoe from the brand this summer, from a hype perspective, has been JJJJound's work on the 992. Released in two colorways, it's hard to scroll through Instagram and not see them. There's also been two versions of the 1300 from Kith, which revisits Ronnie Fieg's fascination with the CL colorway. Montreal skate brand Dime also reworked the 860v2 and Kawhi Leonard released his first signature basketball shoe with the brand. The 327 was everywhere, but started to fade as the summer went on.
Brands such as New Balance have seemed a like a good option while the world's on lockdown because no one is going anywhere. They don't need to impress people with sneakers as much, so they might opt for the comfortable grey sneakers they keep by the door to run errands. New Balances are great for that. I think I've worn 990v4s and v5s for the majority of lockdown. I can't be bothered to wear anything else.
Having my life disrupted has also made me reevaluate my relationship with sneakers. I have too many. I don't wear nearly enough of them. I'd rather spend my money on performance shoes that I can go running in or work out with than another pair of shoes that are going to add to the pile.
Another popular footwear choice this summer has been something that's not sneakers at all. The Reebok Beatnik, a mule-esque sandal, has seen popularity. Slides themselves have become ubiquitous as well. The Yeezy Foam Runner (shout out Hayastan!) made a moment, too, but it’s come and gone. People still want cool footwear, even if they're trapped up in the house.
So what is the sneaker of the summer? There isn't one this year, I regret to inform you. There also wasn't really a summer this year, aside from the change in weather. No sneaker dominated the conversation and what we had on our feet, and we don’t have any strong memories tied to the shoes we’ve worn over the past few months, aside from shuttling back and forth from the grocery store. Here's to hoping that changes next year