From Virgil Abloh to Sean Wotherspoon to Travis Scott, 2018 saw more than its fair share of sneaker collaborations. So much so that it seemed like every release was a collaborative effort just to outdo the last. And with the new year upon us, everyone’s “Top” sneakers list is cluttered with collabs, I even came across one outlet who named that awful ASAP Rocky x Under Armour in their top sneakers (you know who you are, and you should be ashamed). Moments like that make me wonder if people in the sneaker community actually like these releases or are they purchased purely on the strength of the names attached?
The power of collaboration can have a few different effects. For example, the Sean Wotherspoon Air Max 1/97 was seen to many as the best sneaker of the year, because it was something different and imaginative (and of course ridiculously limited). Sean is connected with his very popular Round Two shops, but besides that, I would assume he wasn’t a household name until his sneaker released. But now, you can’t even speak about an Air Max without mentioning Sean’s name. That was an example of a collaboration being recognized by the end product as opposed to being sought after by namesake alone, which seems like a pretty rare feat nowadays. In most cases, sneakerheads and non-sneakerheads alike will get drawn into a sneaker collaboration off of the power of the person or brand attached. If we look at a few more of the biggest releases of the year, I wonder if they had no name attached would they sit on shelves. Travis Scott, for example, released a Jordan 4 that flew off shelves. But looking at the way “non-OG” Jordan 4 CW sit on shelves, these would have certainly been around a bit longer if Travis didn’t attach himself to this project. Another example, the Union x Air Jordan 1, a beautifully executed shoe, but I can’t help but wonder if this revered sneaker would be still sitting on shelves if there was no name attached and this was a general release? Although this is something we will never know, it’s just a thought.
On the flip side, there were a couple of sneaker collaborations that weren’t exactly instant hits, so maybe the sneaker community is getting wise and more selective with their purchases? Or were these sneakers were just actually awful? This year we saw Don C, who can literally sell anything to the hypebeast community, take a bit of a loss with his collaborative effort with Jordan Brand. The Don C x Air Jordan Legacy 312 wasn’t exactly well received by sneakerheads, so much so that they can be found marked down at some retailers. But, there were still some out there who would tell you that this shoe was “pure heat”. I’m always going believe that sneakerheads should like what they like, and not succumb to anyone telling them differently, but sometimes It looks as though we are being trolled by these brands with some of these questionable releases… like the Supreme x NBA x Nike Air Force 1. Come on, that was lazy execution and about 10 years too late.
My hope for 2019 is that we get more original projects from each of the brands and that they will let the designs stand on their own. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with sneaker collaborations, but those are supposed to be special moments in the sneaker world, not something that we get every week.
For more on sneaker collabs, check out our interview with Ewing Athletics.