Nike’s 2017 Stronghold

KEEPING up with annual tradition, as December drew to a close the sneaker-world became flooded with lists ranking 2017’s sneakers from best to worst. This year, however, differed from 2016 due to Nike arguably topping Adidas, having seen the Three Stripes leap-frog swoosh utilising the influential injection of ‘boost’ technology into the market.

We were introduced to the Zoomfly, Vapormax, Adidas Prophere and Yeezy 700 ‘Waverunnner’ to name but a handful of silhouettes; some arguably stronger than others, but all setting the tone for the brands looking onto 2018. Both of Nike’s aforementioned models fell into the hands of Virgil Abloh, for what could be 2017’s landmark collaboration.  On top of new shapes, and carrying the topic of collaborations, there was certainly no shortage of partnered releases; a number of weeks saw upwards of 20 pairs hitting shelves and thereafter, eBay. Is the sneaker marketplace still one for genuine enthusiasts, or has a ‘flex and flip’ mentality taken over, sculpting what was once a friendly community into an evermore lacklustre environment? That would be for the reader to decide, for now my interests lean towards analysing sneaker releases throughout the last year.

Starting with the standard ‘Top 5’ pairs that’ve passed through my hands over the last 12 months, this is purely opinion-based. Admittedly, not every pair was added to the collection, but as a student, funds can only stretch so far without impeaching on necessities… such as rent.

5. Patta x Vans Old Skool

A collection consisting of two colour ways, Patta decided to complete the ‘Mean Eyed Cat’ trio by adding both cream and brown pairs to 2015’s Japan exclusive pair. Mixing things up, these were both available exclusively at Patta Amsterdam and London opposed to BEAMS; with whom the previous collaboration was shared.

The reason behind this sitting comfortably in fifth position is purely based on a combination of simplicity, attention to detail and wearability. Old Skools stand alone as a staple footwear choice for many; combining a waffle sole, heavy canvas and thick suede, it’s a sneaker that can be suited to a wide variety of occasions.

To set this pair beyond the average general release, side-wall embellishment, lace logos and canvas print comprise the well-known image that is to be recognised as one of Vans’ most sought after collaborative processes.

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4. KAWS x Air Jordan 4, or Staple’s Dunk low 2.0?

Next up, a battle of reworked sneaker heritage and combining one of Jordan Brand’s most favourable silhouettes with an artist of enormous stature. Face it, throwing KAWS‘ name and well-renowned hands onto almost anything will result in moderate hype, it’s a given, but when these little details are embroidered onto a suede-clad, premium upper… expect week-long campouts and unimaginable resell value.

In terms of Jeff Staple’s second Dunk lo, it would be unfair to compare to his original pair. The first sculpted a culture to which we’re all familiar these days; hype rose to a level where Staple paid for taxis to and from their store, potentially saving a number of lives. That’s right, the interest generated by this collaboration pushed boundaries, set a new standard.

‘Unfortunately’ for those fond of a little reselling, Staple’s revamp didn’t live up to the agro of its predecessor, as stock levels and availability outweighed the willingness of a Dunk’s audience to pay resell prices. This meant, prices hovered slightly above retail to allow those that missed out, a chance to purchase.

Now, the reason as to why I’ve ranked these evenly, is wearability. The KAWS 4, being constructed of such premium and heavy materials, is difficult to wear day-to-day; more so a collectors piece to be preserved and displayed. On the other hand, the Dunk revitalised Nike’s infamous pink SB box, hemmed ‘fat’ tongue and of course, Staple’s pigeon heel embroidery. Had the Dunk featured more colour, perhaps it would have been ranked further up; however, joint fourth place is by no means a poor effort.

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3. Nike Air Max 1 ‘Elephant’ Retro

Not a collaboration, but third place Atmos(t).

Nike and Japanese giants, Atmos, have ties that go back over a decade. With a number of collections having been released to the public, it’s safe to say this is always a popular partnership. Prior to the Elephant retro, Nike re-released the ‘Safari‘ colour way featuring an unpopular, long-haired suede toe-box opposed the original canvas option.

Fortunately for fans of the Air Max 1, Nike went to minimal efforts in terms of changing details on this one. When placed side-by-side, the elephant print made popular by Jordan Brand differs very slightly between the two releases… because how can you improve a classic? Numbers were relatively high, with access being far more widespread than expected, however with this pair being so coveted, an instant sell-out was granted.

But what makes this 2017’s, third most preferable release? For many, it was the remake of their favourite Air Max 1; a pair that had started to crumble as scrolling years began to dry out not only the midsole, but bubble too. It serves as a reminder for Air Max collaborations, recognised by Sneakerheads far and wide.

Looking onto 2018, Air Max Day will see retro of Atmos’ collaborative ‘Animal Pack’; another historic release!

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2. Off White’s ‘The Ten’ x Nike

All hype, resell value and Off White related comments aside, this was an unbelievably well managed collection. All nine of the ten released, Converse pending, had something removed, altered, added or printed onto the original silhouette; an immediate win for anyone associated with the culture.

Recapping a previous article written in September,

‘On September 14th 2017, I was one of a handful to attend Nike’s “Process of Collaboration” talk within London’s Barbican centre; this was an occasion in which 5 of “The Ten” were released. Guest speakers included both Virgil Abloh and Nate Jobe; Nike’s Senior Design Director, who answered questions towards the end of proceedings on top of signing merchandise. As the event got underway, we were informed 60k had applied alone for this particular ‘workshop’, leaving myself to be one of the lucky number.’

Three silhouettes have received significantly more publicity than the others.  Firstly, the Air Jordan 1, where ankle and toe support had been unstitched for a ‘distressed’ effect; Abloh opted for the Chicago colour way opposed to Fragment’s ‘Game Royal’ choice. Next up, the Blazer mid’ with an open hemmed tongue, bringing back a classic feature of older Blazer releases. On top of this, a slightly pre-yellowed midsole to highlight an elongated, vulcanised black swoosh, really set this silhouette aside from it’s most recognised form. Third and foremost, the Air Presto invited a large, open-hemmed pad to sit beneath the lacing, as a form of enlarged tongue whilst sporting a velcro strap in replacement of a heel cage.

Off White’s contribution to 2017 found second place not only due to the quality of production, but due to an addition of hands-on experience when it came to raffles, workshops and talks. Nike executed this perfectly; 2018 is rumoured to be just as, if not more impressive than the last.

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Finally…: Nike’s Air Force 100 celebration collection

This collection held a pair for sneaker enthusiasts of all backgrounds, a combination of hype, heritage, quality and technical offerings from a handful of Nike’s most influential partners to celebrate 35 years of the Air Force silhouette.

Released globally, we saw a Travis Scott incorporate interchangeable swoosh, Don C combining Air Force 1, 2 and 3, as well as Errolson Hugh giving his previous Acronym collaboration an all-white zip-up. The quartet, was completed by a retro of Roc-a-fella’s previously unobtainable F&F and eBay raffle gold dust, infamously recognisable due to a heel logo embellishment.

To the ‘untrained’ eye, this is but merely a standard, white monochrome Air Force 1; to others, the premium leather upper and early ’00’s-esque inner padding meant only one thing. There’s not much more to note on the subject, allowing photographs to speak for themselves would be the best choice. This is, for me, 2017’s most-complete sneaker.

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To conclude, shall we say, what has been an interesting year for sneakers; Nike’s collaborations have clearly toppled Adidas from the throne to where they sat as 2017 began. It has not been a battle of exclusivity, that’s far from the point, it has been due to sheer quantity and collaborative momentum carried or even provided by the prestigious stance of those who join in partnership. Names such as A$AP Bari, Tyler the Creator, Skepta, N*E*R*D and all of those named above, meant that a sneaker could be sold on name basis alone.

There is already rumour and confirmation of Nike following the same path throughout 2018; K Dot, another Tyler release as well as Off White 2.0 and the worldwide drop of Sean Wotherspoon’s Air Max 1/97. In terms of silhouettes, the Vapor Max is set for a boot-like outfit and Tuned Air mash up. Personally, it would be nice to see older models, for example the Beacon, being retro’d and updated to suit modern trends.

Asics were relatively quiet throughout, having gained great momentum in 2016 due to the Gel Lyte III anniversary, this disappoints. Patta put their own twist on a Gel Mai, so, hopefully 2018 will hold a well executed collaboration from the Dutch giants.

Nike controlled, 2017, the new year is up now up for grabs.

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