We don't want to confuse the two very different trends of Dad Shoes and Chunky Shoes, but the Balenciaga Triple-S represents the peak for both of them. Those trends are petering out, but we cannot deny that the Triple-S has had a massive impact, and the reverberation continues. Each chunky sneaker released since the Triple-S seems like a weak knock-off of the sneaker that truly set the tone. The year has also seen the silhouette develop and change in both look and price because the shoes sell out as quickly as Balenciaga can make them. It's truly a phenomenon.
Unless you're a hardcore sneaker collector that follows every contour of the sneaker community's ins and outs, you may have missed the second release between Packer Shoes and Adidas on the EQT models. The earlier release on the Cushion 91 set the tone for the partnership, bringing a well-designed sneaker with premium materials into a muddy forest, subverting the idea of streetwear luxury. But the following week, Packer released a pair of the 91/18s in a much more considered design —and in much more limited numbers. The streamlined sneakers pared down the color palate (this time using black, tan, and teal), letting the panels and textures play off one another for a shoe that feels just as engaged with the outdoors but is more progressive in design and sophisticated in palette. A truly quiet winner.
A sleeper hit, the LeBron 10 made in collaboration with John Elliott is pitch-perfect to Elliott’s aesthetic. The JE brand is known for taking daily staples and elevating them, and rather than purely elevating the LeBron 10, Elliott distilled the sneaker to its constituent parts, taking the shoe from an earlier era and bringing it into the present. After that work was done, he went about utilizing the panels and pieces in black and white to create depth and implicit texture. At a quick glance it may not appear that there’s much to these kicks, but there are layers to them and they deserve recognition.
The AlphaBounce has been a great sneaker for Adidas, opening the brand up to runners on a tighter budget. But the AlphaBounce Beyond is a whole new level. The one shortcoming of the AlphaBounce was always aesthetics; it was often an overkill combination of textures, materials, and patterns. But the new AlphaBounce Beyond edits and elevates the look to the next level. The sole design fits seamlessly into the upper, each of them playing off the same textural motifs. An arch plug adds a little bit of surprise. The Beyond demands a few dollars more than its predecessor, but it also represents more than a couple extra steps in the right direction.
What started as a one-off has turned into an ongoing collaboration between Levi’s and Jordan brand. The first pair used Levi’s blue denim to cover a Jordan 4, creating the first officially sanctioned denim Jordan, years after the Jumpman created some on its own. Golden stitching and Levi’s tabs appear all over the sneaker, making for the most authentic translation from dungaree to sportswear possible. Since the first pair, we’ve seen white and black versions, too. We wouldn’t be surprised if the creative partnership continues with new colors materials or on new silhouettes.
It's no secret that the Air Max 270 Bowfin is one of the stranger silhouettes that released this year, but it suddenly made sense when we caught the Atomic Violet colorway. The shoes are wild: The uppers are a mess of materials with an attached tongue, a ribbon-constructed lacing system that culminates in a lacelock, and even a ripstop top that acts as a shield for the rest of the shoe. The sole is a triumph on its own: texture and line come together with a bright mudguard, and then a 270-degree air bubble at the heel. There are subtler colorways of the kicks, but with a blend of lavender, pink, mustard, white, and black, the details of the shoe are elevated and we get to see what makes it truly unique.
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