The holidays are always a good time to take inventory. As one year draws to a close, another is slowly ushered in by apocalyptic mall rushes, arduous traffic, painfully awkward reunions, and self-pardoned overeating. It's easy to get lost in the festivities, only to resurface without your 13th month salary. So instead of looking forward to the year ahead, a double-back at the year that was could be more refreshing.
Sneakerheads surely appreciate retrospect. Much of sneaker culture is rooted in nostalgia—we all tend to appreciate shoes that represent a moment in time, an era, or something of historical significance.
So as the clock counts down on 2015 and into 2016, let's take stock of the year that was, in kicks. Which shoes mattered in 2015? Which ones made an impact? Which defined the zeitgeist? And perhaps most importantly, which ones laid the foundation for the year to come? We take a crack at those questions and list down the most significant, most definitive sneakers of the past 365 days.
See if you agree.
1) Air Jordan XI 72-10
Why it mattered: Nike's Air Jordan XI 72-10 is, without a doubt, this year's big Jordan drop. There's always one Jordan release—usually an 11—that stands out from all the rest of the year for its hype.
This year, it's the Air Jordan XI 72-10, a 20th anniversary homage to the Chicago Bulls' 1995-1996 season, in which they set that yet-unmatched win-loss record. Done up in ultra-premium black tumbled leather, a sparkled black patent leather toebox, a crisp white outsole, and subtle metallic red accents, the 72-10 is more than a relic of Jordan history—it’s an amazing-looking shoe.
2) Nike MAG
Why it mattered: Back in October 21, social media was ablaze with talk of "Back to The Future Day"—the date of Marty McFly's arrival as set in Back to The Future II. Necessarily, sneakerheads turned their attention to the Nike MAG—the iconic shoes McFly wore when he arrived in the future.
Would it be released? Would the power laces work? Fortunately, Nike pulled through with the technology.
On the day itself, a video of Michael J. Fox using the self-lacing MAGs made rounds. It got people talking, not just about the movie, but also about an iconic pair of shoes. You didn’t need to be a sneakerhead to appreciate the novelty and pop culture significance of the MAG, which is a rare feat for a pair of sneakers.
Why it mattered: Kanye West’s shoe-bound Midas touch does not fail. Earlier in 2015, leaked photos of the Yeezy Boost 750—then just an anonymous, strange-looking shoe—surfaced on the Internet, and was met by mixed reactions. Today, all three of Kanye’s adidas Originals footwear collaborations have been released, and all three have almost completely sold out. As is to be expected of any collaboration with Mr. West, the adidas Yeezy Boosts were a huge hit, and a potent symbol of just how crazy people can be about sneakers.
4) Nike Air Max Zero
Why it mattered: In case you don't already know, the Air Max Zero has an interesting bit of lore about it. The Zero was one of Nike design genius Tinker Hatfield's original sketches—a prototype, if you would, of the Air Max 1. As predecessor to such an immensely popular line of sneakers, the Zero represents sneakerheads' nostalgia, our search for meaningful things about the craftsmanship that goes into sneakers, and bringing them back to the present. With the ease of plucking a few designs out of history, Nike released the Air Max Zero in a crisp, amazing colorway earlier this year.
Why it mattered: The Ultra Boost claimed to be adidas' champion. The three stripes had heralded it as the greatest running shoe ever. Sneakerheads seemed to almost unanimously agree—it was the perfect match to Nike’s Flyknit runners. The Ultra Boost is not only comfortable and light, but also sleek and stylish. It would go on to influence how people dress today—the mix of sportswear and luxury that the Ultra Boost has going for it made it a must-own among both sneakerheads and those of the fashion set.
6) Air Jordan I Pinnacle Series
Why it mattered: Luxe, luxe, luxe. There's no better word to describe the Air Jordan I Pinnacle Series. Released across the year in black, white, tan, and brown, each colorway was made from the absolute finest leather that Jordan Brand could provide.
The Pinnacle Jordans represent luxury distilled into sneakers: simple colors, but unbelievable materials and construction. If you'd ask us, it set new standards and made new waves in the luxury sneaker market, and it wouldn't be farfetched for others to go the same route in 2016.
Why it mattered: Okay, so adidas did technically bring the Stan Smith back in 2014, not 2015. But a look around your immediate surroundings or circle of friends will prove that 2015 was still an undoubtedly strong year for the Stans. Not since the Roshe Run has there been such a go-to shoe for everyone (and we mean everyone). Stan Smith season has not shown signs of dwindling in 2015, and the shoe is sure to be remembered as one of this year's most ubiquitous kicks.
8) Reebok Ventilator
Why it mattered: It isn't typical of Reebok to concentrate so much hype around a single model of shoes over the span of a single year. The Ventilator proved to be an exception in 2015—an excellent year for Reebok's classic retro runner. Collaborations with the likes of Kendrick Lamar and with iconic names in streetwear have kept the Ventilator in everyone's minds, influencing how well and with whom other collab-based sneaker models (*cough*Asics*cough*) dropped. Should the Ventilator ever rise to icon status over the years to come, we all know what year it started on its way there.
9) adidas Originals Superstar
Why it mattered: If the Stan Smith was adidas' pet project in 2014, the Superstar must be its 2015 counterpart. The three stripes set up a slew of different collaborations and special releases to resurrect one of their most iconic, most important sneakers ever. Pharrell Williams' ultra-chromatic collection of adidas was based off of classic Superstars. Streetwear names like mastermind Japan and Nigo were among the many collaborators that adidas brought in for the Superstar. Seeing as these were the shoes in Run DMC's "My adidas," it's likely that the shell toes will always and forever have comeback phases like this year's. But don't let that keep you from purchasing a pair in black on white, an absolute classic.
Why it mattered: Steph Curry is quickly becoming one of the most talked-about players in the NBA. He's been a rising star for long enough, and his skills and on-court performances continue to reach all-time highs.
His decision to sign with Under Armour has yielded a fairly successful signature shoe in the Curry One, which was, this year, succeeded by a better-looking Curry Two. But clearly that's not what we'll remember this shoe for. Barring any major injuries, publicity faux pas, or plateau in skill, Curry is poised to become one of the greatest players in league history. That means that his signature shoes are worth keeping tabs on—and the Two is a good place to start.
Why it mattered: Supreme has long been considered one of streetwear’s greatest labels. That it took so long for Supreme and Jordan to collaborate is beyond us, but this year, it finally arrived. It was an absolute cataclysm of hype, and will be remembered as such. Does it telegraph any future collaboration between the big red box logo and the Jumpman? That has yet to be seen, but one can dream!
12) Nike Sock Dart
Why it mattered: Perhaps the better question is why the Sock Dart will matter, and not why it has mattered. The sneaker's futuristic design has become a love-it-or-hate-it silhouette, but it's hard to argue that it doesn't push boundaries. The sock-like upper, the clear strap, the rounded heel counter, the funky sole—they look terrible on paper, but pretty sweet in real life. If our predictive powers have your faith, expect the Sock Dart to influence the look of sneakers in 2016 and years to come. Already, the updated adidas EQT collection seems to be going in a parallel direction, for instance.
13) Converse Chuck Taylor II
Why it mattered: The original Chuck Taylor All Stars came out in 1917. That's almost one century ago. Throughout its lifespan, Chucks have never really needed a makeover—at least not a significant one. They're legendary in their ability to withstand time—Chucks are undying classics, but even a classic could use a change sometimes.
Converse seemed to feel like 2015 was good a year as any to change the game. With its new Lunarlon sole (care of Nike’s buyout of Converse in 2003, for all of you who didn’t know), its padded collar, its premium canvas, and its cleaner overall look, the Chuck II is a minor departure from the original, but still a major step forward into a new era for sneakerheads.
14) Air Jordan Westbrook Zero
Why it mattered: Lifestyle-oriented signature sneakers for professional athletes are nothing new, but Russell Westbrook is the first NBA player to have a Jordan Brand lifestyle signature without first having a performance signature shoe.
Based loosely off the Air Jordan XI, and done up in fine suede and croc leathers, the Westbrook 0 is an accurate representation of Westbrook's proclivities for fashion and style. But because it came before a performance-oriented signature shoe, the Westbrook 0 also speaks to the lifestyle and celebrity of athletes in the 21st century.
These days, NBA players are keener to dress well, and Westbrook is easily chief among the dandies on-court. It's further testament to the convergence of sports and fashion in our generation. Athletes can be style icons now, and Jordan Brand acknowledges it. The Westbrook 0 was immediately followed by New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz's Nike signature: the Air Cruz. Both could be precursors to the future of Jordan Brand as both a fashion label and a sportswear provider.
Why it mattered: And lastly, for the breakout shoe of 2015. Like the Stan Smith, the Tubular was originally released in 2014. But over the course of this year, the Tubular has gone through several revisions and variations: Primeknit and Moccasins, among others. However, because each of the Tubular's new versions are so consistently solid, it's hard not to consider the style as one of the biggest influences on sneaker culture this year. More new versions of the Tubular are slated for release next year—so the shoes' popularity in 2015 telegraphs a little about the future.
Photos via Sneaker Freaker, Sole Collector, Hypebeast, Sneaker News