The true core of sports, the ones that originally gave us the sneakers, decides the best. But the best is not always the most popular sneaker. And the most popular is also subjective. Obviously the most popular would be the best selling, which through democratic deduction probability also makes it the ugliest shoe and this will by the laws of 5th grade, make it cease to be popular. It is indeed a very complex matter, so rather than naming the year’s best sneakers I want to take this opportunity to highlight some of the achievements of 2006 and perhaps take a look at what the future of sneakers holds for us.
DO IT YOURSELF
One of the first developments was the Do-It-Yourself trend. Puma decided to roast their sneakers over an open flame with Mongolian BBQ and in previous years Nike had reasonable success with their online studio, but this year quickly turned into DIY. Spawned by the success of sneaker customizers, adidas took it upon themselves to give everyone a fair chance at creating their own 15 minutes of fame. Backed by a set made by the likes of Twist, Keith Haring and Kermit the Frog, anyone could now drop a few hundred dollars and get their own box set of awesome white on white adicolor W1 sneakers and seven tubes of paint, provided they were one of the first in line outside one of very few shops. Once again, the proof that fame is not for everyone and that it doesn’t come cheap. But for those fortunate enough, a pair of unique sneakers was just one episode of Bob Ross’ masterclass podcast away.
Another emerging trend has been the use of all kinds of different materials. Slowly the color options are running out so designers are turning towards alternate sources to make their creations stand out. Starting early in the year with premium leather varieties like kangaroo and buffalo, the last few months have seen a furious frenzy of materials madness. A free-for-all including velvet, flannel, tennis balls, wood, umbrellas and even hamster hair. In fact some people even turned to the use of shoe boxes as the base for their footwear. This trend will undoubtedly continue to race towards a climax where collectors are willing to pay top dollar for their pair of King Kong sneakers, with their availability only limited to the amount of skin available on a silverback gorilla.
It doesn’t take an amateur marketer to see the endless possibilities of the DIY in materials as well. Soon people can send in anything ranging from a piece of grandma’s couch to the rare white Siberian tiger that they just shot and get a pair of exclusive kicks sent back two weeks later.
Not new to 2006, but still high on the agenda of sneaker brands worldwide have been collaborations. With the idea that two are better than one, brands have pushed forward with the perennial favorite; the artist. As collaboration is a French term first introduced in the early 1940s. It is not strange that “les arts” are used to help make footwear more interesting, however results can be mixed. While Josh Petherick created this years best graphics on a pair of shoes, the collaboration attempts with Chinese Explosion and Fireworks artist Cai Guo-Qiang proved less successful.
The best trend however, has been the original sneakers by both large and small companies. With the aid of new tech-nology and actual designers, footwear manufacturers are producing better performing and more comfortable sneakers than ever. While style very often still takes a back seat to the desire to make sneakers look like a Star Trek future, several companies are taking inspiration (rather than blatantly NIGOing) from the past to design timeless silhouettes. Both Hummel with their Jacobsen model as well as Pointer with their Debaser created something refreshingly classy. Even Reebok managed to bring something new to something old with their revised Ventilator model.
Also new and upcoming sports like Parkour are at the root of new footwear developments like the upcoming Traceur model from adidas. While I may not discover first hand whether this sneaker fits the purpose, both the idea and the look of the shoe are very appealing. So when I do decide to jump off a bridge, these are going to be my shoes of choice.