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Sneaker Freaker's Midyear 2018 Staff Picks

Date: July 26 2018

By: Rob Marfell

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With half of 2018 tucked away, we’re reflecting on the year’s best sneaker releases.

After publishing thousands of articles on the industry so far, it can be hard to get perspective, so we got together to ask ourselves a few questions. Has 2018 been good for sneakers, or bad? Has it been a mellow or robust start to 2018? Where is the industry at and where is it headed?

The answer in short: it’s been batshit crazy. 

This year will be remembered for hosting an inter-corporation battle of the bulk. Heft has been heaped on to varying effect; with the best designs being an affront on the senses we’ve grown to love. As a result, our staff picks got weird.

Retros will always have a special place in our hearts, but this round of favourites deviates from the norm and puts the ‘freak’ in Sneaker Freaker.

We’re just as surprised as anyone that the React Element 87 didn’t make the cut — but then again, few choices in this list are obvious ones.

GABE FILIPPA: ADIDAS FUTUREPACER 'GREY ONE'

In a sneaker world defined by whoever builds the biggest goddam sole, the adidas Futurepacer reworks 1984’s Micropacer for a move towards minimalism.

This pretty little NMD hybrid ditches the Micropacer’s performance tracking chip and LCD screen (we’re all a little too paranoid for that), giving us lightweight BOOST that’ll look just as nice evading a bullet-train fare in Neo-Tokyo as it will kicked up on the dashboard of Elon Musk’s driverless car.

Big Brother’s still watching, so go ahead and make him jealous.

AUDREY BUGEJA: COMME DES GARÇONS x NIKE AIR MAX 180

The interesting thing is, when it comes to my kicks, by no means am I a ‘pink girl’. I am black, white, gunmetal, navy, and may even bring in some vibrant red on a hump day (keyword: may).

New to the SF team, I was asked to reflect on my favourite release of the year so far. This was a hard task as firstly I've been dreaming about sneakers every night since starting as Managing Editor at the start of July and secondly, there have been quite a few standouts that have hit the streets and runway so far. Naturally, I go back to basics, which for me means turning to Rei Kawakubo and the iconic brand she brought to life — Comme Des Garçons.

When the vibrant Comme Des Garçons x Nike Air Max 180 colourways hit the SS18 Paris runway, my eyes almost popped out of my head. The collection itself was a standout, with Kawakubo doing her usual thing and pushing the boundaries with a collection she dubbed as ‘What’s on the Inside Matters.’ This time, however, I looked south and saw her creations complemented by a classic silhouette with a colourful hit — and yes, that colour was pink.

First released in 1992, the Air Max 180 was given a searing CDG makeover in 2018. Intricate details like the red Swoosh on the side panels, embossed tongue logo, padded collar, and embroidered heel logo all helped influence the luxe feel and the direction my eyes were wandered.

The standout colourway for me was the Laser Pink/Solar Red/White make-up. I figure if I’m wearing pink, I may as well do it properly.

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ROBERT MARFELL: ADIDAS YEEZY 500 'SUPERMOON YELLOW'

All right, all right — steady those rolling eyes and de-thumb that scrolling screen. I know these Yeezys aren’t exactly the belle of the ball, and I’ve heard the complaints: ‘500s are hideous’, ‘there’s no resale value’, ‘Supermoon Yellow looks like piss’. But if you’re whinging about looks, you’re missing the point.

I’ve picked this urine-coloured bruiser as the best sneaker of 2018 (so far) not because it’s pretty, but because it brought a little magic back into a barren release landscape. There are few ‘remember when’ moments these days; sneakers are teased, sneakers drop, we move on. With the Supermoon Yellow 500s, Kanye shifted the paradigm. He harnessed his egomania into a campaign centred around a Kardashian-flip of the Stepford Wives. Calabasas clones were staged to look like TMZ paparazzi were hounding them in a parking lot, each ambling out a rental in an outfit anchored by hulking Yeezy 500s.

In 2018, what has been more memorable than a footwear brand dressing porn stars to look like Kim K, and making it humorous instead of exploitive? These are the moments we need in sneaker culture — the fun that sets us apart and gives us something more than a novel ‘like, follow, share’ format to remember when the dust settles.

All Kanye needs to do now is make them look good.

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TIM DAWS: NIKE AIR MAX PLUS 'LA REQUIN'

Nike’s Air Max Plus ‘La Requin' (The Shark) offers my inner maximalist a way out of its repressed existence of occasionally ordering questionable Domino's topping combinations. 

Everywhere you look, there’s something going on. 

Conservative colour-blocking on TNs can be hectic on the eyes, but the chaotic layering of the shark-tooth pattern against the wavy upper cage sets this release apart. I love the addition of the ‘Tuned Since 1998’ aglets, which we don’t see enough of these days. They’re straight-up offensive, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

CESCA BENSON: LOUIS VUITTON ARCHLIGHT

If there were more stringent parameters for choosing our favourite shoe of the year — say, that we own it or can afford it — my choice may have been very different. However, no such restrictions were imposed, and so the Archlight it is.

The Louis Vuitton sneak takes the overblown proportions that pervade today’s sneakerverse and refines them. The hulking sole unit is given curves, and its heftiness is balanced by the exaggerated tongue and heel counter, giving it a sense of proportion that other fashun footwear lacks. 

Some high-fashion offerings often look like something the mob would use to weigh-down a body, but not the Archlight. Thanks to its shapely arch, it has a lofty air, like you could run ten-times faster by wearing it.

To cap it all off, it’s a women’s sneaker that looks badass. For once, the girls get the goods.

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HARRISON BENJAMIN: NIKE FLYKNIT RACER '2018 OREO'

I’m a sneaker connoisseur with a taste for sweet treats, so Nike’s ‘Oreo’ Flyknit Trainer is impossible to pass up. Waves of nostalgia flowed over me and my mind salivated in anticipation of its rerelease. Now that I’m a grown-up and can actually justify buying shoes, the purchase was a no brainer.

Back in the day, I rocked ‘em sockless and gritted my teeth as the skin of my Achilles was stripped layer by layer. Nowadays, I flex free socks sent to me by Stance because I can — who needs the approval of Nigel-no-socks on the street when you’ve got corporate co-signs? What do you know about authenticity, huh?

Of course, things were simpler before Kanye hijacked the Swoosh then sold his sole to the Stripes. Those were the glory days — people wore what they liked rather than what got them likes, resellers were scorned, and you could buy GR without having to line up. 

Maybe I’m just getting old? What does it mean to be a sneakerhead over-30 these days? Who cares, at least my feet are comfy.

DAN PURNELL: VETEMENTS x REEBOK GENETICALLY MODIFIED PUMP

The footwear giants have given us an onslaught of top-tier product in 2018, only to strip back the layers of tech in order to cater to certain price points. 

Despite the brands spruiking the same ‘look and feel’, it was a welcome slap to the face when I saw the Vetements x Reebok Genetically Modified Low-Top Trainer. Throw in as much tech from Reebok’s archives, then hit it with with enough distressing to make it look like it has third-degree burns — it’s offensive, creative and executed perfectly. 

Well played, ‘Bok. 

ANNIE XIA: NIKE AIR MAX 98 'GUNDAM'

As a rule of thumb, I’m down with anything Nike retros from the 90s. Thick kicks far outweigh slim silhouettes in my wardrobe. Consequently, the Air Max 98 is the perfect old-school chunk for me, and the fact that its celebrating its 20th anniversary is a bonus.

The OG ‘Gundam’ colourway was definitely underrated compared to its 'Silver Bullet' predecessor. The royal blue hues are highlighted perfectly with hits of orange behind the Swoosh, eyelets and inner bubble, while the white and navy balance out the stark shades. Gun damn — that’s all I gotta say.  

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ADAM JANE: FRONTEER AQUA SOLO

You may not realise this, but I’m a very important man. Thus, I find the tedium of tying shoelaces eats into my daily productivity, which is unacceptable. Thanks to Fronteer and their hook-and-loop-strapped Aqua Solo, I no longer have to tackle the daily tangle. Since purchasing a pair earlier this year, my life has improved by 8.4 per cent.

Yeah, that’s not true at all, I have no desire to be so ‘important’ that the nuanced joys in life pass me by. I’ve always been a sucker for straps, but this particular shoe goes further than that. In fact, the low-cut suede sneaker is by far the most versatile shoe I own, owing to its unique blend of rugged practicality and minimalist style. It has a simple structure free of any erroneous gimmickry, it’s plenty comfortable, and the Vibram sole digs into tricky terrain like fingernails in back fat. The sticky rubber medial toecap brings the final flourish in a composition of utilitarian excellence, helping me scramble my way to places where lesser sneakers fear to tread.

I don’t believe there’s any value in owning things I don’t intend to use, but the Fronteer Aqua Solo has proved to be one of the most useful things in my wardrobe. Do yourself a favour: sell your junk, buy a pair, then go out and live a life worth telling stories about.

Become a collector of memories, rather than a collector of dust. 

BOON MARK SOUPHANH: NIKE AIR SPAN II 'HYPER ROYAL'

The sneaker game’s big hitters have gone crate digging in 2018, in search of chart-toppers of the past, as well as sentimental old favourites. The excavation in Beaverton has led to the renaissance of an 80s classic — the Nike Air Span II.

The runner was never a number one hit for Team Swoosh, but it still managed to garner a cult following during its time on the airwaves. Lying dormant for over two decades, the silhouette got its long-overdue remastering towards the back end of last year. Admittedly, I found it difficult to warm to the throwback at first. The reworks of OG colourways did little to pique my interest, nor did a retrospectively cool collaboration with Patta. It wasn’t until this ‘Hyper Royal’ colourway dropped that I finally got what the fuss was about.

The silhouette’s panelling lends itself perfectly to neon 90s colour-blocking, as a muted black and royal upper is offset brilliantly with eye-searing pink accents on the Swoosh, branding, eyelet and toe. Now, to search for a matching tracksuit.

Thanks END., they’ve been a GR-eat addition to the rotation. All killer, no filler. 

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