Forget the reverse Swoosh, bundled zip–ties, celebrity co-signs and endless lines. These outstanding designs slipped under the radar in 2019, and are still available on real and digital shelves across the globe. Stepping off the hype train really is your gain.
Nike ISPA React WR
‘Improvise, Scavenge, Protect, Adapt.’ Built by Nike Sportswear’s special projects, the Nike ISPA React reconstructed one of the most innovative releases in 2018 to provide a more utilitarian build. Inspired by ACG hiking boots, the ISPA React is perfect for gaining traction in the current sneaker zeitgeist as brands hike to the next cultural zenith: trail. Articulating Nike’s philosophy of performance and utility, the ISPA React is as technically sound and aesthetically avant-garde as anything we saw this year.
New Balance 997S
Yes, New Balance have dropped some hyped releases this year. The Toronto Raptors New Balance 997 sold out within minutes, while there’s still plenty of us looking to get our hands on the Slam Jam and Stray Rats versions of the NB 990v3. But it’s the New Balance 997S that slid under the radar this year, the retooled Steven Smith classic featuring enlarged panels, bootie fit, and a clean ENCAP Reveal midsole. The sporty silhouette was given some extra gas via two colabs from Boston boutique ,Bodega, and has since kept its momentum with a slew of clean GR releases.
Li–Ning Furious Rider 1.5
Li-Ning have gone totally bonkers this year. September’s Arc Ace looks as though it belongs to the many abandoned reveries of Ridley Scott, while the Way of Wade 7 closed out Dwyane Wade’scareer with a kaleidoscope of colourways that eclipsed any sneaker ‘World Tour’ in recent memory. Li-Ning are raging, and it’s the Furious Rider 1.5 that’s fuelling China’s retro-futurist aesthetic. Get on the bandwagon or get off the road, Li-Ning will put the pedal to the metal in 2020.
adidas Norse Projects Torsion TRDC
Celebrating 30 years of Torsion technology, adidas Consortium tapped the widely-revered Scandinavian brand Norse Projects for an inspired collaboration paying homage to the architectural vernacular of Copenhagen. First appearing on adi’s ZX running range, the stripped-back colour palette emphasises the utilitarian attitude of the Norse Projects Torsion. Somewhat Brutalist in its nature, and totally ruthless in its execution, don’t let the Danish fog obscure you from this one – it’s straight fire.
Kiko Kostadinov ASICS GEL–Sokat Infinity II
Designer Kiko Kostadinov has been tearing through the ASICS catalogue of late, the ascendant young Bulgarian talent recently remixing the ASICS Edition GEL–Delva and linking up with legendary German photographer Juergen Teller for the GEL–Korika. Following up from the GEL–Sokat back in April, Kostadinov’s FW19 ASICS GEL-Sokat Infinity II taps 2000s basketball to execute an exaggerated upper emphasised by its elongated tongue. With a previous release taking cues from Tug of War games, the Infinity II installs a webbed heel counter from the classic Dan Gable Ultimate for a clean KO.
Air Jordan 1 Low
Forget Travis Scott’s reverse Swoosh, the Shattered Backboard 3.0 and Dior’s rumoured $2,000 collaboration, sometimes you just have to keep it clean – and low. The Air Jordan 1 received a kaleidoscope of colourways in 2019, but it’s the humble Air Jordan 1 Low that ducked under the radar this year, the super clean silhouette able to conform to any sartorial style. The Air Jordan 1 Low steps away from the hype by lopping off the neck on endless High and Mid iterations of the 1985 icon.
adidas D.O.N Issue #1
Inspired by Spider Man, the adidas D.O.N Issue #1 is the first signature sneaker by Utah Jazz highflyer Donovan Mitchell. Packing some serious heat beneath the bonnet, the Issue #1 is decked out with herringbone–patterned rubber outsole and propulsion clip providing all the kind of traction needed to activate your spidey–senses. With outsoles taking notes from Mitchell’s journey from Brewster Academy in New Hampshire, expect Donovan’s Mitchell to write an intoxicating new chapter during the 2019–2020 NBA. Let’s go Jazz!
Vivienne Westwood ASICS GEL–DS OG Trainer
The lynchpin of punk rock fashion, Vivienne Westwood continues to inspire sartorial attitude across the globe. Linking up with ASICS for three masterpieces inspired by 18th century French artist Francois Boucher, Westwood first referenced the classical style in her now–iconic 1990 AW collection, ‘Portrait’. Westwood’s visual style has not lost any potency during her reign in the fashion world, the GEL–DS OG Trainer our personal favourite of the collection, rendering her signature multi–coloured orb logo across the black synthetic and mesh panels.
Nike React Element 87 ‘Dusty Peach’ and ‘Moss’
Sneaker culture is a fickle beast. After picking up multiple ‘Sneaker of the Year’ awards in 2018, the heat emanating from the React Element 87 died right down this year, the idiosyncratic silhouette perhaps missing a followup to the kind of nuclear colab that defined UNDERCOVER’s four React Element iterations. The GR ‘Dusty Peach’ and ‘Moss’ arrived in the wake of the lauded link-up, and never got the love they deserved.
Olivia Kim Nike Air Mowabb 'No Cover'
Originally intended for long hikes far from the inner-city sprawl, the Nike Air Mowabb has been given some airtime on urban runways of late, thanks largely to the Comme des Garçons remix in 2018. Olivia Kim, Nordstrom’s resident VP of Creative Projects, composed a brilliant homage to 1990s nightlife with her Mowabb ‘No Cover’ this year, the master collaborator revealing an ode, as she puts it, to ‘the perfect hiking shoe for club kids’. With extra splatter on the midsole, a mini-Swoosh on the mudguard, and rotated ankle branding, this Mowabb actually bears a resemblance to the OG Air Mowabb Plus edition of 1992. One of the most aesthetically versatile silhouettes of 2019, you’d be crazy not to leave room in your rotation for this one.