A Brief History of JJJJound Colabs
JJJJound have had quite the journey since being founded by Justin R. Saunders in 2006. What started as a ‘digital mood board intended to examine the recurring patterns in timeless design’, as described by the brand, is now a leading collaborator in the sneakersphere.
In 2008, Saunders made a decision to focus his platform exclusively on imagery to present elevated, evocative visuals sans text, which at that stage, was far ahead of its time.
Saunders’ keen eye for curation soon vaulted him into the upper echelon of the global creative elite: he’s rubbed shoulders with Virgil Abloh, Heron Preston and Matthew M. Williams since the BEEN TRILL days, consulted for The New York Times’ T Magazine and worked with Kanye West, who famously quipped that he asked himself if things were ‘JJJJound-approved’ in a 2016 interview with Surface.
JJJJound put out its first physical product (a tote bag) in 2013, and since then has become known for its minimal, keenly crafted takes on essential items from hoodies to beanies to dryer balls and bikes, the ‘ideal versions’ of everyday staples. It was only a matter of time before JJJJound got into the world of footwear, and in January 2016, Saunders posted shots of a Victory Sportswear trainer, a Vans Style 36 LX and a New Balance 990v3 on his blog, foreshadowing JJJJound’s first three sneaker collaborations.
From its first effort in 2016 to the swath of collaborations it’s brought to market in 2021, JJJJound’s simple, elegant and elevated sneakers, shoes and boots have landed on ‘Best Of’ lists year after year and skyrocketed in resell value as well. As the brand shares another influential release, we're taking a look back at their collaborative footwear lineage.
JJJJound x Victory Sportswear Trail Sneaker (2016)
Saunders’ penchant for simplicity and his enjoyment of the obscure were on full display with JJJJound’s first sneaker collaboration, Victory Sportswear’s Trail Runner. A US-based brand founded in the aughts as a commercial outfit of Hershey Custom Shoe – which provides 1-of-1 handmade sneakers to discerning customers – Victory’s made-in-Massachusetts shoes are simple and elegant with a focus on high-quality materials. The JJJJound touch provided the Victory Trail Runner with a classic grey mesh and suede makeover, all atop an Italian rubber sole. The release served as a ‘litmus test’ of sorts for the brand's footwear collaborations. It was priced at a handsome $295 and sold out quickly, then restocked in 2017.
JJJJound x Vans Old Skool LX (2017)
Victory Sportswear may have been JJJJound’s first footwear collaboration, but the brand’s inaugural link-up with Vans was what pushed it into mainstream consciousness. Launched in May 2017, the JJJJound x Vans Old Skool LX collection featured two-tone green, brown and white takes on the famed Vans skate silhouette, all devoid of any special branding. The collection’s colourblocking was pulled from the Vans’ archives by Saunders, as was the shoe’s overall design ethos. There were plenty of material upgrades with uppers made from a heavyweight 8oz organic canvas, Jazz Stripes built from high-quality leather, laces made in America and cork insoles which supplied custom-fit comfort. A white sipped outsole replaced the standard Vans waffle-patterned gum rubber iteration as well. The sneakers were available exclusively through a Montreal pop-up shop that housed Saunders’ PATIENCE installation. Today, the 'Green' colourway from this collection is among the most valuable JJJJound sneakers ever made.
JJJJound x New Balance 990v3 (2018)
After partnering up with Vans, JJJJound completed the ‘trifecta’ hinted at in its blog post by crafting a New Balance 990v3 that arrived late 2018. Made in the USA, the shoe featured a mix of sandy and earthy brown tones, accented by crisp touches of off-white and pops of shimmering silver. What made the collaboration interesting wasn’t a wild colour scheme or extreme material choices, it was the nature of its design. The untrained eye would likely look at this 990v3 and see a plain pair of New Balance, not different from what a dog-walking suburban dad would sport for a Saturday stroll. However, taking a closer look, New Balance enthusiasts would be quick to spot the subtle shade difference. This 990v3 was released via a shock drop on the JJJJound webstore and is hard to track down nowadays, with Saunders loyalists keeping a firm grip on their pairs!
JJJJound x Reebok Club C 85 (2019)
JJJJound kicked off its partnership with Reebok by way of a no-frills take on the Club C 85. Featuring a white, grey and eggshell colour scheme that Saunders said was inspired by vintage computer keyboards, the JJJJound x Reebok Club C offered premium details like a tumbled leather build, extra-soft terry cloth lining, an artfully-aged tongue and a simple branded strike on the midfoot. Much like JJJJound's inaugural Vans collaboration, it was debuted at a Montreal pop-up – this one was dubbed ‘Centre de Command’ and featured a stark aesthetic inspired in equal parts by old-school office spaces and retail shops. 300 pairs of the shoe were released at the pop-up, and another 1500 were made available later in the year.
JJJJound x New Balance 992 (2020)
After a year-plus hiatus from the collaborative footwear space that saw Saunders and his crew focusing on projects with the likes of A.P.C. and Kanuk, JJJJound returned mid-2020 with two strikingly subtle takes on the New Balance 992. Things were a little different this time around: New Balance was in the midst of an unprecedented hot streak, and the 992 was one of the year’s buzziest silhouettes thanks to well-received inline releases and high-heat collaborations with the likes of Joe Freshgoods and WTAPS. JJJJound were also on the come-up, having garnered significantly more notoriety since their 990v3 in 2018. The result? A two-pack of tonal styles that seemed like a natural progression of the duo’s first effort. The first of these was a richly-toned forest green pair, the second a sandy tan, brown and grey style that called back to JJJJound and New Balance’s first collaborative effort. The brown pair was released on July 24 and the green pair was made available on July 31. Both sold out quickly, then disappeared off global shelves before a more widely available (and simultaneous) release in August.
JJJJound x Reebok Classic Nylon (2020)
Back for a second project with Reebok, JJJJound took on the brand’s famed Classic Nylon sneaker – a nylon iteration of the Classic Leather. The material composition was different from the (below) Club C 85 colab, but the muted aesthetic that used stark white nylon and sand-coloured suedes with a traditional gum sole was in line with JJJJound’s collaborative footwear ethos. Unlike the first Club C, the Classic Nylon was rolled out quietly, releasing (and selling out) just ahead of yet another JJJJound x Reebok project that you'll see below.
JJJJound x Reebok Club C 85 (2020)
This was JJJJound and Reebok’s second go-around with the Club C. The 2019 pair’s build was largely replicated here with tumbled leather uppers, super-soft terry cloth sockliners, nylon tongues, window midfoot branding. The main difference? The OG pair’s grey midsole and collar accents were discarded in favour of a tan shade. Where its predecessor received a full pop-up, this second Club C was accompanied by a shopping-mall inspired art installation dubbed ‘Shopping Center,’ an all-white three-shelf structure stocked full of boxless JJJJound x Reebok Club Cs, sitting on top of a tan carpet and placed conspicuously in a parking lot.
JJJJound x Danner Mountain Light (2020)
JJJJound’s first foray into the Great Outdoors after seven sneaker projects, its Danner Mountain Light collaboration was an elevated take on a pragmatic classic. Inspired by Danner’s original Mountain Light boot from the 1980s, this new boot offered a supple, water-resistant chestnut brown suede upper with metallic silver hardware, secured to a durable black Vibram Sierra sole by original stitch-down construction and accompanied by three lace options. The main additions were a heel tab, usually only found on Danner’s Mountain Trail model, JJJJound branding on the lateral heel and the inner tongue, and a full-foot GORE-TEX lining to ensure complete water repellency. Made at Danner’s Portland factor and released in November 2020, the Mountain Light followed in the footsteps of a JJJJound x Eddie Bauer capsule, supplying a full slate of winter-ready options for JJJJ’s legions of ‘enthusiasts.’
JJJJound x Dr. Martens Archie II (2021)
JJJJound kicked its slate of 2021 footwear collaborations off by joining forces with Dr. Martens for a duo of takes on the Archie II – a silhouette that’s essentially a 1461 with a much slimmer midsole. Arriving in a brown colourway named ‘Crazy Horse’ and a black makeup called ‘Wyoming,’ each pair was embellished with small JJJJound tags, co-branded insoles and signature Docs yellow contrast stitching on the midsole. The shoes might be simple at first glance, but the collection tackled a heady inspiration: per JJJJound’s archive page it was made to ‘[explore] the tension between the contemporary and the traditional artist.’
JJJJound x Vans Sk8-Mid (2021)
Four years after their first collaboration, JJJJound and Vans reunited for a trio of takes on the Sk8-Mid, an influential yet largely under the radar silhouette that’s also known as the Style 37. On his second expedition through the Vans archive’s catacombs, Justin Saunders found that the Sk8-Mid was, in fact, the precursor to the Sk8-Hi (it was released in 1978 as Vans’ first high-top skate shoe and was only in production for a year before evolving into the Sk8-Hi we know today). After that, it had only seen sporadic releases since being reintroduced in the 1990s, making it a perfect niche choice for a JJJJound collaboration. Arriving in olive and brown colourways that carried echos of JJJJound’s 2017 Old Skool collaboration as well as a new black and white style, the collection ‘[evoked] the state of heavily-used skate sneakers]’ and saw a three-day staggered release on the JJJJound webstore before arriving at global stockists. No Montreal-exclusive drop here, as the production run was a lot larger than JJJJound and Vans’ first go-around!
JJJJound x New Balance 990v4 (2021)
For its third effort with New Balance, JJJJound opted to tackle the fourth model in the 990 series’ lineage. Featuring a navy and black nubuck and mesh upper, the JJJJound x New Balance 990v4 used texture to provide contrast, pitting its supple suede and sporty mesh against each other in a friendly normcore competition that takes place atop a black ENCAP midsole. The 990v4 features a more technical tweak than JJJJound’s previous New Balance collaborations as well, thanks to a secondary set of 3M-flecked elastic laces that bring an element of hiking performance to the look. It’s a small but impactful change, much in the way that altering the colours ever so slightly on the 990v3 was. The JJJJound x New Balance 990v4 released exclusively from JJJJound on October 14.
JJJJound x Padmore & Barnes P204 (2021)
Rolling out later in the year as part of JJJJound’s FW21 product offering, the JJJJound x Padmore & Barnes P204 is a sleek, minimal black leather take on an original ‘Wallabee’ silhouette. At the time of writing, not much is known about the silhouette as it’s merely been teased on the JJJJound Instagram. However, it features an elegant black leather upper with a brown leather lining, gold-stamped insole and black crepe sole. At first glance, you'd be forgive for not recognising it as a JJJJound collaboration save for the insole – but that appears to be exactly the point.
Looking for more collaboration deep dives? Be sure to take a look at our jam-packed features section.