Bleed Blue: The 7 All-Time Greatest Denim Sneakers
Your jeans can’t bleed onto your sneakers, if your sneakers are your jeans. From French origins, Italian nomenclature, and American invention (thanks Levi’s!), denim jeans are a universal casual clothing icon. Created for work but adapted for fashion (time and time again), the humble blue pant has been a staple of the trends that have evolved over the decades.
For those who really like denim, here are seven of the best sneakers that’ll complete any two-piece Canadian Tuxedo. Just stay out of the rain when wearing these!
Levi’s x Air Jordan 4 (2018)Levi’s x Air Jordan 4 (2018)
Michael Jordan’s sartorial presence didn’t quite match his on-court dominance (Google it – you’ll understand), but Jordan Brand immortalised his denim choices anyway with some Levi’s collaborations. The 2008 ‘23/501’ pack featuring the Air Jordan 1 Mid with elephant printed denim panels (and matching jeans) was pretty gaudy, but full points to the 2018 Air Jordan 4 collection for complete commitment. Denim-wrapped midsoles and laces, plus cardboard-style tongue labels, provide a literal example of keeping to the brief. There were some all-white and all-black editions too, but they weren’t as fun.
Ronnie Fieg x ASICS GEL-Lyte III ‘Selvedge Denim’ (2012)Ronnie Fieg x ASICS GEL-Lyte III ‘Selvedge Denim’ (2012)
By the time Ronnie Fieg released this GEL-Lyte III colab, he already had almost 30 ASICS collaborations under his belt. Where he had been previously prolific with materials and colours, this release went for tonal selvedge denim paired with those distinct rope laces. Being the early 2010s, the raw denim thing was already in full swing, and pinrolls were still pinching ankles. These GL3s simply completed the look before #TeamCozy and jogger pants came into effect. There have been plenty of denim ASICS since, but Fieg’s still has the most clout.
Nike SB Dunk Low Pro ‘Reese Forbes Denim’ (2002)Nike SB Dunk Low Pro ‘Reese Forbes Denim’ (2002)
Legendary skater Reese Forbes was among the original riders who launched Nike SB’s re-entry into the skate shoe game, and this Dunk remains the white whale for many collectors. The distressed denim uppers conceptualised the patina that skate shoes quickly form – not that anyone these days dare skate their pairs. Nonetheless, it was a glimpse into the material mixups that SB releases would continue experimenting with in the years that followed. There’s a collector in Hong Kong with almost 40 pairs – that’s approximately 10 per cent of the 400ish pairs believed to exist.
adidas Originals By Jeremy Scott JS Wings Denim (2011)adidas Originals By Jeremy Scott JS Wings Denim (2011)
Yeah, adidas literally have a sneaker called the Jeans, but Jeremy Scott has them beat. His eponymous JS Wings sneaker ascended the denim sneaker throne and stitched up these high-tops in washed Canadian cloth. Without its namesake flappy accessory, they’re just a modified pair of Metro Attitudes, but that angelic addition adds the perfect amount of ridiculous. The adults’ version was released alongside matching petite baby pairs. Cute. Whether you think they’re some of Scott’s best work ever, or an utter waste of denim, they wholeheartedly earn a place on this all-time list.
Levi’s x New Balance 1300 (2020)Levi’s x New Balance 1300 (2020)
Another collaborative effort from Levi’s, this time they tapped New Balance for an all-American remake of the 1300 runner. This one definitely was catered towards the denim nerds, as it was full of repro jean details. The denim panels themselves were sourced from deadstock XX52 fabric produced by the now-defunct Cone Mills White Oak plant, and the nappy suede was actually an overt nod to the underside of the jeans’ leather waist tags! There are actually other Levi’s x NB colabs dating back to the mid-2000s, but the denim theme wasn’t as obvious as it is on this 1300.
Converse Renew Denim Chuck 70 (2019)Converse Renew Denim Chuck 70 (2019)
There have been denim Chuck Taylor All Stars since at least the 1980s, but Converse really took a considered approach in 2019 with Chuck 70s made under their Renew program. Denim was sourced from used jeans that would’ve otherwise ended up in landfill, and repurposed them for these sneakers. Not a new concept by any means, but Converse’s front-and-centre placement of Renew is a timely reminder that there’s still a long way to go in the sustainability stakes. That mixed-wash pair is the most exciting of the lot, and is proof that kicks can have style and substance.
FDMTL x Vans Slip-On (2018)FDMTL x Vans Slip-On (2018)
Japanese denim masters FDMTL have a particular penchant for centuries-old textile techniques like boro and sashiko. Oh, and plenty of indigo. All of these features are found on the various Vans collaborations they’ve struck up since the mid-2010s, but these Slip-Ons best portray the wabi-sabi that develops with repeated wearing and distressing. The layered patchwork uppers and decorative stitching are just asking to be snagged and distressed – damage and fraying is encouraged! Otherwise, denim has been used notably in a number of inline releases, and a bleached Supreme colab from 2010.