ARTICLE BY Gabe Filippa

The All-Time Greatest KAWS Sneakers

KAWS

American artist KAWS has become an industry unto himself. From 26-foot tall Companion and BFF sculptures in China to raiding Sesame Street and Dior runways, KAWS is a pop-culture behemoth.

But it’s still his sneaker collaborators that continue to crank necks here at Sneaker Freaker HQ. To celebrate the upcoming KAWS x sacai x Nike Blazer Low, we thought we’d revisit some of his greatest sneakers yet.

Ls in the inbox, Xs in the eyes – these are his all-time greatest sneakers.

KAWS x Air Jordan 4 (2017)KAWS x Air Jordan 4 (2017)

One of the slickest Air Jordan 4 collaborations in recent times, the KAWS premium grey suede AJ4 was a certified killer. Elevated by glow-in-the-dark outsoles and KAWS’ signature graphics etched into the uppers, the AJ4 replaced the traditional plastic accents in favour of all-out suede.

Landing globally on March 31 in 2017 for $350 (and again on the KAWSONE website in April), the sneakers also launched alongside a small capsule featuring a coaches jacket, hoodie, t-shirt, and hat.

Unfortunately, the hype train was totally out of control for the 2017 drop, with sneakerheads hacking the KAWS website and a police presence for the in-store raffle at Patta in London.

Yikes!

KAWS x Air Jordan 4
@kenlu

KAWS x Nike Air Force 1 Supreme (2008)KAWS x Nike Air Force 1 Supreme (2008)

Belonging to Nike’s 1World project (where the Swoosh tapped 18 creatives for unique renditions of the Air Force 1), the KAWS x AF-1 Supreme was presented in smooth black nubuck, with pops of neon yellow throughout. Landing in 2008, the KAWS’ signature ‘XX’ branding appears throughout this design, while translucent neon outsoles tie the aesthetic together.

Another colossal hit on the resale market, the KAWS x Nike Air Force 1 still sells for nearly $10,000.

KAWS x Nike Air Force 1 Supreme,

KAWS x BAPE STA (2005)KAWS x BAPE STA (2005)

This was the inaugural collaboration between KAWS and Nigo’s BAPE STA, the dream-team duo stripping things back for a case study of the ‘less is more’ design ethos.

Coming in a starburst of colourways, the heavyweight colab was again stamped with the ‘XX ‘ motif on the heel, while the classic BAPE STA star-Swoosh logo and ‘APE’ on the midsole illuminated BAPE’s generation-defining iconography.

Two colossal forces in the industry, this was a pivotal moment for sneaker culture.

KAWS x BAPESTA
Flight Club

KAWS x BAPE STA ‘Chompers’ (2006) KAWS x BAPE STA ‘Chompers’ (2006)

Chomp down on these!

Unlocking the full aesthetic palette of the BAPE STA, KAWS gave the classic BAPE STA FS-029 some extra bite with the ‘Chomper’ colourways, emblazoning the toes with his playful cartoon teeth.

Unloading an eye-watering amount of colourways, KAWS and BAPE went totally nuclear on the market in 2016, forcing sneakerheads to routinely check the legitimacy of pairs online – there were a lot of BAPE dentures around!

Manufactured with patent leather and reinforced with triple panelling at the midfoot, the ‘Chompers’ are still arguably the number one KAWS x BAPE collaboration.

KAWS x BAPE STA Stomper
StockX

KAWS x BAPE SKULL STA (2005)KAWS x BAPE SKULL STA (2005)

The reign of the KAWS x BAPE collaboration continued with the SKULL STA, the sneaker composed in a custom camo pattern by KAWS himself. Again stamping the toes with his signature ‘XX’ motif, the faux shell-toe carved up a slice of the sneaker market in the early 2000s, laying the groundwork for collaborations with the likes of visvim and Vans in the coming years.

KAWS x BAPE Skull Sta
Grailed

KAWS x visvim Logan Lo (2008)KAWS x visvim Logan Lo (2008)

A long-time collaborator with Hiroki Nakamura’s visvim, KAWS and his OriginalFake label produced plenty of gems for the Japanese label, including the Logan Lo in 2008. Emblazoning the white suede uppers with notepad-like sketches of his characters, the well-executed release was somewhat overshadowed by our next sneaker on the list: the duo of Air Max 90s!

KAWS x visvim Logan Lo

KAWS x Nike Air Max 90 (2008)KAWS x Nike Air Max 90 (2008)

Linking up with Nike Sportswear in 2008, KAWS released two colourways of the indelible Air Max 90 (one OG white and one Current in black), both designs highlighted with Nike’s ubiquitous ‘Volt hue.

First hitting shelves at the Nike store on 21 Mercer Street, New York and at the Montalbán Theatre in Los Angeles, the collaboration landed mere months after the high-profile KAWS x Nike Air Force 1 Supreme.

Taking inspiration from Nike’s ACG line (and its patented ‘four-way stretch textile’), KAWS originally told the Swoosh that he wanted ‘something with a trail running attitude, on an iconic footwear style’.

He nailed it. Still considered by many KAWS fans as his magnum opus, the AM90 colab is undoubtedly one of the greatest AM90 colabs to ever hit retail.

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KAWS x Nike Air Max 90
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