Why Didn’t Barbie Paint the Sneakersphere Pink?


Seasons change and people come and go, but cultural phenomena is forever. Greta Gerwig’s Barbie will no doubt be one of the most memorable movie releases in the modern cinema era, and when looking back on 2023, many will likely remember the time when the whole world seemingly turned pink. Having raked in an astronomical $528.6 million at the box office during opening week, through the movie’s successful marketing rollout, star-studded soundtrack album and its endless collaborations, Barbie as a brand has been put into ’Speed Drive’, experiencing the resurgence of a lifetime. While Mattel worked hard to make sure they splashed ’Barbie’ pink on just about everything, there’s been a crossover not fully executed, and that’s in sneakers.

The Barbie Takeover

From food to stationary, fashion, jewellery and more, Mattel made sure to fire up the collaborative engines to ensure that Barbie seized the zeitgeist, all of which has culminated in the brand resurgence of a lifetime. Barbie has been the trending topic of conversation for months – a great feat considering this had not been the case for years.

Like all major movie releases, Barbie was not exempt from the extensive marketing rollout, with its ‘This Barbie’ campaign being a global success in getting excitement for the movie to extreme levels. The campaign popped on social media and even became a trending meme format too. But what has arguably been more memorable are the seemingly endless Barbie collaborations that have hit the market hard. On that, Mattel’s president and chief operating officer Richard Dickson told BoF, ‘It gives us the opportunity to monetise the brand outside of the toy aisle. Despite the fact there’s a big list of partners, it’s a very carefully curated matrix across all industries, ages, stages, demographics, distribution, so that everyone can “play Barbie”.’

If there was ever a time to truly feel like you were living in a Barbie World, it’s now. Mattel has teamed up with over 100 brands to curate everything from luxury to fast food and everything in between. These days you can spend your hard-earned on just about anything in Barbie-mania, or you can even get your Barbie fix for free with a simple Barbie google search. From a wider lens, it does seem like there’s been no stone left unturned by Mattel – or painted pink rather – but when it comes to sneakers, that’s not quite the case.


In many ways, collaborations are what make the sneaker world go ‘round. There are many different colab avenues, involving tastemakers, stores, brands and more, and pop culture collaborations can also be highly coveted. Right now many are even holding out for the potential Powerpuff Girls x Nike SB colab.

While there’s an ongoing dialogue that asks of brands to focus less on creating pink sneakers for women’s specific releases, there’s no doubt that a fully pinked out, official Barbie sneaker could have been one of the most hyped fad releases of 2023. On account of these two factors, it seems like related parties missed an opportunity to really paint the sneakersphere pink. That’s not to say that we haven’t seen a Barbie sneaker crossover during this period, or ever, as PUMA did celebrate Barbie’s 60th anniversary in 2019. Earlier this month The Surgeon worked his magic too.

barbie vans
barbie vans
barbie vans

In 2023, Vans have taken centre stage on the colab front, dropping their capsule of iterations that would be perfect for Barbie. Featuring the Sk8-Hi Stackform, Authentic Stackform, Style 93 DX, and VR3CUSH Slides, each pair comes complete in its own Barbie-fied shoe box, reminiscent of the toy boxes themselves.

Shoe brand Rollie also developed their own Barbie collaboration, sharing that their sneaker had been over a year in the making. Made in Portugal, the silhouette known as the Bolster sneaker is a new shoe construction for the brand and also saw the release of a full collection of matching apparel. While the sneaker was not a fully pinked-out rendition, Rollie notes that their aim for the sneaker was to shine a light on inclusivity and representation of a truly diverse community – so you’ll find that the uppers wear various shades of brown and beige, in addition to pink.

On the clogcore side, Crocs absolutely did not miss the opportunity to tap into the zeitgest, creating a range of Crocs that evidently slot perfectly into Barbie’s iconic wardrobe. Including two pairs of the classic clog and a pair of slides, Crocs also made sure you could accessorise them (just as Barbie would want), with official Barbie Jibbitz.

Interestingly, that just about wraps it up for Barbie sneaker collaborations for the year so far, which begs the question: did sneaker brands intentionally miss the Barbie party? And why wasn't there more Barbie sneaker action? Even outside of official collaborations, ‘Barbie’ pink has been inescapable, and in a way this is true for the sneakerspace too. On Barbie’s official release day, official images of pairs including the Nike Dunk Low, Air Max Scorpion and Air Jordan 1 Low – which had all seemingly taken on Barbiecore – released. By no means an official Barbie colab, it’s clear that the intention was to tap into Barbie World.

Given the force of Barbies global presence right now, pink is here to stay. Lets see what brands continue to offer in the weeks to come – hopefully some lovin for Ken too.

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