Founded by Kyle Ng and Ed Davis back in 2004, the creative collective known as Brain Dead can be very difficult to categorise. Their ability to act in a fluid way, and reference multiple sub-cultures, means Brain Dead doesn’t just appeal to your regular streetwear consumer.
A clear love for art, cinema, culture, music, and niche activities like paintball and rock climbing, can be seen across their growing back catalogue. And watching Brain Dead’s rise in fashion circles has been quite interesting, as the graphic-led brand continues to build a cult following among like-minded individuals.
Brain Dead’s love of collaboration shines through in much of their work. In their own words, ‘Brain Dead is not one person, nor is it one idea. It sits in the space between people.’ That philosophy has led to an impressive array of colabs within the fashion world, and has even spread to other products like burgers, jam, coffee, and hand sanitiser.
Whatever they’re working on, one thing is common across all of Brain Dead’s projects: it always feels genuine. Inspired by that authenticity, we decided to highlight our favourites amongst their sneaker link-ups.
Brain Dead x Reebok
The recent work produced by Brain Dead and Reebok has really been something else. Their interpretation of the Beatnik, Classic Leather, and Pump Court, although hard to digest for some, stayed true to the brand’s wayward vibe. With all three pairs releasing this year, each arrived with an accompanying video that was the metaphorical cherry on top.
The Classic Leather was the first to drop, and gave us a taste of what we could expect from the collaborative duo. Looking like it came out of an experimental sneaker laboratory, it was crafted using furry suede and laces with oval mesh. The accompanying marionette video put into perspective the inspiration behind the design.
The second output featured a two-shoe pack containing the Beatnik and Pump Court. It came alongside an Ancient Aliens–style video, framing the shoes as artefacts – the Pump Court as the Battery and the Beatnik as the Key. Check it out below!
Brain Dead x Converse
Taking it back to 2018, Brain Dead and Converse unveiled a truly wild Chuck 70 colab. Bringing Brain Dead’s visceral aesthetic to the often toned-down canvas shoe, the duo slapped mis-matched patterned panels right around the silhouette. Animal prints such as zebra, cheetah and giraffe were contrasted by the star and camo hits along the medial sides. Elsewhere, to complete the look, text details ran along the midsole, and Brain Dead’s logo hit the lateral side. This colab perfectly captured the vibe of Brain Dead.
Brain Dead x ROA
This year, Brain Dead and ROA embarked on another collaboration, injecting multiple silhouettes with their loud flair. Using the Neal hiking sneaker and the Andreas hiking boot, both pairs arrived with a somewhat muted upper, with camo hits along the midsole. The Neal hiking sneaker came in a mesh upper atop a durable Vibram midsole, while the Andreas was blessed with ripstop material for its uppers and also included the Vibram midsole. They were made to be worn, and offered the perfect hiking flex!,
Brain Dead x Vans
Brain Dead and Vans Vault linked up in 2017 to drop a tonal collection of classic silhouettes, including the Slip-On, Era and Old Skool. Working with artist Kevin Harris, this colab was inspired by underground comic book culture, and plastered three of Vans’ most iconic silhouettes with all-over graphics.
Brain Dead x Evolv Zenist
Brain Dead have always been quite vocal about social initiatives, and very charitable to worthy causes, so it makes sense that they collaborated with rock climbing brand Evolv for a Zenist climbing shoe. Proceeds from the sales of the shoe went to Young Women Who Crush, Adaptive Climbing Group, DEI Film Festival, Long Beach Rising, and Brown Girls Climb – all charities that give marginalised communities access to rock climbing and outdoor activities.
Creating a new model, the sneaker was built using synthetic vegan materials. It also moulded to the foot, and rocked a sick earthy colourway. Brain Dead made their mark on the co-branded lateral heel, and also blessed it with a dual pull-tab and strap laying across the upper.