Sneaker Freaker’s 2020 Staff Picks
We’ve finally made it to the end of the year (almost!), and we’re sure you’re all looking forward to some tranquillity in 2021. To say the past 365 days have been unpredictable would be a gross understatement. However, despite 2020 being filled with its fair share of confusion and uncertainty, the coveted sneaker drops kept rolling in.
The year has made many of us drunk on the Dunk, while others were simply thankful to rekindle their love for old favourites. The playbook on hype was rewritten, with resell prices rising to never-before-seen levels of stonk. Copping was definitely tougher, but thankfully we could numb the pain with re-runs of Tiger King and The Last Dance.
In a year of bona fide bangers, here were the Sneaker Freaker staffers’ best releases for 2020.
Gabe – Noah x adidas Gazelle ‘Cheetah’
As you can see, I’m still reeling from the effects of mainlining Joe Exotic and his feral underworld of freewheeling, gun-toting polygamists from earlier in the year.
While we’ve had plenty of neck-craning animal print to wild-out on this year (atmos, ‘Safari’ Dunks, etc.), it was the Noah x adidas Gazelle that really snuck under the radar, the collaboration dozing on adi’s website all night long.
Yes, y’all were sleeping so soundly on these you may as well have been sharing narcotics with Joe Exotic and his pride of kitsch cowboys.
Ged – Star Wars x adidas Rivalry Hi ‘Chewbacca’
Throughout the year, we saw a steady stream of Star Wars characters get their very own adidas silhouettes. There were all the usual suspects, Princess Leia, Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, Yoda, and even Darth Vader. Then, in October, it was time to pay homage to the ultimate wingman: the mighty Chewbacca.
Novelty sneakers aren’t for everyone, but if you’re going to go down that path, you might as well go all out. And that’s exactly what adi did with this furry rendition of the Rivalry Hi. The retro baller was jam-packed with special details, including Wookiee fur bursting out from behind most panels, Chewie’s face on the tongue tag, and custom ‘Star Wars’, ‘Chewbacca’, and Millennium Falcon dubraes. But my favourite part was definitely the ammunition belt stretching across the lacing unit, because you never know when you’re going to find trouble – especially when Han Solo is your bestie.
It was exactly the kind of footwear you’d expect to see on a 2.3m fuzzball when he strolls into a dive bar on Tatooine for a quiet drink. Don’t like them? Keep those sentiments to yourself... it’s not wise to upset a Wookiee.
Seb – New Balance 992 ‘Navy’
The New Balance 992 has had a bloody good year! We’ve seen multiple collaborations and a slew of spicy GR colourways and, to be honest, I’ve wanted them all. But, there was seriously something special about the New Balance 992 ‘Navy’.
After unsuccessfully trying to cop the JJJJounds, and taking a major L on the WTAPS earlier in the year, these joints were the perfect redemption cop. From that beautiful suede, Made in the USA quality and navy underlays, I was in love. After getting them in the mail a few days after ordering, they went straight onto my feet and, to this day, they’re still a regular feature in my rotation.
Boon – Air Jordan 5 G 'Wing It'
Whenever Jordan Brand drop a killer Air Jordan 5 G, the reaction is generally the same: ‘Why do the golfers get all the good colourways?!’. No doubt these would’ve been a sought-after drop if they’d released in standard form, but I’m more than happy to take the ‘W’ after another sparse year on the cop front.
The colours on this one are clean AF – even better IRL – dressed in quality white leather with signature mesh inserts on the sides. Breezy tones complement the design, with ‘Grape Ice’ and ‘Cool Blues’ nodding to the Winged Foot Golf Club, the home of this year’s US Open tournament. The inspiration was two-fold on this one, with the details also an homage to Nike herself, the Greek Goddess of Victory, so it’s Ws all round.
Admittedly, I’m yet to hit the course in these. I don’t think I’d be ready to hit ‘em with those grass stains and dirt just yet. However, the prospect of using that magnetic Jumpman ball-marker lace toggle is mighty tempting… It may be a 5, but it ain’t no bogey.
Cesca – Nike Air Max 90 ‘Infrared’
We’d known all year that Nike would retro the Air Max 90 ‘Infrared’. We had months of early rumours and grainy leaked images, so by the time official info came, Air Max fiends were chomping at the bit. The fact that when the release details finally arrived the shoe was now being called, in OG fashion, the Air Max III ‘Radiant Red’, made the whole thing even more exciting. As well as arriving in the searing ‘Radiant Red’, the Air Max III arrived in the original box – thankfully free of crushed toe boxes – with throwback advertising paraphernalia and swing tag.
All in all, a top-notch tribute to one of the most important releases in sneaker history. Sure, we had to wait most of the year for drop day, but who are we kidding, it was SO worth the wait. Just wish I’d bought a back up pair too.
Anthony – BAPE Sta Low ‘Colour Block Shark’
2020 is the Year of the Rat: it’s supposed to be a year of prosperity and surplus. To be on theme, my 2020 new year’s resolution was to MAXIMISE the number of crazy sneakers in my closet until it was bursting at the seams. Clearly, this didn’t work out for the world, or my sneaker closet.
But I didn’t give up without a fight. I wanted to buy at least one CRAZY shoe, one shoe that I normally wouldn’t look at twice. As a send off to this tragic year I bought myself a pair of BAPE Sta Lows. The most unapologetic and arguably overpriced gaudy shoe I could think of. From the edgy BAPE shark motif on the side to the quirky ‘WGM (World Gone Mad)’ on the heel, nothing shouts meme-worthy quite like these BAPE Sta Lows. These shoes perfectly represent 2020 for me, an insane shoe for an insane year!
Minh – Ghostbusters x Reebok Ghost Smasher
The droning succession of daily sneaker releases changes rhythm during festive periods, as brands get properly creative (and occasionally impractical) with their themed shoes. To which I doff my cap to Reebok for their utterly ridiculous Ghost Smasher that ‘crossed my stream’ just before Halloween. Belatedly released for the 35th anniversary of Ghostbusters, my first reaction to the Ghost Smasher (an early working title of the film, by the way) was likely the same as that of Dan Aykroyd’s Ray Stantz seeing lurid green Slimer on the silver screen back in ’84.
Designer Chris Hill ‘Pumped’ plenty of otherworldly DNA into Reebok’s OG Hollywood high-top, the Alien Stomper, and grafted a Proton Pack onto the Ghost Smasher’s heel – complete with coloured hoses and extraneous hardware! Of course, these additions are completely cosmetic (and optionally removable), while really adding to the analogue movie prop vibe. Plus, the faux patina on the leather, aged rubber midsoles, and exposed foam seams helps capture three decades of ‘lost footage’. Packaged with working mini PKE meters and custom shoeboxes, the Ghost Smasher is as much a collectible as they are a daily driver.
I ain’t afraid of no ghosts – but I am haunted by the spirits of my recently departed sneakers.
Jacob – Atlas x Nike SB Dunk High
In the Instagram Age of sneaker collecting, it’s becoming relatively uncommon to see ‘hyped’ releases end up being beaters. And more common to see old ’heads trying to get a rise out of you, by turning their SB Dunks into ice cream bowls! Yuk!
As a collector, and self proclaimed ‘Sneaker Idiot’, I’ve always understood that I can’t take shoes to the grave.
Now, that is not to say that I’m the only one who is going to put the Atlas Skateboards x Nike SB Dunk High through the wringer. But I’m sure you agree it’s not the norm, and it might even make you a little mad!
It really comes down to the level of joy that I get out of absolutely beating kicks that others want. Which is really, really narcissistic.
But I want you to ask yourself this: if it’s OK to post flex fits on the Gram in perfect looking SBs, why isn’t it OK for me to trash them?