ARTICLE BY Sneaker Freaker

Sneaker Freaker's Mid-Year Staff Picks 2021

staff picks mock up 2021

The sneaker realm hasn’t been short of controversy over the past six months. There’s been scandals which have rocked the Swoosh, back and forths regarding backdooring, and even a collaboration filled with blood – yes, real blood. Thankfully, among all the chaos, there’s also been some bona fide bangers when it comes to the actual sneaker releases.

The domination of the Dunk looks to be diminishing, while the usual suspects continue to churn out a collaboration or two… or in some cases, 50. Meanwhile, old favourites have returned, as some new contenders look to scale to the summit of the sneakersphere.

The SF staffers have chosen their favourite footwear for the year (so far). Take peek at our picks below.

air jordan 6 carmine
via 43einhalb

Cesca - Air Jordan 6 'Carmine'

Like many, the Air Jordan 6 wasn’t really on my radar, overshadowed by Jumpman big boys like the AJ1s, 4s and 11s. That is, until 2019. And no, it wasn’t the Travis co-sign that piqued my interest – it was Aleali May’s millennial pink bangers. Fast forward to the start of 2020, and rumours of an upcoming Air Jordan 6 ‘Carmine’ retro started to surface. And the waiting began… Finally, in February this year we got a release date.

Judging by how quickly these sold out, the AJ6 can be considered well and truly back. Sure, men’s size 6 was an impossible find, so it was GS for me, but after months of build up, there was no way I was letting these pass me by!

bodega New Balance 990v3 'Here to Stay'

Pascal - Bodega x New Balance 990v3 'Here to Stay'

It was a tough decision, but I’m going with New Balance – like so many others! There were some general releases which caught my attention, like 2020’s ‘Purple/Grey’ 992s, as well as some limited releases like the 920 ‘MTA’, which only released at DSM.

However, when we started working on ,Issue 45 of Sneaker Freaker, I got a first glimpse of Bodega´s 990v3 ‘Here to Stay’ release for their 15th anniversary. It was love at first sight. The silhouette is one of my personal favourite NBs ever, and as Bodega know a thing or two about choosing the right materials and colours, this release had to be my top pick for the first half of 2021. I’m excited to see what else is coming in the next six months!

mizuno contender s
via @bijsmaak

Boon - Mizuno Contender S 'Mood Indigo'

As a huge fan of the Sky Medal, the return of the Mizuno’s Contender S certainly filled my heart – and feet – with plenty of nerdy nostalgia. The OG debuted back in 1995, alongside its more famous cousin the Mondo Control, and it hasn’t returned until now. A travesty…

Blessed with design elements synonymous with Mizuno’s founder Rhiachi Mizuno, the Contender doesn’t have the same knockout features as other ‘Mondo’ series classics, but that’s certainly part of its allure – to me, anyways.

It’s definitely not a performance pavement pounder by today’s standards, however, in typical Mizuno fashion, the brand hasn’t skimped on the tech despite the model's newly-acquired ‘lifestyle’ label. The Transpower technology in the heel is *chefs kiss*. Despite being GR as it gets, this Contender S is now one of the champions of my weekly rotation.

Nike air huarache scream green sneaker freaker

Minh - Nike Air Huarache 'Scream Green'

I was cautious – perhaps even sceptical – when Nike brought back the Air Huarache ‘Scream Green’ for its 30th anniversary, as the last retro from 2014 was rather disappointing. Nonetheless, I duly purchased the 2021 retro and was so impressed with them upon arrival that I went off and wrote 900 words about it (check it out here).

To avoid repeating myself, all I’ll say is that I’m still screaming green. And so is my wallet… The Stussy colabs and ‘Escape’ retro were promptly copped as soon as they dropped. Bring on the ‘Magenta’ and ‘Aquatone’ re-releases!

Extra Butter x Happy Gilmore x adidas UltraBOOST 'Gold Jacket'

Ged - Extra Butter x Happy Gilmore x adidas UltraBOOST 'Gold Jacket'

In the immortal words of Shooter McGavin himself: ‘Dress nice’. And that’s exactly what you can do in the Extra Butter x Happy Gilmore x adidas UltraBOOST ‘Gold Jacket’. Just sneaking into mid-year contention with a June 25 release, this commemorative UltraBOOST dropped as part of a wider collection – that included apparel and golf accessories – to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the hit 90s film Happy Gilmore.

Adopting the mustardy hue of the Tour Championship’s coveted Gold Jacket, the design was peppered with neat little touches like Shooter’s signature finger guns on the forefoot, golf tee holders under the lace cage, and a distraught McGavin on the insoles capturing the moment his archnemesis Gilmore clinched the title with a miraculous putt on the penultimate hole. And these UBs are not just for the golf course, they would also look great paired with your white sweater whilst indulging in a little real estate speculation, on a quick trip to Sizzler to get some grub, or heading to the local pottery centre to make things out of clay. 

Whatta ya say? Just be careful with the sizing in case your right foot’s a little longer than your left.

New Balance 550 'Burgundy'

Seb - New Balance 550 'Burgundy'

To be honest, not many sneakers have tickled my fancy this year besides the New Balance 550. Whether it was the serious mood-board potential or the Aimé Leon Dore co-sign – as soon as I saw them I was hooked. I’m not a ‘white shoe’ kind of guy, due to the fact I’m never careful when pairs are on-feet. As a result, when I copped the ALD x NB collaboration, there was one serious problem: I was too scared to wear ‘em!

I patiently waited for the GR iterations to hit shelves, so I didn’t feel guilty scuffing them up. When they did, I couldn’t go past these bodacious ‘Burgundy' beauties.

,carpet company x nike sb dunk high

Jacob - Carpet Company x Nike SB Dunk High

In my opinion, you're not allowed to choose a favourite sneaker unless you’ve owned, worn and, in my case, destroyed them! It's this important factor that makes choosing one so simple easy this time around. Drum roll, please… The Nike SB Dunk High by the Carpet Company was the obvious choice.

Mine are absolutely filthy! And they’ve already got some heel drag, of which I am a serial offender! Such imperfections tell me I’ve worn and enjoyed good times in them. Aside the obvious ‘Dark Sulfur’, ‘Coconut Milk’, and ‘Royal Pulse’ flex, the sneaker’s storyline had me drawn in like an oasis in the middle of the desert. The metal oil canister packaging for the friends and family drop was also downright hilarious!

In a sneaker landscape where it's hard for smaller brands to gain traction, it was refreshing to see these ‘habibis’ not taking themselves too seriously!

CdG Play x Converse Chuck 70 Low 'Black Heart Blue'

Anthony - CdG Play x Converse Chuck 70 Low 'Black Heart Blue'

At the turn of the decade, one staffer published a polarising Real Talk labelling the CdG Play Chuck 70 as ‘The Decade’s Most Influential Sneaker’. Fast forward two years, they’re now better known as ‘the Converse with hearts on them’. So what happened? These Chuck 70s have been completely meme’d out of the cool as a result of their accessibility and widespread appeal – I suspect as a collective form of gatekeeping.

Despite the internet’s total disdain for this heart logo, I still love them for their subtle design and wearability. You can rock them to the office, mall, dress them up for the runways of Paris, or dress them down for the beaches of Sydney.

This new colourway is a reminder that the CdG Play x Chuck 70 is not an ugly duckling, but – in fact – a beautiful swan.

lil nas x satan shoe

Gabe - MSCHF x Lil Nas X 'Satan Shoes'

Blood is the new drip.

What better way to spike the stream of Air Jordan 1s and Dunks than with a sneaker with literal human blood in the Air unit? Lil Nas X triggered some of the most vehement sneaker commentary of all time with the release of the Air Max 97 ‘Satan’ back in March, the collaboration with Brooklyn-based MSCHF quickly drawing the ire of Nike, who lawyered-up to kill the release (you can’t kill Satan, dawg.) 

Still, the limited 666 units sold-out instantly. The $1018 price tag didn't deter any Satanist sneaker heads, with pairs later appearing on the resale market for double the price at $2000!

Forget Prada, baby! The devil wears 97s.

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