Sneaker Freaker's Mid-Year Staff Picks 2019
This year, our writers have made it hail with their two cents on the sneaker world. They’ve plotted the nastiest sneakers in the NBA, gushed over Jordan crossovers, and mused on how one goes about being broke. But when it comes to specific releases (apart from sacai colabs, because, sacai), our writers haven’t been as forthcoming.
Here, we let some of them loose with each picking a drop for the year so far, filtering through March Madness, NBA Championships, and Air Max Day celebrations to find their favourites.
Which releases met the needs of our picky writers? Scroll on to find out, and then feel free to harass us for our niche tasteson whatever social platform you so choose.
Minh Vuong: Adsum x Reebok Pyro
Over the years, my footwear preferences have transitioned from garish Pantone smorgasbords to Plain Jane joggers (but not quite dad shoes). The Adsum x Reebok Pyro is an example of the latter – sensibly presented, but still a subtle colab flex. Therefore, it’s my favourite sneaker release of 2019 so far.
Utilising Christian Tresser’s revived Pyro silhouette, the team at Adsum chose an excellent understated palette that really harks back to days of simpler two-toned uppers with contrast branding. The accompanying ad creative was great too: ‘For athletes and aesthetes’. Of which I most definitely fall into the second category.
Neutral-coloured suede, three different mesh patterns, smooth blue lining, and simple embroidered tongue branding – in my eyes, it can’t be beat. The finished product channels the spirit of the SMU [special make up] and results in a pretty package minus some of the extra bells and whistles that you can literally find on many of today’s sneaker releases.
Ged McMahon — Converse All Star Pro BB
For years I’ve secretly wondered how the hell basketballers used to lace up Chuck Taylors and hit the court back in the good old days. While I truly love the iconic design, and wear it often, basketball kicks of the last 40 or so years have had an entirely different look and feel. On-court tech has changed so much since the ballers of yesteryear were shuffling around on the hardwood in their Chucks, leaving the beloved silhouette to build a whole new reputation almost everywhere except on the basketball court.
It sure has been an interesting 12 months for basketball kicks, with the return of the Big Cat, and the emergence of New Balance on the back of Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard. Then, this year, Converse re-entered the market with the All Star Pro BB in classic black or white colourways. Self-described as ‘iconic Converse DNA meets the best of Nike innovation’, the Pro BB now has the potential to re-establish Converse’s on-court credentials.
I, for one, welcome these new Converse creps. And I’d like to remind them, as an enthusiastic mid-week social basketballer, I can be helpful in rounding up others to toil on courts across the globe in All Star Pro BBs to speed up the revolution.
Cesca Benson: Neymar Jr. x Nike Shox R4
Looking at sneakers all day everyday, it can be hard to experience genuine excitement for a shoe: what you may froth on first sight often becomes stale by the time drop day rolls around. Neymar’s take on the Nike Shox R4 was one of those rarities that held my attention long enough to lay down the cash (though I would have been more than willing to fork out for the Aleali May AJ6s or sacais – but alas, luck wasn’t on my side).
Don’t get me wrong, they’re obnoxious – and definitely not to everyone’s taste – but it’s that ostentation and unashamed ‘ugly’ that means I just can’t look away. Positive or negative, you gotta feel some kind of way about the Challenge Red–Lime Blast fade and those 00s Shox springs, right?
Gabe Filippa: sacai x Nike LD Waffle ‘Green Multi’
In a sneaker psychosphere fuelled by digital clout and listless celebrity ‘collaborations’, Chitose Abe has gloriously managed to cut through the seemingly ever-present white noise.
An expression of a lifetime of careful design considerations, the sacai x Nike LDWaffle is more than just a sneaker, it’s faith. And while the God-shaped hole in my life continues to disappoint my in-laws – and the spiritually-reformed, middle-class psychos stumbling down from the Himalayas – the LDWaffle had me stepping onto the confusing edges of agnosticism.
Was this God in the sole?
For now, I’ll stick with the hushed bi-annual interventions, pharmaceutical scripts, and the nastiest sneaker I’ve laced in over three years.
Mykal Hoang: Polar x Nike SB Blazer Low
For those who see my day-to-day rotation of bubbled units, the Polar x Nike SB Blazer would probably not be an obvious pick. However, even though it lacks the aggressive lines and the walk-on-air aesthetic that my heart is drawn to, it does feature something that I (like most of you) have an affinity for: attention to detail.
On top of being one of my favourite skate teams for their Mach 10 style of street sledging, Polar have developed a reputation for perfectly melding form and function. Whether it be in the earlier seasons of their clothing where they produced technical, breathable and functional garments, or in their DIY skate spots that they seemingly never cease to no-comply off, the crossroads of cool and practical are always consistent.
If you were to catch a quick glimpse at a pair skating down the road – you wouldn’t think twice about them. Blue Swoosh. Cool grey suede. Blazer Low. So what? I’ll tell you what: tiny stars have been laser cut below the Swoosh on both sides to add a little style to breathability, the exposed-foam tongue from a Bruin has been surgically removed and attached, an ollie-guard has been applied to the exterior which isn’t usually seen on SB Blazers, Air Max 1 eyelets have been used to lock in the ends of your laces, and there’s a Zoom-padded insole for that low-profile comfort.
Even after geeking out about all of that, I haven’t even mentioned the fact that the big Swoosh allowed the Swedish skate team to not only replace the large ‘Nike’ text on the heel with an embroidered ‘Polar’, but they’ve also featured a beautifully-designed mash-up of their two logos on the tongue and insole.
So, even though the Tailwind IV finally made its triumphant return, and the ‘L’ for the LDWaffle had me hugging my knees under a cold shower, I’ll still ride with the Polar x Nike SB Blazer.
Morgan Weekes: adidas ZX 10.000C 'Supercolor'
For me, the adidas ZX 10000 is the perfect merge of past and present, a philosophy that isn’t uncommon within the Three Stripes. And while adi regularly update their archive silhouettes for a new consumer, this right here is the best example of that motive so far.
The team behind the 10k included the original designer of the ZX range, Jacques Chassaing, and die-hard fans of the brand to give the shoe a level of care and attention to detail that is rarely evident in modern footwear.
Anthony Nguyen: Kiko Kostadinov x ASICS Edition GEL-Delva
Was the emergence of Salomon and ASICS amongst inner-city fashion kids initially just an ironic kind of thing? Possibly. Whatever the case, with Kiko Kostadinov now leading the way with his ongoing ASICS collaboration, it’s safe to say that the office shoe wave is maintaining what seems like unstoppable momentum.
Even though Kiko is a relatively new menswear designer, the Central Saint Martins graduate has garnered a cult following through meticulous, refined and understated tailoring of his eponymous label. The energy surrounding Kiko is something that menswear has lacked for some time, reminding me of Raf Simons (pre-Rocky/Calvin). Therefore, it should come as no surprise that Kiko’s collaboration with ASICS has also generated the same type of ‘underground’ energy.
To haphazardly describe the kind of hype surrounding Kiko’s GEL-Delva 1s, picture thousands of ‘Kiko-heads’ around the globe lurking in Facebook groups, trading daily WDYWT fits, and having ‘deep’ discussions about how fusing the GEL-FUJI TRABUCO 7’s upper with the GEL-Kayano 24 heel tooling genuinely makes for a better work of art. Okay, so it’s a bit corny but, love it or hate it, you can’t deny that the cult of Kiko really loves these GELs. Me included.
Boon Mark Souphanh: Air Jordan 11 Low Golf ‘Concord’
When the Air Jordan 11 Low Golf ‘Concord’ was first announced, I thought it’d be an easy cop. Surely no one cared about an AJ11 golf cleat, right? Wrong.
After my fifth L of the day, I was forced onto the secondary market to ease my pain. To my shock and horror, pairs were going for close to $1000. As former Gold Jacket winner, Happy Gilmore, once famously said, ‘Why don’t you just go home, resellers? That’s your home! Are you too good for your home? Answer me!’
I was forced to wait, searching meticulously for a decent deal like a lost ball in the rough. Fortunately for my own sanity, the right one came along.
The struggle always makes the eventual cop so much sweeter, but these really exceeded all expectation. The quality is unreal, with the iconic AJ11 ‘Concord’ aesthetic and details kept completely in tact. As far as tech goes, the React foam midsole and Tour-inspired spiked outsole look and feel insane on course, as well as on the 19th hole after the round.
Unfortunately, they haven’t helped me hit the ball any better, but maybe that’s asking for too much.
Seb Bugeja-Drinkell: AFFIX WORKS x ASICS GEL-Kinsei
I enjoy AFFIX WORKS, and I also enjoy a lovely pair of ASICS, so when I scrolled past the teaser post of their colab, you can bet I was on the edge of my seat. Patiently waiting for any piece of information that I could get my hands on, you can imagine how excited I was when I discovered that the colab would feature my absolute favourite ASICS silhouette: the GEL-Kinsei!
There it was, that aggressive GEL unit, heavy yellow overlays sitting perfectly on the brown mesh uppers, and red highlights to complete the aesthetic. I needed a pair, and fast.
On drop day, I set my alarm so I could wake up early and tune into AFFIX radio, which was the only way to get the all-important purchase code. When I slept in, I eventually woke in panic, but luckily they decided to post the password on their IG story. Sliding onto their website and dipping into some money I had saved for a Japanese holiday, I copped my size.
No other shoe in 2019 has given me such a crazy purchasing experience. That memory, combined with the collaborative clout of AFFIX WORKS and ASICS makes this GEL-Kinsei my obvious choice for shoe of the year so far.
Jacob Boyd-Skinner: Stray Rats x New Balance 990v3 ‘ALTERNATE 2’
Last year, when the inaugural collaboration between Miami-based Stray Rats and New Balance landed on the upper of one of my all-time favourite silhouettes – the 990v3 – a deep fascination grew inside of me. What I discovered was a colab that was loud and obnoxious, and something that was ideal for the not-too-serious sneakerhead.
The clash of the lighter violet and brushed out green suede whispered sweet somethings into my ear. Wind the clock forward to this year, and Julian Consuegra and the SR team drew the ‘ALTERNATE 2’ into existence. The same colour-blocking sat alongside a silver mesh and grey suede, which was a little less abrasive than its darker predecessor. Some have called it something for the joker, which means they either did their research, or had a great guess.
The sneaker game doesn’t need to be so serious. Wear Stray Rats. You won’t regret it. HA! HA! HA! HA!
T.S. Fox: Nike Air Fear of God ‘Light Bone’
I know, I know, we already included the ‘Light Bone’ colourway of the Nike Air Fear of God 1 on our best-of list for last year. BUT, since the kicks didn’t actually drop until January of 2019, I think it’s only fair that they also make an appearance on this list.
What is there to say about Jerry Lorenzo’s Swoosh colab that hasn’t already been said? Designed alongside Leo Chang, the Air FOG 1 represents what a collaboration should be: not a mere colour-up or slight tweak of an existing design, but something entirely new that still manages to feel right at home amongst the other offerings of both parties. Better yet, the kicks completely eschewed the retro route that most collaborative endeavours take. Sure, they employ design elements inspired by previous Swoosh classics, but the Air FOG 1 is a shoe that you can actually hoop in.
Best of all? It’s an uncompromising take on Lorenzo’s own signature aesthetic. This is a man, after all, who used his own lasts to ensure that the shape was on-point. He apparently even had Nike drop a second set of official imagery to better showcase the lengthy oversized lacing, after he felt that the original images weren’t up to snuff.
And as much as I can appreciate the playfulness of this season’s ‘Orange Pulse’ and ‘Spruce’ offerings, I feel that the design still works best in FOG’s go-to neutral tones. The understated hues not only act as a juxtaposition to the bolder elements of the design, but perfectly highlight those same features.
In the end, those aforementioned orange and green colourways – or the ‘Sail’ version, for that matter – could have made this list. For me, though, the ‘Light Bone’ look is still the true Grail, and has been an instant classic from the moment it made its official debut on the feet of Lorenzo himself in FOG’s Sixth Collection video.
The ‘Light Bone’ Air Fear of God 1 isn’t just my midyear pick for 2019, but an all-timer, and the absolute pinnacle when it comes to colabs.
Elaine Kharbanda: Gucci Rhyton NY Yankees 'White Leather'
With such a steady stream of celebrities and sneakerheads wearing the same rotation of Yeezy, Off-White, and Louis Vuitton sneakers, it can be hard to look past the hype and pinpoint a favourite sneaker for the first half of this year. Thankfully for me, Gucci’s Rhyton sneakers with the iconic New York Yankees insignia have been a clear highlight in my sneaker release calendar thus far.
Born and bred a proud New Yorker, naturally I’m also a diehard Yankees fan. So when the Yankees scored a feature in Gucci’s MLB collection, I was thrilled. The Rhyton Yankees sneakers play into this year’s popular trends – chunky dad shoes, easy-to-wear clean white kicks and, of course, the New York Yankees. Though the design may seem as simple as a logo slapped on an overpriced upper, to me they mean a lot more: they combine my love of footwear and fashion with my passion for my home team into one sleek sneaker. Now, if I could just win the World Series 27 times like the Yankees, maybe I’d be able to afford the $890 price tag…
Marfell: JW Anderson x Converse Chuck 70
When I cracked these open in the office, the first thing I heard was a bewildered, ‘You’re off your head!’ And, yep, fair. These are garish, glitter-covered Chuck 70s acquired because of regret. But it’s not these I regret buying.
When JW Anderson’s first stardust speckled Chucks debuted at Pitti Uomo in 2017, I couldn’t care less. Then Frank Ocean wore them during that year’s FYF Fest and influenced the shit out of me. I tried to get Cs on both sides like Frank but they were gone. Stores had been cleaned out by my lemming brethren and resale was more than I could conscionably pay for a Chuck.
An inverse version of buyer’s remorse sank in. Years passed, and I forgot I cared until April, when these things showed up, and I added to cart before I could convince myself otherwise. Objectively, these have nothing on sacais or half the other releases that came out this year, but this isn’t about being impartial. This is about using consumer goods to feel closer to my influencer idols. And with Frankie boy back in hermit mode in 2019, these are the only shoes that can trick me into thinking I have even remote levels of shine.