Talking Shop: A Brief History of BEAMS Collaborations
Boutique Japanese retailer BEAMS opened their first shop in 1976 and, over the course of their storied history, the brand has evolved into dozens of sub-brands like BEAMS PLUS, BEAMS BOY and BEAMS mini to cover countless aesthetics. Along the way, the BEAMS family have picked up countless collaborations across clothing, homewares, technology and, most importantly to us, sneakers. Some of BEAMS’ best sneaker collaborations date back to the early 2000s, and have steadily picked up the pace over the next two decades, before going all out for their 40th anniversary in 2016.
This highlight reel features just 10 of BEAMS’ sneaker colabs. It ranges from their most recent projects, plus some obscurities that never left Japan – which is the case for many of their releases.
BEAMS x Diadora N9000 (2016)
A part of BEAMS’ 40th anniversary celebrations, Italian sportswear company Diadora produced only 200 pairs of this N9000 retro runner. The tonal upper featured smooth leather and terry cloth, paired with a smooth gum sole. The insole and tongue signified BEAMS’ branding.
BEAMS x Levi’s x Converse All Star (2015)
BEAMS have a penchant for uniting brands to deliver excellent collaborations. With their finger on the pulse during the mid-2010s raw denim resurgence, American icons Converse and Levi’s were called in. This understated Chuck Taylor All Star’s upper is made from the now-discontinued White Oak selvedge denim from American producers Cone Mills that vintage Levi’s once used.
BEAMS x Afew x ASICS Gel Lyte III (2018)
Another three-way colab, this drop with German retailer Afew revisited their ‘Koi Fish’ concept on the ASICS GEL-Lyte III. This time around, BEAMS’ involvement rendered the GL3’s previously red panelling into luminous orange. A special ‘bento box’ and matching apparel was also released to coincide with this release.
BEAMS x Nike Air Huarache Light (2003)
An Internet forum favourite in the early 2000s, BEAMS heralded the return of 1993’s Nike Air Huarache Light by releasing two tonal colourways. Given the original ‘Ultramarine’ was a colourful smorgasbord, this stripped-back execution set the mood for the Japanese retailer’s effortless style.
BEAMS x Nike Air Max 1 Sample (2001)
Only seen once by renowned secondary seller Gustodaninja, this was a supposed release for BEAMS’ 25th anniversary in 2001. With the superior materials, shape and colourways of this time for Nike, it’s a mighty shame these AM1s didn’t release. Just look at the coloured accents on the outsole, and the mismatched heel details!
BEAMS PLUS x New Balance 990EX (2009)
Celebrating the 10th anniversary of BEAMS’ Americana-inspired brand, BEAMS PLUS, this drop was a collaboration with New Balance on the 990EX. A fairly obscure silhouette, it uses an upper similar to the 990v2, but with an ABZORB EX midsole. Borrowing the classic 1300JP colourway, the BEAMS PLUS touch is added with custom orange embroidery on the tongue loop, plus ‘1999’ and ‘2009’ embroidered on the left and right heel panels, respectively.
BEAMS x Jim Phillips x Vans Sk8-Hi (2008)
Jim Phillips, best known for iconic Santa Cruz ‘Screaming Hand’ logo, applied his signature artwork style to the Vans Sk8-Hi, riffing off the Cali brand’s ubiquitous checkerboard pattern on one pair, and a tonal black version on another. Both display custom ‘BEAMS SURF & SKATE’ text on the midsole wall – perhaps a precursor to BEAMS' SSZ and Pilgrim Surf + Supply projects.
BEAMS SSZ x Gravis ID522 (2018)
Perhaps one of the more obscure colabs on this list, BEAMS’ SSZ arm – Surf, Skate, Zine – joined with skate brand Gravis for a suede moccasin slip-on that looks as ready to do a kickflip as it does relaxing. Gum soles are always nice. Gravis was founded in 1998 as part of action sports brand Burton’s umbrella. In 2012, distribution was focused solely on Asia, and the brand is now based out of Tokyo – which may explain this unlikely union.
BEAMS x NEEDLES x Reebok Beatnik (2019)
Another three-way collaboration, ,Reebok’s outdoors sandal from 1993 served as the silhouette for BEAMS to also work with popular label NEEDLES. Utilising the latter’s signature black and purple colourway, plus embroidered butterfly logo, the upper is made from real Mouton wool for extra warmth.
BEAMS x Clarks Desert Rock Gore-Tex (2019)
This is far from BEAMS’ first colab with Clarks, however, it is an upcoming release. Reviving the 90s Desert Rock silhouette – aka putting a commando-style sole instead of crepe rubber underneath the Desert Boot – it subtly receives a Gore-Tex liner and DWR treatment. Coming soon to continue the Japanese retailer’s 40-plus year winning streak.