ARTICLE BY Minh Vuong

The Greatest Vintage-Look Sneakers

Air Jordan 1 Vintage Custom
Image Credit:@chefhuyle

Like a pair of stonewashed and pre-distressed jeans simulating decades of wear, some sneakerheads seek out shortcuts to achieve a vintage look with their sneakers. Customisers have long tested experimental methods to create faded finishes and worn-out patina, and brands have been hopping on the bandwagon too, delivering (technically) box-fresh sneakers that look like they’ve sat in storage for decades. Here are a few past and present pairs that appear much older than they actually are.

Nike Zoom LD1000
Image Credit: HensonJones (Grailed)

Nike Zoom LD 1000

Back in 2007, Nike juxtaposed new and old on the Zoom LD 1000 model by fitting Zoom Air insoles into the 1970s runner. The Swoosh also added frayed details, yellowed foam midsoles and oxidised rubber tread. This treatment reached other vintage Nike runners too, and even Junya Watanabe got in on the action with a collaborative collection.

Off-White x Air Jordan 2 Low

Off-White x Air Jordan 2 Low

Belief has to be suspended for this colab in the context of vintage look sneakers. The late Virgil Abloh went into the Nike archives to scan an original pair of AJ2s, replicating the cracked midsole on the Off-White colab. Of course, this 2021 release was perfectly wearable, in spite of the faux cracks. If anything, the yellow tone added a vintage vibe.

mita sneakers x adidas Campus 80s

mita sneakers x adidas Campus 80s

Japan’s mita sneakers have demonstrated tasteful ageing with their various adidas Campus 80s colabs. Featuring fairly straightforward OG solid colours and contrasting stripes atop yellowed soles, this execution imagines what it’d be like, if you'd kept pairs deadstock since the 1980s, but forgot to store them with some silica gel packs.

Air Jordan 4 Fire Red Vintage Custom
Image Credit: @andu.c

andu.c Customs

Andrew Chiou, aka @andu.c, is one of the foremost customisers creating vintage look sneakers from brand new shoes. The effect is most obvious with his Jordans, whereby he speeds up yellowing, dyes the laces cream and applies some sort of finish to make the shoes look like they’ve been poorly stored for 25 years. It’s as impressive as it is puzzling to some.

New Balance 576 25th Anniversary

New Balance 576 ‘20th (and 25th) Anniversary’

Sometimes the vintage look works best when it’s subtle. New Balance did that with the 576 anniversary retro releases, which dialled back the colour saturation just a little without turning the uppers ashy. More impressively, they applied yellowing to the heel clip (aka MCD) to give it a gradient finish from the top edge down. This is most obvious with the 25th anniversary pairs.

PUMA Suede NeverWorn

PUMA Suede ‘NeverWorn’

The PUMA Suede has been around for over 50 years, so the brand released an edition this year that looked like it had been sitting in the archive the whole time. Yellowed midsoles are to be expected, which are also complete with grey smudging from ‘storage’. This pair's crusty brown, shellac-like glue staining at the edge of the midsole perfectly captures the 'fauxthentic' vintage look.

LECHEF STUDIO Air Jordan 1 Vintage Custom
Image Credit: @chefhuyle

LECHEF STUDIO

In a similar vein to Andrew Chiou, Huy Le washes sneakers with a vintage effect. Like most skilled customisers of this look, Le manages a natural look with his aged Air Jordan 1s and other 1980s basketball-inspired designs. With the AJ1, an extra level of detail is included: the collars are finely cracked and flaked, replicating a common trait of original 1985 pairs.

Want to see more cool customs? Check out what sneakerheads cooked up in April here.

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