The Unexpected Sneaker Hits of 2021
2021 has had its fair share of surprises, from colabs all the way to OGs that've been resurrected and embraced by the mainstream. Becoming a hit in today’s sneakersphere is no easy feat, and can be achieved when there’s a mix of high-profile linkups with clean GR offerings and sometimes even a celebrity endorsement. But occasionally something left-field or obscure arrives, something largely unanticipated that seems like it would fail, but ends up succeeding! So here they are, the unexpected sneaker hits of 2021.
The Yeezy 450 was created by Ye (formerly known as Kanye West), Steven Smith and the Yeezy team, who’ve all been experimenting with new innovative silhouettes and it's undoubtedly one of their most enamouring sneakers to date.
Originally, it seemed that many weren't vibing the multi-pronged look, however after the dust settled, it turns out that fans couldn’t get enough, and still can't. It’s now been released in a plethora of colourways, and is slowly becoming a mainstay of the brand. Will it continue to reign in 2022?
Back in the early 2000s everyone wanted to get themselves some Bathing Apes, and now the same can be said in 2021. Toward the tail-end of last year, BAPE rounded it out with a bang, not only engaging in collaborative efforts with Reebok, but sharing the news that the OG shape of the BAPE STA would be returning.
With guns blazing, they shared their Spring 2021 lineup which was stacked and included stars such as the SK8 STA, BLOCK STA HI, STA 93 HI, COURT STA and the tried and true BAPE STA. They then found themselves on the feet of today's moodboard-savvy and the modern-day upper echelon of trendsetters. Unleashing killer colabs with the likes of adidas, New Balance, Gunna and ASICS later this year, they have further cemented themselves into the current sneaker space.
So it’s happened, Crocs are cool, and there’s nothing we – or you – can do about it. The US-based comfy foam shoe makers have experienced an epic popularity bump this year, along with a batch of high-profile colabs.
The most well received was from creative Salehe Bembury, coming through with his own take on the clog. Balenciaga also exacerbated the hype, beefing up the slip-on and placing them on the feet of the high-fashion elite. Much more in-the-know brands such as BEAMS and thisneverthat also jumped on the Crocs train. Just a trend or here to stay?
An OG hardwood hero, the adidas Forum made a comeback in 2020 through a slew of highly-limited collaborations with local sneaker boutiques. Following the initial hoopla, adidas decided to hit us with a non-stop flurry of GRs which absolutely flooded the market.
Surprisingly though, in 2021 the Forum hype continued with help from Prada, Bad Bunny and of course the king of weird, Jeremy Scott. Then came Kerwin Frost with his wacky and wonderful takes for the youth – which were all lapped up, confirming that the Forum is still relevant.
New Balance 2002R
New Balance have been on a tear over the past few years as banger after banger hits the shelves. Their catalogue of iconic classics – whether a MADE edition or not – continues to garner eyeballs and empty wallets. A stand-out (which returned last year) is the 2002R, which we really didn’t think would get the mainstream attention that it has.
Following the obvious Bembury and BAPE colabs was the ‘Protection Pack’, with its unique look which spoke to both the mainstream and niche sneaker fanatics. Although the 2002R was already quite popular when the specialised pack hit, it’s fair to say that it accelerated its allure.
Comme des Garçons x Nike Air Foamposite
The final unexpected hit of 2021 (so far) is the collaborative Comme des Garçons x Nike Air Foamposite. A standout drop for the year, it had the avant-garde house dip their toes into the realm of the polyurethane sneaker, reinventing them with swirls throughout the upper.
The Foam definitely has declined in popularity over the past decade, catering to a niche fan base of hardcore heads and not necessarily perceived as ‘cool’ by the wider sneaker audience. Surprisingly CDG did it, bringing the silhouette front and centre, giving it a brand new look and catapulting it into rotations and right back onto the radars of enthusiasts.