Whatever your brand allegiance may be, there is no denying that 2016 was the year of the Three Stripes. Innovative technology, modern styling, hyped collaborations and strong partnerships with influential creatives meant that adidas shaped the sneaker scene like no other this year. It’s time to kick back and recap on all the highlights that saw adi climb from strength to strength in 2016.
NMD was born in the final weeks of 2015, debuting with a double drop of runners that quickly captured attention. In 2016, NMD exploded and expanded, becoming the biggest sneaker revolution of the year. There were countless drops, many as GR releases, but each and every one managed to attract line-ups and almost instant sell-outs. The NMD family expanded beyond its debut running silhouette to include variations like the laceless City Sock, the boot-style NMD Chukka, the caged XR_1and the all-new NMD_R2. On the material front, mesh, suede and other textiles were introduced in substitute for the OG’s Primeknit construction. Despite a trippy tie-dyed colab with Nice Kicks early in February, collaboration didn’t truly get rolling until the later months of 2016, including projects with the likes of Packer, Mastermind, Offspring and Bedwin & The Heartbreakers. The most hyped NMD colab of the year – and second only to the crazy-limited ‘Pitch Black’ NMD_R1 PK on the resell market – went to the duo of camo-clad NMD_R1s produced by A Bathing Ape. Available in both green and black colourways, this release was so highly sought after that it caused release shutdowns and riots with hype spilling over into ‘Pigeon Dunk’ proportions!
Despite NMD stealing limelight as the younger and sleeker Boost offspring in 2016, Ultra Boost was still very much front and centre in the Three Stripes spotlight. The Ultra Boost underwent a mass of alteration this year. The OG was subjected to both 2.0 and 3.0 updates, with each slightly tweaking the form-fitting Primeknit in addition to other slight modifications. Following in the footsteps of Hypebeast, Solebox took the silhouette down the ‘uncaged’ path in early 2016 for their Consortium colab. Having witnessed the praise for this streamlined iteration, adidas took the model back to the drawing board for a true sock-fit revision dubbed UltraBOOST Uncaged and released in late June. A total rework of the original model, the new Boost variation proved extremely popular, especially upon the introduction of Colour Boost – which finally brought colour to the standard stark white Boost cushioning. Parley also put their spin on the model, becoming their first collaboration to go into mass-production. Released in an initial drop of 7000 pairs, adidas have confirmed they will aim to produce more than a million units by the end of 2017.
The ACE 16+ Pure Control football also joined the Ultra Boost family this year – its laceless mid-cut translating perfectly into the athleisure sector. For his third Three Stripes collaboration, Pusha T managed to unite Ultra Boost and EQT with the debut of the EQT Ultra Boost PK ‘Grayscale’ at the start of December. To see out the end of 2016, Ronnie Fieg revealed the sock-fitting Ultra Boost Mid. Boost-hungry insanity naturally followed this much-hyped colab on release.
Kanye West continued his working relationship with the Three Stripes 2016, growing and evolving the Yeezy line in its second year. His shoes remained as highly sought after as they were elusive, despite a marked – and welcome – increase in volume. A re-release of the ‘Pirate Black’ Boost 350s in February kicked off the year with a frenzy. Rumours and leaks emerged all over the internet in the following months, though it wasn’t until June that we saw the next release with the ‘Light Grey’ Boost 750s featuring glow-in-the-dark midsoles. A ‘Chocolate’ Boost 750 would cause ‘#GlowGate’ later in the year, with some buyers claiming their midsoles glowed, while others weren’t so lucky. Tots were welcomed into the fold with the release of infant-sized ‘Turtle Dove’ and ‘Pirate Black’ 350s in August.
In September, a quick one-two combo expanded the line further and we were ‘happily’ surprised by the emergence of cleated 750s and 350s from left field – only to be blown away entirely by the Boost 350 V2 with the ‘Solar Red’ flash. In the spirit of great adidas upgrades, the V2 sported subtle changes that made all the difference. The already striking midsole became more pronounced with a wider base that lifted and sharpened the silhouette’s contours. In the closing months of 2016, four more V2 make-ups would hit shelves, three in time for Black Friday and one just before Christmas. Each of these featured a ‘Core Black’ base, but with different accent colours. Despite increasing supply, demand is yet to falter. Expect Yeezy fever to only grow in 2017.
EQT Support ADV
A new model for 2016, the EQT Support ADV was a triumph for adidas’ tech-heavy Equipment division. Released to commemorate the 25th anniversary of EQT, the ADV was a bold step into lifestyle territory with a sleek profile and lightweight construction that was aimed at the modern style-conscious consumer. Upholding the spirit of advancement that has driven the EQT range since 1991, the model launched in June with a Consortium ‘910’ make-up featuring a sock-like upper made of Dyneema – the most durable fabric in the world. Only 910 pairs were released, distributed exclusively through just nine Consortium partners globally. A slew of other releases followed over the remainder of the year, including a Consortium collaboration with Undefeated that toyed with material substitution. At Art Basel 2016, adidas revealed that they will be evolving the model further in 2017, revealing a Boost-based version dubbed the EQT Support 93/17. Welcome back EQT!
Hu by Pharrell Williams
Feeding into the already uncontrollable levels of NMD hype, Pharrell Williams was granted the opportunity to create one of the most desirable variations of the year – the Hu NMD. The model debuted with a sunshine-soaked iteration in mid-July, embellished with attention-grabbing stitching. The modified design introduced a new lacing system that made use of a low-slung TPU cage for a comfortable, moccasin-like fit. In late-September, Pharrell revealed the true scope of his vision with the release of a full Hu collection that saw the original ‘EQT Yellow’ model joined by a bunch of other bright colours – each of which called out an aspect of humanity via bold split-stitching.
Early in 2016, adidas embarked on the Consortium ‘World Tour’, a swashbuckling expedition to all corners of the sneaker globe. The end result was a wonderfully eclectic palette of materials, colour and styling. The Tour kicked off in January at Kith, NYC, with a woollen Tubular Doom. A line-up of hardy sneakerheads even held tight outside Kith through a fierce NYC blizzard that dumped three feet of snow and rising all over the intrepid Fieg-fans. Other North American stops included Boston, where Concepts dropped a pair of plush EQTs, and San Francisco, where Nice Kicks dropped a trippy tie-dyed NMD that fried minds quicker than a dose of brown acid. With the Far East in their sights, the cohort took to the air to jump the Pacific and touch down with Japan’s mita sneakers for an off-road Seeulater. In Seoul, Kasina treated us to a clean Superstar, before Shanghai’s Juice squeezed out a hairy Stan Smith. In Europe, Slam Jam sculpted a pristine Tubular Nova, while Starcow soothed our Samba blues. The UK’s END. guided us all to an oasis in the Sahara, where we found their olive-toned NMD_C1 and a ZX 700 Boat in sumptuous vachetta leather. Other stops at Footpatrol, Shoe Gallery and SNS left trails of thirsty sneakerheads in their wake.
A marvel of on-foot ingenuity, AlphaBOUNCE emerged on the scene in June. Developed through the use of ARAMIS motion-capture technology that analyses the human gait, the high-tech runner was precision engineered to target the key areas of the foot and provide maximum support and expansion through a combination of Bounce foam and Forgedmesh. The debut release flaunted a dappled make-up that was inspired by the motion-capture system used to create the next-gen runner. In November, the jazziness was wound back with a more restrained Engineered Mesh make-up deployed to increase airflow and breathability.
Announced at the end of 2015 with the launch of a 3D printed runner, Futurecraftrevealed further cutting-edge innovations in 2016. February brought us Tailored Fibre, a new manufacturing technique that can allow each shoe to be custom made to cater for the unique needs of each individual athlete for unparalleled bespoke comfort. An ocean friendly version was produced in July in collaboration with Parley. Just 50 pairs were released, available through an Instagram competition to raise awareness for the current unfortunate state of our oceans. In September, adidas unveiled the Speedfactory, an almost-autonomous robot-led production facility. First off the line was the Futurecraft M.F.G. (Made For Germany), a project that combined ARAMIS technology with a unique support system created using strips of fused material. All 500 pieces released to the public were snapped up super fast. The final chapter this year was Futurecraft Biofabric, a partnership with AMSilk. Woven from Biosteel fibre, the stunning shoe is completely biodegradable. We can expect plenty more innovation from Futurecraft in 2017 – the Three Stripes masterminds are just getting warmed up.
The Three Stripes made big moves on the court in 2016. The D Lillard 2.0, which made its debut in the final days of 2015, underwent a course of revisions throughout the year, including the introduction of Boost and Primeknit. A hit in all its forms, the Trailblazer’s silhouette was also added to the ever-growing list of silhouettes available through the miadidas customisation program in February. The Crazy Explosive was another tech-heavy court offering that combined Primeknit and Boost for peak performance. Following a highly publicised $200 million signing to adidas in 2015, James Harden’s much-anticipated debut Three Stripes signature shoe was finally released in December. Dubbed the Harden Vol. 1., the partnership bore a low-cut Primeknit silhouette with full-length Boost sole unit, asymmetrical lacing and solid colour-blocked toe.