Footwear collaborations are dime a dozen, with celebrities, athletes, streetwear purveyors, and even consumer goods manufacturers working with a well-known footwear brand to put something together that’s representative of both identities. Sometimes, it’s incredibly ordinary – think about Vans’ MLB line – and in others, it underwhelms. Gosha Rubchinskiy’s slip-on, techy shoes for Adidas represent one semi-disappointing endeavour, while JW Anderson’s effort with Converse belies what we see on the runway. Or, as a third possibility, it turns into an ugly but strangely successful vanity project, like the Yeezy Boost series. So, within the myriad of possibilities, what are the best collaborations proper menswear (or even streetwear-leaning menswear) houses have done? Looking to current shoes and memorable past efforts, we’ve put together a list:
If you were to look at this shoe’s ridged exterior, complete with military hues and pops of colour on the outsole, would you automatically think Kiko Kostadinov? Perhaps the sneakerheads tracking his every collaboration might, but unless you were to spot them at one of his runway presentations, they’d come off like somewhat fashionable, avant-garde trail runners. And, with colourways named 'Pine Green,' 'Rosewood Brown,' and 'Cement Black,' it’s clear that the Bulgarian designer envisioned this as a transitional shoe: Striking enough for the city, but willing to blend in with the outdoors. In terms of functionality, too, ASICS’ standard properties are all there: responsive, lightweight FlyteFoam cushioning, shock-absorbing GEL technology, and a TPU heel stabilizer for better control.
Given that Riccardo Tisci was still shaping Givenchy into the streetwear powerhouse it has now become when this shoe dropped in 2014, it’s surprising it wasn’t covered in camouflage and digital floral prints. That, with trench coat-like silhouettes and placement graphics, essentially defined this era for the brand, and with that in mind, this collaboration comes off as extremely understated. Maybe, in hindsight, that was the point. Nike, too, was new at high-end fashion collaborations, and the “Vanchetta Tan” marked its first official move into luxury territory. The result keeps the standard Air Force 1 silhouette intact, all while infusing it with a work boot-esque colourway and accenting it with a greyscale-striped strap by the ankle. It’s subtle, and unless you’re up-to-date on the latest footwear news, it comes off as a neutral, if not timeless sneaker boot.
Speaking of sneaker boots, this decade-old relic – Watanabe’s final collaboration with Nike for Comme Des Garcons – tips the balance more in favour of fashion. You can picture the typical sneaker boot in your head: A tall, laced-up style with prominent cushioning and other athletic features. Watanabe, here, flips the script. More boot and with just a murmuring of its trainer origins, this zippered, high-top style accented with a buckle strap and featuring minimal panelling and faint branding is more ready for the city sidewalks and street photography than it is for the basketball court. Context wise, you’d pair this with some Hood By Air for some early 2010 health goth vibes.
A few years before Raf Simons cooped the art of New Order’s seminal 1983 dance music album Power, Corruption and Lies – designed by famed graphic designer Peter Saville – Supreme splattered this floral pattern – itself taken from French artist Henri Fantin-Latour’s 'A Basket of Roses' – all over Vans’ keystone silhouettes. It was a bold and fairly unpredictable move for the New York-based skate brand. After all, these days, their collaborations consist of splashing their red-and-white logo over a familiar piece, calling it a day, and waiting for the hypebeasts to lap it all up. Thus, in what’s probably one of Supreme’s strongest efforts, these skate shoes keep it classic, still seem distinctive, and best of all, keep the heavy branding out of the picture.
When your branding isn’t so heavy-handed, what you get is this collaboration – essentially a second-fiddle to Abloh’s work with Nike but a bit more wearable. Simplicity, irony and directness have been at the core of Abloh’s Off-White, and those factors emerge here in small doses. A nearly white high-top silhouette seems unassuming – you’ve seen these types of kicks before – but faded blue gradient details along the midsole give it an ethereal, almost otherworldly quality. As the final touch, Abloh intentionally hits it on the nose with 'Vulcanized' printed along the side.
Denim materials with footwear – it’s not an entirely new concept. We’ve seen Converse shoes like this over the years, and these days, seeing chambray on a pair of boat shoes just emphasises their warm-weather character. But, with basketball shoes, it’s a bit jarring and contradictory – after all, on the court, your feet have to breathe and move, and denim frankly feels a little heavy. Of course, you won’t be taking these kicks down to your local rec centre. And, keeping in mind that some sneakerhead will likely keep these on a shelf, Levi’s went all out with the details. Colour-blocking in multiple denim washes replicates the classic silhouette, but the woven material extends to the lining, the shoelaces weren’t left out, and branding on the tongue replicates the patch on the back of your jeans. In short, it’s intricate but not flashy, and displays the effort both brands put into this shoe.
Article by Menswear Style