The word “unpredictable” immediately comes to mind when thinking back to all of the wild sneaker trends that occurred in 2020. At the beginning of last January, someone of only Miss Cleo’s ilk could have forecasted that a New Balance shoe would be among the hottest NBA All-Star Weekend sneaker releases. Or that the Nike Dunk would shake off a mothball or two to become 2020’s de-facto “it” shoe.
But that was last year, and this is now.
So what’s on tap for 2021? Another Joe Freshgoods and New Balance collaboration? Original Air Jordan 6 colorways with “Nike Air” on the heel? An Off-White x Nike Air Shake NDESTRUKT to celebrate the craggy performance hoops model’s upcoming 25th anniversary? Time will tell.
With an eye to the future, let’s take a stab at predicting five sneaker stories and trends that will dominate headlines in the months ahead.
More Nike Dunks. Lots More.
We touched on it in the intro and it bears repeating—the Nike Dunk had one helluva 2020. The likes of Travis Scott, Virgil Abloh, and even Ben & Jerry’s and the Grateful Dead, for crying out loud, all lined up to put their respective spins on the shoe last year. If that wasn’t enough, usual suspects associated with the SB Dunk like StrangeLove Skateboards and Concepts released coveted colorways, as well, so there was something for every kind of Dunk connoisseur. Will the trend continue in 2021? We have no reason to think that it won’t, if the Dunk’s appearance on the Nike By You app or the six (!) Dunks releasing on January 14th are an indication. Hot take: Expect Nike to roll out the red carpet for the shoe, SB variant and regular models alike, in the near future. More Dunks on sneaker store shelves is never a bad thing.
(Image courtesy of adidas and Joshua Kissi)
Jerry Lorenzo/Fear of God x adidas + the Restart of adidas Basketball
Late in December, before everyone settled into the stupor of the holiday season, adidas shocked the sneaker and streetwear stratospheres by announcing it had reached a long-term partnership with Jerry Lorenzo and his Fear of God clothing line. Lorenzo, who had previously been under contract with Nike, revealed his alliance with the German footwear brand on his Instagram account with a dauntless photo of his newly minted Three Stripes neck tattoo. Game on. The headline of adidas’s press release reads “Adidas and Fear of God Reimagine the Future of Adidas Basketball,” and one doesn’t have to think twice about how adidas is angling its groundbreaking union with Fear of God: there will be an emphasis on revitalizing adidas’s hoops segment under Lorenzo’s creative guidance. What does that mean for adidas, Lorenzo, and Fear of God? Perhaps a Fear of God x adidas performance basketball shoe in the vein of the adidas Yeezy QNTM. Lorenzo might be tasked to add his input to James Harden’s signature line, one would have to think. Heck, could a Fear of God x adidas Crazy 8 be on the distant horizon? Stranger things have happened.
New Balance Picks Up Where it Left Off in 2020
New Balance came for all the smoke last year. Let’s run that last sentence back, and this time when you read it, let the words really sink in for a moment before proceeding. New Balance came for all the smoke last year. Wow. If that felt as good to re-read as it was for us to type out again, then here’s a virtual Stone Cold salute to the New England based brand bringing that same energy into 2021. New Balance fans have never needed a new model to stay enthusiastic. Some inventive collaborations with up-and-coming creatives, a few dozen wearable 992s, and letting Aime Leon Dore’s Teddy Santis unearth an obscure performance basketball shoe from the ‘80s were tailor-made for today’s vintage-obsessed zeitgeist, and just what the doctor ordered last year. More of the same in 2021? Hell yeah!
The Air Jordan 1 Mid Has a Moment in 2021
All signs point to the Air Jordan 1 Mid being bigger than ever in 2021. In 2019, the Jordan 1 Mid was on everyone’s radar when it was tapped by Jordan Brand as part of an expansive “Fearless” campaign, which included the release of Los Angeles based jewelry designer Melody Ehsani’s popular gold watch-clad colorway. Last year, more Jordan 1 Mids followed, including many that either directly or indirectly paid homage to some of the most storied designs in the silhouette’s history, like the “Chicago Black Toe,” one of our highest-selling models to-date. This year, we expect more of the same from Jordan Brand in regards to pumping out Air Jordan 1 Mids. Maybe even an unexpected collaboration, or two? Stay tuned.
Party Like it's ‘96
As much as Nike spent 2020 progressing sneaker technology forward, it also looked inward for inspiration by throwing year-long anniversary parties for keystone models in its collection. The Air Jordan 5 and Air Max 90 turned 30-years-old last year, while the Air Jordan 11 and Air Max 95 celebrated a quarter century of anchoring sneaker rotations. Could other sneaker brands in addition to Nike, like adidas, Reebok, and more follow suit with anniversary bashes of their own? It wouldn’t be out of the question to see many of the greatest kicks originally released in the year 1996 return in 2021 to lap up retro glory on their 25th anniversaries. Some models to keep an eye out for: the Nike Air More Uptempo, Nike Air Shake NDESTRUKT, Nike Air Max CB34, Nike Air Penny 2, Reebok Question, Reebok Kamikaze 2, Reebok Shaqnosis, and the adidas EQT Top Ten 2000. Seriously, 1996 was the greatest sneaker year ever.