Snobette celebrates its seventh year of celebrating the year’s best sneakers. Always a group effort, each year our list is informed by our panelists. This year we were lucky to have Aria Hughes, Kari Cruz, Brenda Zullo, Jasmine “Jixie” Gonzalez and Keia Kodama, all of whom are truly passionate about sneakers, create a list of their faves.
While there was a return to in-person in life in 2021, so much felt hemmed in by COVID-19‘s looming presence. While things started on a bright enough note with the arrival of vaccines, it ended on cloudy note with the rise of Omicron, which seemingly washed over an already heavy-hearted world in December.
Still, sneaker brands did their best to keep projects on track and the year was full of bright and beautiful projects and while the vast majority were rooted in classic models, there was plenty of innovation. Sadly, sneaker culture lost Virgil Abloh, one of its most brilliant leaders in November. Ever the artist, Abloh was the rare designer capable of intersecting art and commerce, creating shoes as much magical as grounded in the 10-toes down swagger that defines streetwear.
In simplistic terms, Nike and Off-White’s “The 50” is one single silhouette repeated 50 times, but if you look at the shoes presented in total, it’s just as much an art project study in color and a statement on the culture. Forty-nine pairs of shoes end with a single black sneaker, which can viewed as Virgil Alboh’s role as a Black designer within the luxury fashion space as well as Black people’s vast contribution to sneaker culture in contrast to how they’re actually represented within the companies that draft off their ideas. Ever the optimistic, Abloh’s “The 50” shoe may begin with 49 white shoes but the story ends with a black one, putting down the seeds for a different sort of future.
Three of our five panelist selected this shoe. This shoe was very much the dream for female sneaker lovers who have persistently said they just want what the guys have. The fact that the launch put women first just sealed the deal.
Comme des Garçons‘ collabs with Nike sit in their own universe and it’s clear the brand pretty much has free reign to do as it wishes. This year it managed to add a light touch to a very weighty shoe and found appeal with lifelong Foam lovers as well as a new crowd wowed by what is simply a dope shoe.
With dirty Air Force 1 jokes abounding on social media, Aimé Leon Dore‘s Teddy Santis came to the rescue with his reintroduction of New Balance‘s 550 silhouette. Sturdy and yet still cute, the shoe is experiencing a wave moment among the SoHo sneaker girls that has yet to crest.
Every year there’s a sneaker that the fashion boys and girls fall and love with and this year the improbably Lanvin wowed the crowd with Curb, a shoe recalling the chunkier skate shoes of yore and a perfect fit for the looser fitting trouser cuts that took wing this year.
Patta through its Nike collaborations has built a reputation of bringing of-the-moment color and graphic stories. This year the brand as lead by Vincent van de Waal delighted with an Air Mar Max 1 sneaker whose mud guards were softened with a wavy edge, a seemingly small yet huge adjustment.
Launched in 2021, Saysh reflects the force of personality that is Olympian Allyson Felix. The brand was her response to Nike’s decision to lowball her during contract renewals because her worth as a sprinter was viewed as less because she had become a mother. Like Kanye West and Jerry Lorenzo before her, Felix turned a Nike no into just doing something greater. Putting an exclamation point on the statement, she won her 10th Olympic medal wearing a cleated version of the Saysh One.
While the YEEZY Foam Runner launched in 2020, it really took over during summer 2021 when it began to regularly appear on people’s feet. While often compared to Merrell‘s Hydro Moc, in truth the Foam Runner is a much more fashionable with a unusual curved upper recalling Alexander McQueen‘s Armadillo heel. Like the Lanvin Curb, the Runner also benefited from a opened up pants silhouette favoring more substantial footwear.
Now on her fifth shoe, Aleali May has shown a uncanny ability to mix material and color stories that feel perfect for the moment. For her Air Jordan Retro 14 silhouette, the shoe’s stylish sand-colored hairy suede upper made a quiet yet potent statement with marbled jade green hits on the outsole and a metallic gold shank plate. Reflecting the shoe’s resonance, we spotted the shoe on more women at ComplexCon than just about any other shoe.
Reebok‘s Club C has been embraced by the Downtown/Williamsburg crowd as a good-looking classic sneaker silhouette that doesn’t try too hard. Designer Danielle Guizio understood the assignment when she made created a subtly stylish shoe highlighted by too cute fuzzy laces and a raw tongue finished with a daisy tag. A testament to its popularity, the shoe was priced at $120 and six months following its launch the shoe continues to command a premium price on StockX.