If there’s a common thread that stood out with Snobette’s Sneaker Award‘s top 10 list for 2023, it’s a celebration of unique color stories. This year’s No. 1 pick was Adidas Originals Samba made in collaboration with Wales Bonner, a shoe whose liquid silver color story made it impossible to ignore. Contrast that with our No. 1 shoe in 2022, the seriously classic Nike Panda Dunk.
Our list is a combination of our own picks as informed by our five panelists, all of whom are sneaker culture veterans with a deep appreciation for the culture. Thanks to JerLisa, the Sneaky Leak Podcast, CNK Daily’s Channing Beumer and Cassidy Edwards (who are about to open a Dallas store!) and Raven Villareal. Without them we’re nothing!
Check out our top 10 picks below.
There’s no denying that 2023 was Samba’s year and Wales Bonner’s liquid silver version of the shoe, released in June, was the match that blew the trend sky high. The shoe was a case study in synergy, drawing together the streamlined appeal of Terrace shoes with the current popularity of the sport, all of which was capped by the shoe’s metallic silver hue, a color that appeared to come out of nowhere but ended up as the lowkey highkey color of the year, underscored to no small part by Beyoncé‘s “Renaissance World Tour,” a veritable living breathing disco ball.
Ambush‘s Yoon Ahn has been partnering with Nike since 2019 and is offically the brand’s global women’s curator. While all of her Nike silhouettes have been well received, there was something especially appealing about her Lilac version of the Air Uptempo, redesigned as a low silhouette. Perhaps it was the unexpected combinationof lilac and green but whatever it was, the shoe popped off and drew in as many men as women, both of whom were inspired by the irresistable color story.
Colombian artist J Balvin‘s take on the Air Jordan 3 was a big hit with our five panelists, three of which included it on their lists. The shoe is underscored by the popularity of the J3 silhouette (panelist JerLisa describes it as her “all time fave”) which J Balvin elevated with pops of color that lifted the shoe but didn’t overwhelm it. With the color story concentrated on the back end of the shoe, it was indeed very much like the Medellín, Colombia, sunset it was named after.
Let’s be real, there is no better story teller in the game right now than Joe “Freshgoods” Robinson, whose talent for translating cultural touchpoints that have inspired him into shoe and apparel stories is unmatched. And though most of Joe’s marketing targets men, he’s always translated as a guy who actually likes women, a feeling made real with his Belly-themed campaign for his New Balance 990v4, which very intentionally shines a light on actress Taral Hicks, the 1998 film’s female co-star.
Martine Rose‘s bold take on Nike’s Shox is very much if you-know-you-know for the fashion girlies. The shoe’s squared-off extended toe box was a giant no for the average sneaker lover and in reality the silhouette was anything but an instant seller, and yet it stood out as the unofficial official shoe of any stylish event whether Art Basel in Miami or the various Fashion Weeks. This is Martine Rose’s fourth and most colorful Shox mule to date, putting it squarely on the mark with this year’s celebration of color.
If there is a poster child for this year’s color celebration trend, it’s Nike Zoom Vomero 5 x Doernbecher shoe, designed by 10-year-old, Chinese American Jaren Heacock. Born in the year of the dragon, Heacock says the shoe is inspired by the fire-breathing mythical creature, which he described as “strong, fierce, courageous and brave,” (not unlike himself!) The shoe also speaks to Heacock’s love of Legos and Minecraft, adding a gameified element which was almost as big a trend as color this year.
Alongside the Samba, 2023 was a banner year for Salomon‘s XT-6 sneaker. The news of Sandy Liang‘s version of the shoe started out at a simmer but turned into a raging fire by the time of the official shoe launch. Pre-launched at a party held a the New York-based label’s Lower East Side boutique, the shoe was unexpectedly sold out by the end of the event, further ratcheting up buzz around the shoe. Perfectly mirroring Sandy Liang’s feminine yet practical-minded city girl aesthetic, the designer has described the shoe as “a celebration for the person who runs the trails in a dress.”
New York-based designer Tulie Yaito has cultivated a loyal and cult following for her Yaito knot bags, a silhouette that instantly sells out whenever it comes available. Perfectly conveying the look and feel of her bags, Yaito’s collaboration with Adidas Originals on a Forum Hi sneaker was simply cool. Starting with a head-turning spotted pony skin textile on the upper, Yaito upped the ante with hits of bright blue, green, red and yellow and and created a banger in the process.
New York-based designer John “Jae Tips” Cotton took sneaker culture by surprise this year with a color-packed Saucony that evaporated upon arrival. When he returned in November with the Saucony Grid Shadow, a silhouette whose story was rooted in romance, the buzz was palpable from the moment the shoes were posted on his social feeds. Combining a talent for eye for color with a gregarious, big New York personality, Jae Tips was the underdog everyone in sneaker culture was rooting for this year.
Talk about a British invasion! London-based Corteiz designer Clint Ogbenna in May took New York by storm with a mean Nike Air Max 95 SP that started with a billboard on 34th Street and ended with a mad dash to a bodega in the Lower East Side. Bringing it back to the streets, literally, Ogbenna reenergized sneaker culture and taught his friends across the pond a thing or too about story telling.