The Kicks You Wear, Vol. 23 — A decade of kicks, defined

Hype was the key to this decade in sneakers.

Good morning! Welcome back to The Kicks You Wear! So glad to be back with you all ahead of the holiday this week.

Today’s shoutout goes to Twitter for showing your boy love after I took my first SNKRS dub. The streak is over, y’all! 1-38! And what a way to end it with those Off White Dunks. What do we think? Should I keep them or flip them?

A bit of housekeeping here. With the holiday coming up, I’m taking the next week off. I’ll still be around, but most of that time will be with family. I’ll be back on January 3rd with some dope ass content for y’all. I promise.

Before I dip, though, I’ve got some good end-of-decade content for y’all. Let’s dig in.

Hype defined Sneaker Culture this decade

(Photo by Verena Yunita Yapi on Unsplash)

Heading in to 2010, sneakers were still considered a subculture. It was growing — booming from the aftermath of the Nike SB wave. But it was still considered a counter culture.

That all changed this decade. The sneaker game that was once underground rose to the mainstream. Hype powered the industry, and that led to sneaker culture being put in front of eyes that would never have seen it otherwise.

Sneakers were about community before. It was about building connections with people to get shoes that only you and a certain group of people heard of. That still exists, but it isn't like it was.

  • There was once a time where you had to walk to Foot Locker to check the drop calendar and see what was on the way. Eastbay was a roadmap. It was the only way you could know what was coming.

  • Some of the shoes we love now would sit on shelves. SB’s, Jordan 1’s, Adidas Superstars. They weren’t what people were wearing. Only a certain type of person cared about them.

That changed somewhere in the 2000’s. There are multiple moments where you can see it happening — I always go back to the 2009 Space Jam release, but there are plenty more.

  • Drops literally drove people crazy this decade. Just start at the beginning. People rioted over the Galaxy Foamposite in 2012. They thirsted for two years over the Air Yeezy 2 Red October until it dropped in 2014. Thousands of people had online meltdowns over “The Ten” in 2017.

  • All of this hype and desperation to get exclusive sneakers drove the secondary sneaker market’s value up to as much as $1 billion, some analysts say. This is why we have StockX and GOAT and Grailed and everything else we use to buy kicks on resale. None of that existed when this decade started.

  • The industry’s leaders also leaned in on the hype. Nike with the SNKRS app, Yeezy Supply and Yeezy, so on and so forth.

All of this has opened a door that isn’t closing anytime soon. Hype translates to dollars and engaged communities. People are willing to fork over wads of cash for shoes they might never wear. That’s insane, but it’s what collectors do.

Sneaker culture is still evolving. We’ll have to wait and see what comes next. Community is coming back but it’s online now instead of in real life. Social media has changed the way we do sneakers and, as it continues to evolve, so will the culture.

The 2020’s are already off to a great start. Women are finally being paid attention to in the community more. Smaller, local artists are getting shots to collab with big brands — think Nike By You and the Fearless Collection. These are creatives who know the culture and know the people. Not just the big stars. We've also got more brands taking deeper dives into lifestyle as the sneaker market explodes.

If there’s more of all that in the 2020’s then sign me up.

Adidas won the decade off of Nike’s biggest mistake

(Photo by Jairus Gallimore on Unsplash)

Letting Kanye West walk out the door may be the biggest mistake Nike has ever made as a company.

The hype behind the Air Yeezy 2 was palpable. Again, people were going NUTS over that shoe. It might be the single greatest sneaker Nike has ever released and it’s most certainly West’s best project to date.

Yet, it’s not hard to figure out why Nike let West go.

  • This was the Swoosh’s first non-athlete collab. West was a rapper. A multi-million dollar sneaker deal for an entertainer was unprecedented, uncharted territory.

  • BUT West’s success with Nike after two initial signature sneaker launches proved that what he is now was definitely a possibility. They just lacked the foresight to figure that out.

That’s where Adidas stepped in. They ponied up the cash and signed West to a deal that was reportedly worth $10 million in 2013. Fast forward and West’s Yeezy brand is a multi-million dollar entity on its way to a billion. It’s also the sneaker industry’s biggest hype machine to date.

  • West’s biggest, most popular Adidas launch in the Yeezy 350 v2s had an average price premium of 172% in the aftermarket by 2017, according to data provided to me by StockX. In other words, West’s most popular shoe was selling for almost triple what it was worth in retail on the aftermarket.

  • That value has depressed a bit since West widened production, but that’s because they conquered the hype market and are beginning to flip that into something tangible for the company.

But it doesn’t just stop at their success with West. Their boost technology made them a pioneer in the athleisure space. They found a way to make shoes that were comfortable, yet functional.

  • Boost was featured in Adidas’ most popular shoes. The NMD, the Yeezys, everything. But most notably the Adidas Ultraboost.

  • The Ultra Boost changed the game. It was a sock-like runner that felt like it may literally have been a cloud. It’s still one of the most comfortable shoes in the game today and it can be worn with almost anything.

Adidas turned boost into its bell cow and they’re still reaping the benefits today. On December 31, 2009 the company’s stock was valued at $27.19 per share. Today, it’s over $160.

They’re not done yet either. Adidas is ahead of the game when it comes to creating environmentally friendly kicks. They’re also 3D printing sneakers which, quite simply, is dope as hell.

Innovation has been Adidas’ thing this decade. They did it better than anyone else and rose to a plateau they’d never been to before. Hopefully, in the next decade, we see more of that.

Bonus: Let me know what you think

Shoutout to my guy Sumeet Shah for this idea. There’s a million and one choices we could make about which brand had the best decade. The criteria is super fluid.

So I want to know what you think. I created a poll to see who you think had the best decade and who will have the best decade in the 2020’s. Click here to take that.

My sneakers of the decade

Get ready to roast me.

I put together a list of what I think were the most impactful shoes from this decade. I’ve already mentioned a few. There might be some on here that you disagree with, too.

It’s hard to choose. This year alone had a ton of heat that moved the culture. Going back and revisiting some of these other classics was hard. I hope you dig it.

10. Galaxy Foamposite (2012)

When this shoe dropped they literally had to shut down stores across the country because things got so out of control. This might have been the last great basketball sneaker that was actually made for basketball. It had it all. Aesthetics, functionality, hype. It was the complete package.

9. Travis Scott x Air Jordan 1 (2019)

Travis Scott has already hit double digits in collaborations with Nike and Jordan and there are only more on the way. Scott is Nike’s rebound from the Kanye West situation and it’s been a great one so far. This was one of the most influential sneakers of 2019.

8. Nike x Sacai LD Waffle (2019)

This shoe was one of the most creative pieces we got in 2019. It took a model that was rarely used and turned it into a piece of art. It also reached the mainstream in a way we never see these days. Also, y’all, the double layering of the shoe is a fucking chef’s kiss.

7. Adidas Ultra Boost (2015)

Just scroll up — Adidas had the best decade of any brand and it’s partially because of this shoe. That’s enough to make this list.

6. Sean Wotherspoon Air Max 97/1 (2018)

This shoe felt like the peak of creativity in sneakers. It mashed up two classics in the Air Max 97 and Air Max 1 and threw colorful cuts of corduroy on them to make them different from anything we’d ever seen before. Wotherspoon became a legend and this shoe became iconic. Like the Waffle, it attracted non-sneaker heads into the culture. The hype was real.

5. Fenty Creeper (2016)

First of all, anything involving Rihanna from this decade is automatically considered. Second, this shoe was everything. It was made for women by a woman that breached a culture that didn’t traditionally care about women. Plus, this is where Puma's rebirth starts. It’s Hall of Fame in my book.

4. Adidas Yeezy 350 v2 Berluga (2016)

West’s Yeezy 350 v1 was impressive, but it was also a bit boring as far as color palette goes. The Berluga was West’s signal to the public that the 350 was going to a different level. It’s his best shoe since the Air Yeezy II and Adidas’ new signature kick. In 30 years, this will be what the Superstar is for us today. A timeless classic.

3. LeBron 8 South Beach (2010)

Outside of the Jordan line, which isn’t really considered basketball anymore, this is the greatest basketball shoe of all time. It’s ironic that it came to us when LeBron James was considered a villain in the sports world. This shoe didn’t even really come with hype. It was just that good. Generally, you can’t find it for less than a stack these days.

2. Off White x Jordan “Chicago” AJ1 (2017)

I feel like this is the sneaker that made us all want to fight Nike’s SNKRS app. This drop reenergized Nike after Yeezy’s 2016 takeover and was also Nike’s first real foray into a large project of this kind outside of a signature athlete. It changed the brand’s trajectory and, on top of that, was just a dope ass shoe. Everyone still wants this.

1. Air Yeezy II “Red October” (2014)

There’s not much more I can say about this shoe. It’s both Nike’s and Kanye West’s most notable project ever. They haven’t been able to come close since. There’s a reason why people pay 10s of thousands of dollars for this shoe.

That’s the list. Now drag me.

What’s droppin’, bruh

That’s a wrap! I will see y’all in 2020. I hope you all have an amazing holiday and a fantastic start to the new year. This is going to be our year, people. I just know it.

Don’t forget to tell a friend to tell another friend to subscribe to the Kicks You Wear. I love y’all. Be easy. Be kind. Peace and love.

Signing off.

Sykes 💯