The Kicks You Wear, Vol. 26 — Defining dominance in sneakers
What the heck does that mean?
|Mike D. Sykes, II||Jan 10|| 2|
Good morning! Happy Friday! Shoutout to you for making it through the work week. Welcome back to The Kicks You Wear! Thanks for giving me a bit of your time this morning.
Today’s shoutout goes to all of the good folks and beautiful wildlife in Australia that have been affected by the brush fires ravaging the continent right now. My thoughts, prayers and love goes to all of you right now.
With that out of the way, let’s dig in.
What makes a sneaker valuable?
I told you all that hype defined sneakers last decade and it definitely did. I outlined all the reasons why here, so I won’t rehash those.
This tweet from NPD Group retail analyst Matt Powell got me thinking, though.
That link Powell shared highlights the sneakers that the UK’s Fashion United believes will dominate this next year. They’re all exclusive collaborations of some kind or another. Among them:
The Dior x Jordan 1 collab that you see in the tweet.
Travis Scott’s Nike Dunk collab.
New Balance and their continued success with streetwear collaborators.
Yeezy’s 5 year anniversary
And Virgil Abloh’s continued collaborations with Nike
As you can see, none of those are run-of-the-mill kicks. These are all going to go crazy on the secondary market. They’re exclusive, they’re rare and they’re going to get expensive.
By hype standards these will be “dominant.” But as far as profit margins go? They aren’t going to move the needle for their companies. The quantities will be entirely too limited. They’ll make more on the secondary market than they will at retail.
That leads us back to the question: What is dominant for a sneaker? The answer seems to be dependent on what you value as a company.
If profit margins matter more to you then you probably wouldn’t consider these shoes to be “dominant.” You won’t reap the benefits immediately. These sneakers that generate the most hype are basically overhead — they grow your name but don’t make you money.
If you care about growing market share then these shoes matter most to your. They’re a way to insert yourself into the hype machine. Put your shoe on the foot of a big name (hi, Travis Scott) and your shoe is all over Instagram.
There are questions about how much that latter part matters. Does Travis Scott’s AJ1 being all over IG lead to people buying other Nikes? No idea. Nike’s direct sales numbers would likely say no. But I do know that Jordan had an incredible year and it’s no coincidence that Travis’ Jordan did, too.
At the same time, this is exactly why performance (aka basketball) wear will never die. This is how brands actually make their money — through accessible product and innovation.
Basically, LeBron James’ signature sneakers, as ugly as they are, will always make more money in direct sales for Nike simply because there are more and they fit a specific athletic need.
It’s also why things like Nike’s Adapt BB basketball shoe or Adidas’ Parley runner stuff is so important. That’s the peak of innovation and performance. That’s what their real moneymaker is going to be.
If you’re someone like Powell, you don’t care about what Yeezy’s are doing on StockX. You only care about what they do for Adidas bottom line.
I’ve got to say, though, I just don’t know if there’s a world where I reasonably can say James Harden’s signature shoe is ever as powerful or important as literally anything Kanye West does in sneakers.
That’s just me though.
The circles Nike is literally running around everyone
Remember the Nike Vaporfly Next% that literally had people shattering records day after day?
For all of the non-runners out there like me, this is the shoe that had Eliud Kipchoge running a sub-two hour marathon.
Literally a day later Brigid Kosgei broke a world record in the Chicago marathon wearing the same shoe.
Well, the public has that shoe now. And it’s a best seller. So good, in fact, that it’s apparently running everyone else’s business into the ground — particularly Asics and Mizuno, Bloomberg reports.
Here’s what’s happening: Japanese sneaker brands Asics and Mizuno have always played a big role in Japan’s Hakone Ekiden — a relay marathon race stretching over more than 124 miles between Tokyo and Hakone over a two day period.
A big chunk of contestants in the race normally opt to wear Asics and Mizuno sneakers. Not this year.
More than 84% of contestants ran wearing Nike’s Vaporfly Next% sneakers according to stats compiled by Ekiden News — including the winning team from Tokyo’s Aoyama Gakuin university.
It’s not just Asics and Mizuno that were impacted by Nike’s presence — the winning team typically wore Adidas until this year. It’s just how far the Japanese shoemaker’s numbers dropped that make this so fascinating.
By the numbers: Asics had 51 runners in the race last year. This year they had just seven. Mizuno shrunk to nine this year from 24 last year. Those are both massive dips.
This is sure to bring the Vaporfly Next% back into the spotlight after so many runners opted to wear them this year. The issue so many people had with the shoe was that it’s build actively gives runners an advantage when racing. Why would you wear anything else? Especially when everyone else is already wearing them.
This is a super extreme example, but it’s kind of like the justification for steroids in baseball that people were using in the 1990’s. If everyone else is getting this advantage then, as a runner, it’s almost impossible for you to win if you’re not getting it. It almost becomes a requirement.
Now, the question is how fair is that to other runners and running shoe manufacturers.
The answer is complex. It’s not as simple as “just make a better shoe and people will flock to it.” It took Nike years to perfect this sneaker and they’re ahead of the game as it is.
It’s too early to tell where the discourse about this shoe will take us, but it’s pretty fair to say we won’t be figuring this out anytime soon.
In the meantime, Nike and their runners will probably continue to just keep winning and shattering records until they can’t do otherwise.
The most important shoe in basketball
Speaking of Nike’s innovations, I talk about basketball a lot here and rightfully so — it’s a foundational pillar of the sneaker community.
But one thing I haven’t talked about as much is Nike’s Adapt BB. It launched last season as the first ever self-lacing shoe designed specifically for basketball.
You can adjust the fit and how tight the shoe grips your foot straight from your phone. It’s pretty incredible stuff.
We saw it on a number of up and coming Nike athletes like De’Aaron Fox, Jayson Tatum and, formerly, Kyle Kuzma when he was with the swoosh just to name a few.
Now we’ve got a look at the evolution of that shoe, courtesy of Sneakerhighway23 on Instagram.
Aside from a few tweaks to the overlay of this shoe and the placing of the swoosh, it doesn’t appear to look much different from the OG Adapt BB that launched last year.
But this shoe isn’t about look. It’s all about functionality. That’s why it’s the most important sneaker Nike has in its basketball collection.
This is where sneakers are going. As much as I love laces (and y’all know I do), I have to admit that they're outdated and old school — especially when it comes to physical activity.
At some point, we’re going to get to a place where the Adapt BB and it’s self-lacing technology is the norm. It’s all about comfort and injury prevention. This shoe can help with that.
We’re already here with this. Imagine in the next 5 or 6 years when Giannis Antetokounmpo is on is 7th signature shoe and it’s a self lacing joint. Or how this could help Zion Williamson find the perfect cushion to protect those knees. This is ground breaking stuff.
Official details about the shoe haven’t dropped quite yet, so stay on the lookout for it. They’re probably coming with all of the bells and whistles for this one.
Jimmy Butler is done with Jordan Brand
Welp, we have another sneaker free agent. This time, it’s Jimmy Butler leaving Jordan Brand after joining the Jumpman in 2014.
Butler and Jordan mutually agreed to part ways before his deal expired in September later this year. ESPN’s Nick DePaula reports that he’s already in talks with other brands and could sign elsewhere before the All-Star break in February.
In the past two years, both Puma and New Balance have looked to sign All-Star-level and emerging players as part of their relaunch efforts in the NBA and in releasing new basketball sneakers. Dwyane Wade recently signed Warriors guard D'Angelo Russell to his Way of Wade sub-brand with Li-Ning, providing the Heat icon with ongoing signature shoe line with visibility now that he's retired from the NBA.
Sneaker free agency is the best. This is one of the only times we ever get to see NBA players really flex their muscle when it comes to the heat they have on the court.
It’ll be interesting to see where Butler ends up. If I had to place my bet? He’s good friends with D Wade, he plays in Miami. I think he ends up with Li-Ning.
Y’all! Chill out with all this damn heat. Y’all keep going crazy on me.
First, our guy Shawn P is back with the throwback Answer 3’s. CRAZY. I haven’t seen these in years.
Then, the God Sumeet Shah showed me his Kith x Nike Pippens. And, fam, I cannot believe these were this slept on.
And, finally, I’m going to do a little flex of my own with the Rayguns I just copped. Phew.
Yes, I’m pressed. Thanks for asking.
That’s it for Friday, y’all! Keeping y’all in the loop, we’re so so so so so close to 500! Somebody is getting some shoes from your boy real, real soon. Once we hit that mark, y’all will be the first to know. I promise.
In the meantime, that’s it from the boy until Monday. Hopefully, I’ll have some good news for y’all on our quest to 500 by then.
Love y’all. As always, peace and love. Be easy. Be kind.