Sneaker of the Year: 2021 Edition

As 2021 is coming to an end, I would like to look back and discuss the shoes I believe really left an impact on the fashion world and sneaker culture. It seems that now more than ever, sneakers are releasing almost everyday and with that comes a more difficult time deciding on the best sneaker of the year, so this list will only cover my top 5 rankings for 2021.

5. OFF-WHITE™ x Nike Dunk Low – “Dear Summer”

On-Foot: The Off-White x Nike Dunk Low 'Lot 1' - Sneaker Freaker

This collaboration between OFF-WHITE™ and Nike saw the release of 50 different colorways for their collection titled “Dear Summer”. After the first wildly successful collaboration between the two brands “The 10”, rumors of “The 20” collection began circulating across social media. The rumors consisted of 20 different dunk lows each with their own unique colorway. Soon after, OFF-WHITE™ founder and curator Virgil Abloh put these rumors to rest as the unveiling of the “Dear Summer” collection comprised of 50 different colorways of Dunk Lows. With the popularity of OFF-WHITE™ x Nike collaborations comes increased after market values. To combat the high demand for this release, Nike decided to randomly select users of it’s app SNKRS as eligible customers instead of opening the release to the public. When the time of release came, I was selected to purchase the shoe on the SNKRS app. I did not know which colorway or “Lot Number” I got until it came to my home and to my surprise, the lot number I got was 07 of 50.

Off-White x Dunk Low 'Lot 07 of 50' - Nike - DM1602 108 | GOAT
Lot 07 of 50

I think this collaboration really highlighted the creative and deconstructive ideas Virgil Abloh was known for. Nike being comfortable to take one shoe and change it slightly into 50 different colorways demonstrates just how much of they believed in Virgil Abloh’s concept as a visionary and artist.

Rest In Peace Virgil Abloh (1980 – 2021)

4. Patta x Nike Air Max 1 – Monarch

Patta x Nike Air Max 1 Release Date & 'The Wave' Film | HYPEBEAST

The Patta x Nike Air Max 1 is really making “waves” in the fashion and sneaker realm. The wave pattern featured on the shoe takes the classic silhouette and gives it a new and refreshing look. The Dutch company Patta, previously collaborated with Nike on several other Air Max models such as the 90, 95, along with other iconic models like the Air Force 1 and Dunk Low. I think what Patta did with the Air Max One really made it stand out from the previous released as it’s such an interesting and simple shoe. The Monarch colorway featured above is one of many to release this year, however I believe the orange really makes the features such as the waves stand out. The shoe is not too expensive in the aftermarket so if you’re looking for a really nice shoe for the springtime and summer, definitely look into these.

3. A Ma Maniere x Jordan 1 High

Maniére Air Jordan 1 DO7097-100 Release Date |

The A Ma Maniere x Jordan 1 High is the 2nd collaboration between the Atlanta based company and Jordan Brand. Following the release of the Jordan 3, sneakerheads were quick to call it the sneaker of the year however with the release of this model, opinions have shifted. The Jordan 1 being so popular right now along with the high quality materials and clean execution have made this shoe highly popular and in demand.

Travis Scott Air Jordan 1 Official Release Date |
Travis Scott x Jordan 1 – Mocha

Since the release of the Travis Scott Jordan 1 High Mocha in 2019, the appeal of dark brown colorways has increased and anything reminiscent has quickly become sought after. The Jordan 1 Dark Mocha released last Halloween is one of the most popular Jordan 1s of recent time.

Where to Buy the Air Jordan 1 "Dark Mocha" | HOUSE OF HEAT
Jordan 1 – Dark Mocha

2. Travis Scott x Fragment Design x Jordan 1 Low

How to get the Travis Scott x Fragment Air Jordan 1 Low in Dubai | Esquire  Middle East

Travis Scott is no stranger when it comes to hype and neither is Japanese brand Fragment Design. Both having highly successful Jordan 1 models, the two teamed up to collaborate with Jordan Brand on a Jordan 1 Low. The shoe consists of Cactus Jack and Fragment detailing along with a clean and iconic colorway. I think the subtle aged midsole and swoosh paired with the cream laces makes the shoe stand out as it has a unique and vintage look to it.

Air Jordan 1 Retro High OG "Fragment" - Stadium Goods
Original Fragment Jordan 1

Travis Scott x Fragment Design x Jordan is one of the first collaborations that had multiple brands instead of just one and I think that’s what really pushes the envelope into a new direction. Brands are no longer restricted to the idea with only partnering with one company or designer. With this collaboration, I believe we will see many more multi-brand designed shoes and products.

1. Jordan 1 Hi-85 OG – Neutral Grey

How OG "Neutral Grey" Air Jordan 1s Look in the Wild | Nice Kicks
A pair of Neutral Grey Jordan 1 Highs from 1985

The Air Jordan 1 Neutral Grey was an OG colorway that released originally in 1985 as part of the first collection between Michael Jordan and Nike and was never released again until 36 years later in 2021. Released in the spring of 2021, the shoe grabbed the attention of several different circles in fashion. Those into archive fashion couldn’t wait to snag a pair of these and beat up for that vintage 1985 look while others who enjoy a simple and clean colorway showed interest. The shoe doesn’t scream hype or grabs your attention like the others in the list do and I believe that’s what makes this shoe so special. The shoe has a history and culture to it that I believe solidifies it’s place as the best shoe to release in 2021.

Where to Buy the Air Jordan 1 '85 'Neutral Grey' - Sneaker Freaker

White and grey. Perfect neutral shoe to pair with any outfit. Literally anything goes with this shoe. If you’re interested in finding a pair for yourself, click on the image above.

Well that wraps up my top 5 sneakers of 2021. I know the list only consists of Nike products but Nike is really the leader in sneaker culture at the moment and has the most impact. The list shows how dominant Nike has been in the culture and what’s to come.

What will the future look like? Will 2022’s sneaker releases top 2021? Leave your thoughts and opinions down below!

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