The 12 Most Important Sneakers of All Time
Joe La Puma and Mellany Sanchez give us the lowdown on everything from the sneakerboot to the Yeezy’s in *that* Keri Hilson video.
Even if you weren’t that big into sneakers a few years ago, chances are that you now have at least seven pairs in your closet. But besides the obvious fact that they look good and are comfy as hell, there is a whole lot of history to the industry, and there are some pairs out there that certain people would, without a doubt, be willing to trade their firstborn for. Being the curious people that we are, we figured that it was only right for us to highlight some of the top sneakers out there according to two experts—Joe La Puma of Complex, and stylist Mellany Sanchez—and drop them into an easy-to-navigate matrix for you guys. And just like that, you can now begin (or, let’s be real, continue) on your path to becoming a well-versed sneaker expert. The only thing we can’t promise? That your credit card will be able to handle it all.
VP of Content Strategy & Host of Sneaker Shopping at Complex Media
Jordan 3 Black/Cement 1987-1988: “Everyone’s favorite, and it should be. It’s a perfect sneaker that can handle years of wear. It also saved MJ from going to Adidas.”
Jordan 4 Black/Cement 1989: “Where the Jordan 3 used to be my favorite, the 4 has been my favorite for the past three or so years. The black/cement colorway is the best, but I would put the ‘Oreo’ colorway a close second.”
Nike Air Zoom Citizen 1999: “My first day working at The Finishline sneaker store in a Long Island mall, I wore these. I also wore them to train in when I ran track. It’s the perfect Nike running shoe that they haven’t brought back in decades. They need to re-release them, soon. Incredible.”
Ronnie Fieg x Asics GEL Lyte III “The Cove” 2010: “These came out in 2010, when Ronnie was just starting his reign. It was right before you knew he was going to become one of the biggest people in sneakers. I was fortunate to be around him for it. Everything else is history.”
Nike Tiffany Dunk SB (2005): “I’ve never went crazy trying to get a sneaker like I did for this one. I called now-defunct Local Skate Shop every day for three months to see if they came in. Perfect sneaker.”
Nike Air Yeezy 1 2009: “Keri Hilson’s ‘Knock You Down’ video. That’s all.”
Nike Air VaporMax: “This shoe is a favorite because it represents optimism and looking forward to the future. Wearing it provides so much energy for me; the air bubbles really give back, and it matches me in terms of capability.”
Chanel Trainers: “I was so excited when Chanel moved past the cup sole for their sneakers and went with a trainer sole—that’s when I was on board with wearing a Chanel sneaker. These are the ultimate mash-up of how I love wearing luxury brands, which is defined by grounding them.”
New Balance 997: “Made-in-USA sneaker, gorgeous on the foot and always reminds me of my father’s style. He’s keen on wearing Champion sweatsuits and classic New Balances, and these always remind me of him.”
Nike Air Max 95 Sneakerboot: “This shoe still surprises me as a favorite. The sneaker boot phenom was one that every brand went for, and this was by far my favorite execution. What other Air Max lack in height, these make up for, and wearing these promise function over everything. They’re my weekend shoe and look as good with tight black Acne jeans as with wool Prada trousers.”
Nike Air Outburst: “They are what I believe a Nike Barbie would have on her feet. These are forever favorites because they are my ideal vintage silhouette and material composition. They remind me so much of my early days of collecting vintage sneakers and everything I looked for.”
Nike Air Force 1: “Forces are street classics, and a life classic for me. It’s impossible to do wrong in these, and there are so many opportunities to style them your own way. I believe in the quality of early 2000s pairs, and wearing them SUPER CRISP strictly.”