As the 2010s draw to a close - a decade which has solidified sneakers as the absolute foundation of any great style rotation - END. casts an eye back through the years to present the very best high-heat drops of the past 10 years. From Sean Wotherspoon's wavy rainbow Nike mashup to YEEZY's flip from the Swoosh to adidas; check out which silhouettes made the grade below.
The 2010s will undoubtedly go down in history as the year that sneaker and streetwear culture broke through to the mainstream. The result of a perfect storm of global interconnectivity, the democratisation of celebrity through social media, and the acceptance of the streetwear 'underdogs' into the halls of pureplay luxury has shaped this decade into the most formative period in sneaker culture to date.
From the rocket-fuelled acceleration of the resell market (and it's inevitable legitimisation through sites like Stadium Goods and Stock X) to the transference of power from a small subsection of international brands into the hands of the micro-tastemakers and their die-hard customers, the 2010s have shaped and then reshaped sneaker culture as we know it today; transforming it from a niche subculture of dedicated collectors into the most essential product category in menswear and beyond.
But none of this would have happened if it wasn't for the product. Taking a trip down memory lane as we stand on the precipice of a new era of sneaker culture, END. remembers the best of the decade with the top ten sneaker drops of the 2010s.
2010: Parra x Patta x Nike Air Max 1
A carryover from Patta and Nike's 2009 collaboration celebrating five years of Patta, 258 units of the hotly anticipated "cherrywood" colourway arrived in early 2010; setting the bar for a series of iconic collaborations on the silhouette for the decade to come. Linking with enigmatic Dutch artist Parra, the AM1 featured textured burgundy suede across the uppers and - in Parra's typical irreverence - flipped the switch on the Swoosh insignia on the side walls.
2011: Nike MAG 'Back to the Future'
Nike's decision to make an entire generation of sneakerheads dreams come true by recreating the iconic self-lacing sneakers sported by Marty McFly in 1989's Back to the Future II will go down as one of the most buzzworthy moments in sneaker history. After teasing fans for decades, Nike finally announced that an exclusive drop of the silhouette would be auctioned on eBay to raise funds for Michael J Fox's foundation for Parkinson's Research. Breaking records, the drop of 1,500 pairs raised nearly £6million over 10 days. Later reissued in 2016 (the year after the film was initially set), the buzz for Marty McFly's MAGs has remained at fever pitch and shows no signs of slowing with rumours of further releases circulating each year.
2012: Nike Air YEEZY II
The sequel to Kanye West and Nike's 2009 Air YEEZY (notably the Swoosh's first-ever non-athlete full collaboration: an early calling card of where sneaker culture would go in the decade ahead), the Air YEEZY 2 arrived to set the world ablaze in 2012. Released in just three colourways 'Solar Red', 'Pure Platinum' and later 'Red October', fans' love for the silhouette was stifled by West's shock exit from Nike in 2013 to partner with adidas on what has become one of the most significant ongoing sneaker collaborations of the decade. Still, sneaker purists around the world champion the OG YEEZY silhouettes and lament what might have been if Ye had stuck with the Swoosh.
2013: ASICS x Saint Alfred Gel-Lyte III
Taking inspiration from the shoreline of Lake Michigan, ASICS joined forces with Chicago-based sneaker store St Alfred for what became one of the year's most unexpected sneaker grails. Featuring ASICS signature soft-suede uppers and perforated panels, St Alfred opted to remove the underlay on the mid-foot ASICS stripes in favour of one piece of dyed suede. The perfect execution of a concept with personal significance to the team at St Alfred, their Gel-Lyte III remains one of the most talked-about brand/retailer collaborations of the decade.
2014: Air Jordan 1 Retro x Fragment
Destined to be an icon from the minute of its announcement, the AJ1 x Fragment sent the sneaker-sphere spinning. Astutely harnessing the power and influence of Hiroshi Fujiwara to reignite passions for Jordan's retro models, Air Jordan built on the success of this release to continue a programme of retro colourway reissues which continue to be some of the most hyped sneakers each year. Paving the way for iterations from Virgil Abloh, Travis Scott, and now Dior, Hiroshi Fujiwara's Fragment laid down the blueprint for these riffs on the classic AJ1.
2015: adidas Ultra Boost 1.0 OG
Colliding adidas' innovative footwear tooling for the first time, the adidas UltraBoost hit the ground running by masterfully combining high-performance attributes with timely sock-fit style details. Pushing the three stripes into the future - a legacy which it has upheld to this day with the 4D series - the UltraBoost reimagined adidas' enviable legacy for the years ahead. A firm favourite across athletic and lifestyle customers, the UltraBoost remains a holy-grail in the adidas catalogue.
2016: adidas + KANYE WEST YEEZY Boost 350
Building on the legacy he had built with his silhouettes at Nike and his lead silhouette at adidas, the YEEZY 350 reinvigorated passion for Kanye's design and began the stratospheric rise of the YEEZY brand at adidas. Combining Primeknit uppers with Kayne's signature ribbed Boost sole unit, the all-black release was an instant favourite with fans and set the tone for YEEZY's lineage of truly unique silhouettes still to come.
2017: NikeCraft x Tom Sachs Mars Yard Shoe 2.0
Partnering with US-based artist Tom Sachs, Nike delved back into their archive to reimagine a classic shoe with modern-day tooling. Arriving as Sachs' antidote to the burgeoning reseller culture, the shoes arrived with 'These shoes are only valid if worn, and worn to death by you. Posers need not apply.' printed on the box. In classic Sachs' style, the shoes initial release was reserved for those who signed up and participated in an hour long 'Space Camp' course before releasing a wider retailer release later in the year. Remaining a firm favourite, rumours of reissues are endless.
2018: Converse x Virgil Abloh Chuck Taylor All Star Vulcanized
Delayed from the initial launch of Virgil Abloh's 'The Ten' reconstruction of 10 Nike icons, this translucent iteration of the ultimate skate shoe dropped in 2018. Forming part of the "Ghosting" Series, the Converse mirrored the rest of Abloh's 'The Ten' with a cut-and-paste DIY aesthetic that presented an iconic shoe from a truly fresh perspective.
2019: New Balance x Aime Leon Dore 997
After a monumental couple of years rising to the upper echelons of contemporary streetwear, Teddy Santis' Aime Leon Dore dropped their first collaborative sneaker with New Balance in early 2019. A match made on the east coast, the two brands vision and values aligned in a way that has become rare in an era of non-stop partnerships. Brimming with ALD's 90s sportswear nostalgia, the 997s set the bar for a partnership which is set to continue into 2020.