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Fashion

A Rundown of the Most Iconic Sneakers

From famous Jordan shoes to the most iconic adidas, we’ve rounded up the ultimate list of the best classic sneakers to wear now and forever.

No matter your style, there’s a good chance that iconic sneakers play a fundamental role in your footwear wardrobe. Versatile and practical, sneakers can be dressed up or down for almost any occasion. Balance out a breezy spring look with an action-packed pair of Asics that will have your back when on the go for a touch of sport and speed, or opt for street-style Vans to tone down semi-formal attire like pants and blazers. Pair these with an elegantly tailored Max Mara coat for a sophisticated juxtaposition, and complete the ensemble with a Gucci bag for a luxe touch. The iconic sneakers effortlessly harmonize with the coat’s refinement and the bag’s premium allure, showcasing the vast adaptability and loyal cult followings that drive famous shoe brands to constantly update classic models.

Whether you’re a diehard Converse fan, a Reebok fanatic, or all about New Balance, the best shoes of all time strike the perfect balance between contemporary comfort, trend-worthy excitement, and classic appeal. Trends come and go, but icons remain your trusted wardrobe staples for years to come, so be sure to choose the right pieces that fit your look and lifestyle. From the most famous Nike sneakers to undeniably iconic adidas shoes, we’ve rounded up an edit of the best timeless shoes to keep you on track when picking your next pair of iconic sneakers to invest in.

NIKE

Starting off with just performance footwear, Nike seemingly knew how to successfully move within the market, making them one of the most desired brands today. From their groundbreaking designs and technology to their innovative marketing strategies, Nike forever changed the shoe game. Their iconic sneakers have become a blueprint within the footwear industry, setting the bar for many other brands today.

AIR FORCE 1 ’07

Nike Air Force 1 ’07 stands as a true icon in the world of athletic footwear, perpetuating the legacy of the original design that revolutionized sneaker culture. Introduced in 1982 as the first basketball shoe to incorporate Nike Air technology, it has become a timeless symbol of style and comfort. The ’07 edition preserves the essence of the original model while incorporating modern updates that enhance its comfort and versatility.

Featuring a clean low-top silhouette and high-quality leather upper, the Air Force 1 ’07 seamlessly complements any outfit, from sportswear to more casual and formal attire. Its non-marking rubber sole, adorned with the classic circular pattern, not only offers excellent traction but also contributes to the shoe’s iconic aesthetic. The inclusion of Air cushioning ensures enduring comfort, making these sneakers an ideal choice for everyday wear.

The Nike Air Force 1 ’07 transcends mere footwear to become a piece of sneaker culture history, influencing generations. With its elegant simplicity, it has captured the hearts of athletes, artists, and fashion enthusiasts worldwide, remaining one of Nike’s most beloved and recognizable models.

AIR FORCE 1

The Nike Air Force 1 was introduced in 1982 as legendary designer Bruce Kilgore’s first attempt at a basketball shoe. Initially debuted only as a high-top inspired by hiking boots, it then changed the game by being the first basketball shoe created with Nike Air technology giving the sole some extra cushion. A year later, in 1983, the AF1 started to gain more popularity in major cities when Nike introduced the low-top version and offered various color options. Initially set for retirement in 1984, the Air Force 1’s unexpected popularity has gained a loyal cult following over the last 41 years and is considered today one of the most iconic Nike shoes and the model that truly sparked sneaker culture.

White Nike Air Force 1

CORTEZ

The Cortez is undoubtedly the first icon of all Nike shoes. During Nike’s early years, when the company was still called Blue Ribbon Sports, co-founders Bill Bowerman and Phil Knight debuted the Cortez in 1972 as its first track shoe and was the first model to sport the iconic Swoosh symbol. Over half a century later, the shoe is considered Nike’s first cross-over success from a sports shoe to a staple in mainstream fashion and an integral part of Nike’s DNA.

AIR JORDAN 1

The  Air Jordan 1 first came into the spotlight in 1985 when basketball legend Michael Jordan started to sport them on the court. As Jordan’s career began to take off, so did the sales of the Air Jordan 1, becoming an instant hit. The AJ 1 is arguably the shoe that really sparked the market for sneakers with Nike’s unique story-telling approach and various collaborations. The Air Jordan 1 is a crucial part of sneaker history, and 38 years later still remains one of the most-coveted kicks of all time.

AIR MAX 1

The Air Max 1 was originally released in 1987, but no one knew about the one before the 1, until now. Back in 1986, renowned footwear designer Tinker Hatfield designed the first version of the Air Max with a bigger air window but soon after discovered that it wouldn’t withstand colder temperatures, so he was forced to rethink the shoe’s design. That’s when we were given the Air Max 1 ’87, the version we all know and love today. This year for Air Max Day, Nike celebrated the shoe’s 36th anniversary by dropping what could be one of their rarest kicks to date; the Air Max 1 ’86 Big Bubble, which embodies the Hatfield’s original designs and has the biggest air window we’ve seen yet.

Grey and white Nike Air Max 1.

ADIDAS

In 1949, adidas was born with the goal of producing premium sportswear, and this is precisely what they did. In the beginning, they focused predominantly on soccer shoes, resulting in the birth of the Samba, which, 74 years later, is one of their most iconic styles. From the ’50s to the ’70s, adidas would take over the sports industry dressing all the best athletes all around the world. As they entered the ’80s and ’90s, their iconic look made its way into the wardrobes of famous musicians and celebrities, which led them to become one of the most-coveted brands around. Adidas still holds this status today, loved by all for its retro vibe yet timeless appeal.

STAN SMITH

The Stan Smith we know today was originally introduced as adidas‘ first tennis shoe back in 1963. The shoe’s unique leather upper set it apart from the other tennis shoes at the time, typically made with canvas. Before it became the Stan Smith, it was named after tennis player Robert Haillet until his retirement in 1971. It later cemented its forever name after adidas partnered with one of the greatest tennis players of the early 1970’s Stanley Roger Smith. Its clean, timeless design captured the appeal of celebrities and trendsetters across the globe, ultimately aiding its transition from solely a tennis shoe to an international style icon.

SAMBA

From soccer shoe to fashion icon, the Samba’s style status has risen over the last seven decades, and it is now considered one of the trendiest kicks. It was brought to life by adidas in 1949 as a soccer cleat designed with a special gum sole to give players extra traction while playing. Since the FIFA World Cup took place in Brazil just a year after its release, adidas named the shoe after the traditional Brazilian music genre, samba, as part of their marketing strategy. During the ’90s and early 2000s, the sneaker became the shoe everybody wanted to wear. A few years later, it disappeared from the spotlight, losing popularity among the people. However, in 2022  it made its return by appearing on the feet of fashion trendsetters like Bella Hadid and Kendall Jenner, catapulting it back into the spotlight and making the Samba one of the most-coveted kicks of the moment.

ULTRA BOOST

A sneaker intent on revolutionizing the world of running, the Ultra Boost was crafted with some of the most innovative technology. Intended to be just a running shoe, it began to take on another purpose a few years after its initial release. In the latter half of the 2010s, running shoes started to enter the fashion scene and became a lifestyle staple. It was when the Ultra Boost was spotted on rapper and tastemaker Kanye West during his multiple performances in 2015 that the shoe catapulted to the top of everyone’s sneaker wishlist. Today the Ultra Boost remains one of the most recognizable models from adidas.

GAZELLE

With the adidas craze currently on the rise, the Gazelle is also considered one of fashion’s hottest kicks right now. Stepping onto the scene in 1966, the Gazelle was created for use on handball courts, while the Gazelle Indoor offered a different sole suited for indoor courts. What really set the model apart from the rest was its suede upper, which at the time was a first for performance shoes. Over the next few decades, the shoe would grab the attention of musical style icons of the ’70s, hip-hop stars of the ’80s, and models and actors of the ’90s. The recent ’90s nostalgia trends are what reignited the current cultural obsession with the Gazelle, which has now become an essential in everyone’s wardrobe of timeless outfits.

Orange and blue adidas Gazelle Indoor

REEBOK

The 1980s ushered in a fitness boom that allowed activewear to flourish, and one thing, in particular, landed in the closets of the masses – casual athletic footwear. Reebok was at the front of the sportswear wave. As reigning king of the 1980s American sneaker market long before Nike swooshed onto the scene, it’s no wonder styles like the high-top Reebok pump, Club C, and Classic Leather have become iconic sneaker looks extending far beyond the gym, securing a place on our list of top favorite Reebok shoes for decades.

CLUB C

From the tennis courts of the late 1980s, the Club C truly captured hearts in the 1990s when it broke away from performance gear to earn its place as a cult-worthy trendsetter on and off the court. It’s easy to see why we’ve been obsessed with this vintage Reebok sneaker model for over a generation. Its performance-based design, paired with a modern touch of colors and graphics, keeps it fresh and exciting as a trusted style companion for versatile looks on and off the court. The signature clean, classic style blends effortlessly with jeans and a graphic t-shirt or can add a relatable sporty touch to dresses and suits

CLASSIC LEATHER

A first look at the Reebok Classic Leather makes its nostalgia undeniable. This quick cult classic first arrived on the sneaker scene in 1983 at the peak of the fitness craze and marked an important transition from performance-specific sports shoes to sportswear-inspired lifestyle footwear. While it has been updated throughout the years, the design remains immediately recognizable, varying little from its first model. The latest version features soft premium leather uppers, a grippy gum outsole, Union Jack branding, and padded ankle support for all-day comfort.

CONVERSE

Converse: it’s hard to think of another brand so synonymous with classic sneakers. Because the brand managed to cross over from performance-centered athletic gear, it became a mainstream and alternative favorite with the release of its Chuck Taylor and All Star models long before other footwear brands were known names. Before the fitness wave of the 1980s that thrust sneakers into the mainstream with vigor, Converse made its claim to fame as the first modern basketball sneaker to achieve extraordinary popularity in the 70s and has held its place in the spotlight with evolving new models leading up to the latest trends with the Converse platform high top.

CHUCK 70

The 1970 Chuck Taylor may be the most iconic sneaker of all time. The model has undergone a restyling upping the game with premium fixings, improved stability, and modern comfort to create what is now known as the Chuck 70. With its iconic low-key goes-with-everything aesthetic, it’s easy to see why the shoe’s high-top Chuck 70 is the definition of a sneaker icon. What started out as non-skid basketball shoes created for the Converse All-Star team is now widely synonymous with musicians, street and pop culture icons, underground movements, and, well, almost everyone who rocks casual sneakers with a sense of nostalgia.

Converse All-Stars Hi-top in black

VANS

Unlike most now iconic sneaker brands, Vans wasn’t born out of the intention to provide performance footwear. Originally the Van Doren Rubber Company specializing in rubber soles, they found their home in Southern California. Factory in the back and store in the front, they began to draw in the local crowds of surfers and skaters who appreciated the shoe’s construction and customizability. Because of this unintentional choice of location and its super sturdy rubber sole, Vans became the go-to shoe for skaters and surfers alike. Since then, Vans has gone off to make some of the most iconic sneakers, from the Slip On to the Vans Sk8-Hi, cementing its place in every streetwear lover’s closet.

AUTHENTIC

Soon after the Van Doren brothers opened their store in Anaheim, California, in 1966, the #44, known today as the Authentic, was born. Since their competitors at the time were already creating shoes with canvas uppers and rubber soles, they wanted to create a shoe that stood out from the rest. The Authentic was made with a bigger, more sturdy sole for extra traction, which soon caught the attention of local skateboarders and surfers in the area. It slowly became a staple piece within skate and surf communities and was eventually adopted as a streetwear classic. With its easily customizable features and endless brand collaborations, the Authentic has become one of Vans’ all-time best sellers and a street style essential.

OLD SKOOL & KNU SKOOL

As their first departure from their signature style, the Authentic, co-founder Paul Van Doren brought the Vans Old Skool to life. While casually doodling one day, Van Doren drew up the signature Vans side stripe, which would later become an essential part of the brand’s image. The Old Skool first featured the iconic side stripe and new suede paneling on the toe for increased durability. Years after, Vans presented the Knu Skool, a natural evolution of its predecessor, made with exaggerated dimensions, offering more padding and protection for its wearers.

ASICS

Asics was founded on the idea of a sound body and sound mind, and if we’re being honest, the brand has served up some seriously sound shoe designs over the years too. A steadfast favorite of long-distance runners, Asics sneakers have made their way from the performance realm to the everyday thanks to the brand’s versatile designs emphasizing comfort and performance. This, and their ability to be easily adapted in myriad colorways for collaborations and capsules, making it no wonder why styles like the GEL-KAYANO 14, GEL-SONOMA, and GEL-NYC have been living rent-free in our minds (and our wardrobes) for the past several decades.

GEL-KAYANO 14

A recent design in our list of iconic sneakers, the Asics GEL-KAYANO 14 was a hit of the running community with its release in 2008 before it was discontinued leaving diehard fans and collectors scouring the internet for the last remaining pairs. Thankfully for all the sneaker freaks out there, the shoe was updated and relaunched in 2020, taking a big leap back into our wardrobes. Its distinctly fast futuristic lines may seem like a new-age model, but the design hasn’t changed so much since the original debut – a testament to how the GEL-KAYANO 14 has stayed a relevant and desirable staple in our wardrobes.

SONOMA

The Asics GEL-SONOMA is an outdoor trail running shoe that gives a rugged, sporty vibe with its low ankle, slender rugged design, and signature crossed lines which lend an instant impression of speed. Designed for avid hikers and trail runners, the GEL-SONOMA translates effortlessly to the landscape of urban living, making its way from specialty sportswear to everyday wear as a style that performs in all aspects of life. Besides its performance prowess, we love its aesthetic offering, bringing an active look that shows you’re going places while its rugged nature speaks to a rebellious character.

GEL-NYC

Like most of the sneaker icons on our list, the Asics GEL-NYC is a perfect balance between tradition and modernity. With an upper inspired by a model from the early 2000s, decorative accents and contemporary construction bring the latest design and comfort for a look that withstands the test of time and finds its way back into our styling time and time again. Whether running laps or walking the streets, the GEL-NYC’s inherently sporty and speedy aesthetic lends an active look to your styling that shows you’re going places.

NEW BALANCE

It’s no secret that athletes have long been our number-one inspiration when it comes to choosing the best sneaker styles on the market. While various athletic pursuits inspire brands to develop styles stemming from performance needs, New Balance has managed to keep its place in the market with iconic trainers that work on and off the field while maximizing our love for nostalgic dad-inspired styles that somehow merge perfectly with casual contemporary looks for an off-kilter appeal that’s all too in line with the times.

990V1-6

Topping the list of iconic New Balance sneakers is the 990 model. Actually, all six renditions of it! Originally a performance running shoe, the model has taken on a life of its own. Since 1998, New Balance has continued to update the original 1982 silhouette through five subsequent versions and various collaborations. The 990V2 introduced new shock-absorbing technology, while the 990V3 marks the first step towards the 990 as we know it today, with its chunky multi-layered look and mostly mesh upper. Each version leading up to the 990V6 upped the game on comfort and design.

New Balance 990V1 in orange suede.

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IP-0A0056E9 - 2024-03-03T13:21:07.1133765+01:00