It’s that time of year.
As the holidays approach and Father Time finds it fitting to cap off an amazing 2015, so do we. By most measures, this year has been a fantastic one for sneakers. Kanye West and adidas brought new energy to the market literally and figuratively, boosting Boost sales and sightings through a fashionable, functional and futuristic lens. Proverbial giant Jordan Brand made remastered retros a reality, Nike continued to innovate and celebrate, and smaller brands of the heritage and new variety made significant strides.
So, what were the 50 best sneaker releases of 2015 to the Nice Kicks staff? Check out our picks below and share your feedback and personal favorites with the hashtag #NK50.
50. Public School x Air Jordan 12
If nothing else, 2015 was the year for designer sneaker collaborations that pushed the culture forward and for the better. Public School, undoubtedly the leaders of this expressive and conformity combative charge, proved that understated sophistication ranks above the rest with their rendition of the Air Jordan 12. Removed from luxurious leather or Italian suede or something else super luxe, they worked with a potent nubuck fabrication and still delivered one of the most material rich releases of the year. Hopefully, this is just the start of a long relationship between PSNY and Jordan Brand. – Darren Griffin
49. Nike KD 7 “What the KD”
The Nike “What The” series has become quite the staple within the Nike lineage as of late due the popularity of a variety of models. This notion was further strengthened by the release of the “What the” Nike KD 7. Featuring a variety of eclectic hues throughout its upper, and detailing that encompassed each colorway released from the Nike KD 7 series, this collage of a kick was rather strong considering the sartorial difficulties it presents. – Pierce Simpson
48. J.Crew x New Balance 998
Image via Quarterly Gent
There is a history of magic that happens when menswear curator J.Crew and New Balance connect. This time, both sides collaborated on the fan-favorite 998 in a “Hilltop Blues” colorway as part of Crew’s “In Good Company” release. The combination of sandy brown mesh with navy and brown suede panels made this joint effort one of the best so far. Not to mention, the grey laces, reflective 3M, red accents and overall inspiration of the Big Apple’s neighborhood ballparks. – George Kiel III
47. Converse Chuck Taylor II
Reinventing an American classic can be rather treacherous terrain. However, that’s exactly what Converse did this year as they provided sneaker lovers with a new look via the Converse Chuck Taylor II. Although ‘new look’ may be overstated considering the new model dosn similar styling to that of the OG, the performance features allow for prospective users to gain more comfortability and subsequently more wear time in them. All in all, this shift in technology may strengthen the classic American brand even more. – Pierce Simpson
46. Nike Air Max 1 Leather Black/Red
An Air Jordan colorway on an Air Max: pretty novel idea, right? While it’s long been known that color block swaps will keep the retro run in stride for years to come, the list of shoes that have made actual advancements using the pull-and-plug approach is actually pretty short.
More minimal than any AJ Lab launch, the Nike Air Max 1 Leather Black/Red relies on the same hybrid theory of the aforementioned Air Jordan collection but in simpler fashion. Rather than amplifying a signature attribute, the most universally excepted AM model takes on the tones and textures of its AJ equivalent. Add embossed branding and you have a made for the masses hit that looks more JD than GR. – Ian Stonebrook
45. Nike Air Foamposite One “Sharpie”
photo via UBIQ
In ’97, Penny was being hassled by the NBA about wearing the all-blue Foams because they didn’t comply with the NBA’s 50/50 footwear rule. Therefore, he applied a Sharpie to his Foams to meet the NBA’s standards. This release showed once again how Nike is consistently able to tell stories through sneakers. – George Kiel III
44. VILLA x Wale x ASICS Gel Lyte III
Sneaker culture is a constant, sneaker seeding is a trend. Fortunately, Wale knows this and fans know this about Wale. Rather than sell his sole for a conventional kick contract that would put a retainer on his rotation, Folarin felt it fitting to join the VILLA movement. You smart, Wale. The DC MC and the Philly force both care about kicks and culture a great amount and are making measures to provide a path for a better both. Their first shared steps were laid in the form of the VILLA x Wale x ASICS Gel Lyte III “Bottle Rocket” — a fun focused collab with just enough chase. We’re excited to see what they do next in 2016. – Ian Stonebrook
43. Extra Butter x adidas Vanguard Collection
Sneaker storylines tend to draw more from fan friendly fiction than true tales, strategically steering towards accumulation as opposed to accomplishments. Really out there in all regards, the Extra Butter x adidas Vanguard Collection not only played off Boy Scout camping trips but actually played to it. Packing two rad revamps of the trailblazing ZX Flux, said styles actually came with equipment you could blaze a trail in — namely a canvas backpack, beach towel, night blanket and other trail trinkets. Save the #streetsnaps for the social shares, going outside and actually doing stuff is forever cool. – Ian Stonebrook
42. Nike LeBron 12 EXT “Wheat”
Paying tribute to King James’ rookie campaign and the beloved Air Zoom Generation of the same color, Nike Basketball unleashed a “Wheat” LeBron 12 EXT during the spring season. It was undoubtedly one of the better LeBron 12 colorways of the year, and although the wheat and gold brought back memories of the 2003-04 NBA season, we’re ready to see the actual Generation come back. Come on, Nike. – George Kiel III
41. Palace x adidas Pro Primeknit
Image via Hypebeast
How real is this? While A$AP acclaim has helped propel PALACE from London skate staple to international ‘it’ brand, their work with adidas has continued to widen their range. Much like the Mob, Palace does a good job of staying true to their roots while representing references that read as cross-cultural and the adidas Pro Primeknit is a perfect example. Blending Samba steeze with Primeknit nuances and half pipe performance, you’ve got a shoe that caters to all while still serving its core customer. – Ian Stonebrook