Throwback Sneakers Pay Tribute to Iconic Kicks
On the runways and FROWs of Fashion Week and in corporate offices around the world, sneakers are becoming acceptable footwear. These casualwear shoes have become more fashionable—and even outrageous—in recent years, and yet many still opt to sport the retro styles that put the brands on the street map decades ago. Whichever style they choose, tottering women are gratefully kicking off their heels to slide into a soft sole.
NYLON fashion director and street-style star Preetma Singh in a pair of tennies during Fashion Week shot by Crystal Nicodemus
Here are some of the coolest, most inventive kicks around this spring, and the classic styles that inspired them.
This tennis shoe company was founded in Shanghai in the ’20s. Famed for its careful construction and flexible canvas, the shoe was prized by Shaolin monks and other martial artists for their agility. In 2006, Feiyue. was acquired by a French company, which continues to make these lightweight and durable sneaks but with some artful innovations.
Vans were some of the most popular sneaks on the streets of Fashion Week. Founded in California in 1966, the Van Doren Rubber Company’s deck shoes started as a custom operation. In the ’70s and ’80s, the sneaker was popularized by the skating community, and in the ’90s it was associated with alternative music because of the company’s sponsorship of the Warped Tour rock festival.
The classic Vans slip-on style is often copied by other sneaker companies. It became highly popular in the checkerboard print in the ’80s and is often associated with Sean Penn’s surf-bro character, Jeff Spicoli, in the cult film Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Updated, non-bro versions include the beautiful bitter-chocolate leather pair above.
This preppy tennis shoe hasn’t changed much since the Swiss Brunner brothers established the K-Swiss brand in 1966 in Los Angeles. But if you’re looking to serve up style—not tennis balls—you might try on the new chunky platform Gstadd. The two-inch sole and metallic upper might not make you zippy, but your shoes will be right on trend.
An informal street survey shows the adidas Superstar to be the most popular sneaker on the planet. Originating in 1969 as a low-top “shell-toe” basketball shoe, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar first wore them in 1969, cementing their status and potentially even inaugurating the signature shoe craze. Run-D.M.C. brought the kicks into the ’80s, going so far as to serenade the sneaker on “My Adidas.”
Perhaps the most famous shoe company in the world, Nike—founded in 1964 as Blue Ribbon Sports and renamed Nike in 1971—is relatively new compared with the other brands on this list. The company’s Blazer shoe was created in 1973 and made iconic by basketball legend George Gervin. These days the throwback version is promoted as a casual street shoe. The textured style completely obscures the iconic Swoosh in favor of a high-style textile.
Created in 1979 when a former NASA engineer incorporated tiny air pockets into the cushioning on a Nike running shoe, Nike Air reached a fever pitch in the ’90s with the rise of Air Jordans—yeah, that NBD tennie. Revisit this iconic shoe with a classic white version, or get a little girlie with the pretty cherry-blossom jacquard print. Even if you can’t dunk, your feet will feel slammin’.
Global creative, illustrator, Instagram star and fashion influencer Sophia Chang revisited Puma‘s classic shoe. The geometric pattern and foil print are a subtle but shiny way to wear the traditional style. Not that there’s much need to improve on the sweet suede sneakers, also available in a rainbow of trendy colors thanks to Solange.
This classic canvas sneaker has become a canvas for any number of artists and designers. The Converse Chuck Taylor All Star was created in the 1920s when the basketball star Chuck Taylor helped to amend the original All Star design. In the subsequent near-century of its popularity, the shoe has become a staple in many closets, including musicians as diverse as Elvis Presley, Kurt Cobain and Miley Cyrus.