Mount Rushmore of Sneakers

Here we go, let’s get into it. Most are familiar with the U.S. Monument Mount Rushmore. The granite etched cliff face in the Black Hills of South Dakota depicting four of our nation’s presidents: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Teddy Roosevelt. Many of you are also probably familiar with the parlor game of “Mount Rushmore” where you pick your top four, unranked things across any category. (Because we could never rank our presidents.)

Below I listed my Mount Rushmore of Sneakers. My personal four favorite kinds of sneakers, make and model. I’ll do a brief history where I see fit and how I personally feel about the shoe. Comment below with yours or tweet them out using the #MillenialFriday

Nike Air Max 97

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These bad boys are sleeeeeeek. These shoes were designed in, as their name says, 1997 by Nike designer Christian Tresser. These are a streamlined pair of shoes in the body type and the design on the shoe itself with lines running the body of the shoe. My personal favorites are in the original colorway, the silver/red, aptly known as the “Silver Bullet”. It’s said these shoes were inspired by the bullet train system in Japan. That is globalism at its finest folks. 

These shoes had a revolutionary hidden lacing system which was on the cutting edge of sneakers at its time. There is also the Visible Air feature that the Air Max had become known for running the length of the shoe. There is plenty of function here, which is no surprise coming from the greatest sneaker company in the world, but it’s all fashion here folks. The silver color design, the lines shaping the shoe, it’s all great. The streets of Paris today are lined with people taking one piece of sportswear (a la Air Max 97) and pairing it with more luxury pieces like Lacoste polos and Cartier jewelry. If the French are signing off on these shoes as a fashion statement I can really say no more. Because these things are so fire they retail at around $160 and I hate to say it, but good luck finding them at retail. If you do, grab a pair of 13s and DM on IG. Thanks. 

adidas Stan Smith

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Originally designed as a tennis shoe, the Stan Smith has had quite the background. The shoe was originally designed in 1965 and named the Robert Halliet, one of two premier French tennis players at the time. This shoe became widely popular across the game of tennis due to it being really the only leather tennis shoe. Other players were playing in, the much less supportive, canvas sneakers. Halliet eventually retired in 1971, the same year that Stan Smith joined adidas. While this is the year Smith joined adidas, the shoe kept its Halliet moniker for the next few years. A few modifications were made, such as a herringbone bottom to help with the clay surfaces at courts like the French Open. Later on in 1978, the shoe’s namesake had made the transition to Stan Smith, complete with an image of Smith on the tongue. 

Rooted in tennis, the Stan Smith has made its impact across the fashion world. Less is more here people. It has a very simple, subtle design and is almost entirely free of any branding or logos. White shoes are elegant. When kept clean there is a crispness between you and the ground you walk on. When they are dirty it looks like you’ve had some memorable times with your sneakers. The white shoe with the patch of green on the heel looks like it was perfectly designed to contrast white lines on the grass courts of Wimbledon. (Is there a more fashionable sporting event?)

The basic design of the Stan Smith has also created a blank canvas for many different designers to collaborate on the silhouette. These designer collabs infinitely inflate the price of the Stan Smith, which may be the greatest aspect of the shoe. You can look like Federer raising another trophy for a mere $80. A low bar to entry into high fashion.  

Reebok Club C

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I feel like I need to clarify two things here. One, yes, I do love white sneakers. Two, no, I cannot play tennis. Like, at all. Yet, here we are again another retro shoe from the tennis world. The Reebok Club C (for Champion) debuted in 1985. Tennis clubs and competitions have strict rules on the levels of minimalism required in the clothes the players wore. Those kinds of boundaries are where these minimalist shoes stem from. 

Much like the Stan Smith, the Reebok Club C is just an elegant white shoe. This became one of the best selling tennis shoes, but unlike the Stan Smith, did so without attaching to a celebrity. These just Reeboks baby!! There is something country club chic about crispy white shoes that are only worn on the grounds. But these “rich kid kicks” aren’t without street cred because the Club C looks just as natural on the feet of some British soccer hooligan in a tracksuit as it does on the Club grounds. (That imagery might have something to do with the mini Union Jack on the shoe.) But again, we are very fashionable and very accessible. These kinds of shoes are how kids can get into the fashion game, and at $75 the Club Cs can be all yours. 

Air Jordan 1

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Sneaker culture might not be what sneaker culture is today without Jordans. Nike wanted to make a shoe for Michael Jordan, but Jordan didn’t want to sign with Nike. Eventually, Nike pitches him that they will build an entire brand around Jordan and he will have a say in the shoes he wears. So they strike a deal, the Jordan 1 in the Black/Red colorway is released in 1985 and two decades later Michael Jordan is the first athlete to be worth a billion dollars. 

This fairy tale isn’t without controversy though. In fact, controversy is probably wanted fueled the flame that Nike had ignited. Jordan wears these shoes in an NBA game, and because it conflicts with league rules the shoes are banned. There has even been (unfounded) rumors of Jordan being fined every game he wore the shoes. Remember the tennis shoes I love? The ones that were designed inside the confines of the sport’s rigid fashion policy? This is the opposite. One brand was creative inside the defined box. Nike didn’t let themselves be caged. This is vigilant originality. This is what makes Mike, Mike. The guy is wearing gold hoop earrings and sticking his tongue out when he dunks. Why would he wear league approved sneakers? Nike leaned into the controversy and the first ad dropped after the shoe’s banning. And much like NWA records in the early 90’s the NBA’s disapproval of the shoes acted as a parental advisory sticker and they sold like hot cakes. 

This launched an empire. There have been dozens of models of Jordans in hundreds of colorways. The resale market for Jordans is ridiculous, and almost the only way to get the hot model/colors of Jordans. They Jordan Bred (Black/Red) 1s retail at $180 but you are welcome to find them on StockX and other resale sights for upwards of $350. This wide world of Jordans has opened the floodgates of the sneaker world, but the Black/Red Jordan 1s are the ones that started it all. Everyone wanted to be like Mike. Not because they want to be like someone else, but because Mike wanted to be someone all his own.