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Sneakers That Should Actually Exist
A celebration of community-created concept kicks.
You’re not gonna get a “best sneakers of the year list” here. This isn’t that type of publication. Besides, if you want a good idea of which sneakers dominated 2021, that’s what the Instagram Explore page is for.
Indeed, we’re living in an era where it feels like the biggest footwear influencer is the IG algorithm, helping determine which hyped model hunts you down on the timeline, continually inciting the desire to pay resell. So instead of trying to attempt the gargantuan task of sifting through every release and putting yet another “sneaker expert” opinion into the ether, let’s try something different.
One of the advantages of being a digital footwear fan is the ability to appreciate things vicariously without having to see them in person. Maybe that’s why so many sneaker and streetwear heads have transitioned to the metaverse and NFT consumption so easily. When it comes to HIDDEN though, that means conceptual kicks that may not actually exist have equal footing when it comes to being judged against hyped product. That means some of the sneakers people freak out over on the timeline are purely figments of innovative imagination.
What better way to end the year and start the next one than with a look at some of the inspiring shoe concepts that should actually become reality?
First up is this pair of Jordan 3s by designer Valentino Bacchieri, whose IG is @fiammastudios. This particular pair is inspired by his love of iced coffee, featuring coffee bean-esque soles and off-white contrasts on the upper.
During a year of numerous food-and-beverage inspired shoes (remember the cereal-and-milk Social Status “Free Lunch” Dunks?), Bacchieri’s subtle interpretation feels like something you could gravitate towards every day—like a refreshing cold brew.
While it might seem a bit self-effacing to post these HIDDEN-inspired New Balance 550s by @evange_____, it’s worth noting that these are one of several he’s concepted, but the execution on this pair is top notch.
Nuance and having a real grasp of color is incredibly important when it comes to the line between a perfect colorway and a complete miss, but the forest green suede comes off as just enough and not too much.
There are so many anime-inspired sneaker concepts out there, but @nobrainer.psd turns the idea on its head. The inspiration itself is cerebral, not just tapping Katsuhiro Otomo’s beloved-but-now-oft-referenced Akira series, but rather a more obscure collaboration between the manga-ka and COMME des GARÇONS.
We’ve seen a ton of customs and concepts going for the obvious reference of Kaneda and his signature motorcycle, replete with the bosozoku gang logos that have become iconic unto themselves. But here, using something esoteric and turning it into a tasteful three-pack of Dunk Lows is what makes for a great footwear narrative.
It was incredibly difficult to pick a singular concept from @birk.w, who just keeps putting out really creative renditions for collaborations that should go ahead and happen already. It’d be a surprise if their work wasn’t already sitting on some Nike WHQ mood board in Beaverton already.
But this concept for an unlikely (but not totally impossible!) collaboration between Nike and Arc’teryx stands out because it looks like a truly logical endpoint. Rendering the Dunk Low in a matte black material (hoping its GORE-TEX) with sealed seam details, a technical-looking Swoosh, and Arc’teryx embroidery on the heel is obvious enough that it could actually happen, but also speaks to the “devil in the details” appeal of the outdoors label.
Two great creative minds working together—you love to see it. One of the more surprising concepts by @birk.w ended up making the jump to IRL courtesy of a custom by @andu.c. At the risk of featuring too many Dunks, this CPFM-inspired pair was so smartly executed that many people thought it was a bona fide collab rather than a beautiful homage. And when something looks good enough to be the real deal, that’s when you know it’s done right.