Nike Jordan High-Tops – It’s difficult to overstate the impact that Nike’s first Air Jordan release had on sneaker design and fashion in general, back in 1985. In its original (now-iconic) red/black colourway, the shoe was originally banned by the NBA in the US for breaking its colour rules. History shows that banning rarely harms the banned, and these beefy Michael Jordan-endorsed hi-top bad-boys soon became enormous sellers, leading to an seemingly never-ending line of follow-ups. Interestingly, the Air Jordan 1 is the only shoe in the Jordan series to feature Nike’s trademark Swoosh logo.
Etnies Fader – Not a shoe typically found in top ‘all time’ lists, and certainly not deemed ‘cool’ by those in the know, but nevertheless… this is my list, right? So, I have a confession: I’m a sucker for Etnies Faders. A classic, appealing aesthetic, understated contrasting colourways and solid sturdy construction add up to a modern design classic that I absolutely love to wear. And boo ya to the purists!
Air Max 1 – The Air Max 1 wasn’t the first shoe to use Nike’s technologically advanced air cushioning system. That honour falls to trailblazers like the Tailwind, the almighty Air Force 1 and 1982’s Air Ace. However, 1987’s Air Max 1 was the first to bare its innards to all with its ‘visible air’ window. Despite the technology, they still manage to look ultra-cool even to this day.
Adidas Stan Smith – Released in 1965 and endorsed by US tennis legend Stan Smith, these eponymous Adidas sneakers are quite simply legendary. So much so that they were treated to a re-release in 2014. The epitome of classic, understated design, these beautifully simple all-leather works of art are a striking triumph in ‘less is more’, particularly notable for the three rows of perforations where the usual adidas three stripes would appear.
Nike Air Max 95 – Nike had already had success with Air Max versions 1-3 (the third more commonly known as Air Max 1990), but no one expected the brash design statement that was the Air Max 95. Lovers of old-school classic simplicity thought they were an aberration. It’s true to say the high-tech features, weird contours and vaguely extra-terrestrial detailing were a major leap for sneaker design that, for better or worse, we haven’t looked back from since.
Adidas Gazelle – In the same way that the Samba became a staple of shoe wardrobes the world over, so the same can be said of the Gazelle, Adidas’ classic training shoe released in 1968. Their simple timeless styling has been available in pretty much every possible colourway over the years. The Gazelle remains a much-loved design classic.