Trends these days are like Teflon: nothing seems to stick. Fashion practices and rituals are often a flash in the pan, and it’s no different with sneakers. 2020 marks a new year and decade. Undoubtedly, the trends of 2019 are on their final embers, and early adopters are ready to be ahead of the curve.
We don’t have a crystal ball here at SF HQ, but with enough gazing through some slightly foggy Air units, some educated guesses can be made. The final months of 2019 have been able to inform, at least, the first few months of 2020. This is what may happen in the sneaker world.
Image via Nike
1990s Out, 2000s In
It takes 20 years for a particular decade’s fashion to be unironically cool again. The back end of the 2010s was essentially a pastiche of the late 1990s, with people dressing like the Spice Girls as Air Max 97s caught a second wind. Therefore, as we enter 2020, the 2000s will become the new-old style reference – so expect to see some retros of silhouettes from that era. Brands are already starting to tap into that portion of their archives, after finally pulling out the last dredges of objectively crappy 90s retro styles. ASICS recently brought back the 2006 GEL-Kinsei, New Balance haven’t stopped the 993 since 2008, and Nike are rumoured to reissue the 2006 Air Max 360, albeit with the anachronistic VaporMax sole.
In the apparel realm, it looks like corduroy will be the big textile (yet again). No longer confined to dad’s daggy Sunday best, the rib patterned fabric looks to make its way onto sneakers too. Undoubtedly kickstarted by the Sean Wotherspoon Air Max 1/97, which famously featured a rainbow-coloured cord upper, other sneakers should be following suit. Cactus Plant Flea Market and Olivia Kim continued the corduroy colab coverage, and Nike are dropping in-line editions of the Air Max 97 and 98. Now the ball is in the court of the other brands to come late to the party – or not show up at all. Corduroy looks great on casual sneakers, but the onslaught of outdoors and trail runners means rubber and GORE-TEX likely remains as 2020 kicks in.
Image via adidas
The mid-2000s spawned some questionable executions of classic silhouettes by introducing clear panels. The ‘Invisible Woman’ Air Force 1 is probably the most memorable clear sneaker from that era, with the entirely clear toebox and side panels. Everything else from back then was just terrible – Google provides an abundance of hilariously fake see-through sneakers. Despite this subsequent bad rap, the late 2010s did see some hints of a revival. The Comme des Garçons x Nike Dunk High had fashion-forward types making good sock selections. This year’s Halloween AF-1 ‘Shibuya’ release also tapped into the aesthetic, with orange cellophane-like panels – which may have helped ease into the look. It’s not just the Swoosh on the transparent tip: Ex-Palace skater and Thames founder, Blondey McCoy, has a see-through adidas Superstar on the way. Anecdotally, the visible steaming issue from wearing clear sneakers remains pervasive.
Images via Nike
Scratch and Sniff
The second part is optional, but the scratch section may be a fun sneaker gimmick come 2020. The recent PEACEMINUSONE x Nike Air Force 1 featured crackling paint that reveals even more paint underneath, and the CLOT AF-1s hid intricate lasered leather beneath luxe silk layers. Eric Koston has been championing tearaway upper Lance Mountain Air Jordan 1s that are due to drop by the end of year. It’s likely we’ll see more of this next year. For a bit of sneaker history, the Geoff McFetridge Vandals had the same tearaway feature… back in 2003. Told you, the 2000s are back.
If the ‘Fearless Ones’ Air Jordan 1 pack was anything to go by, Jordan Brand might try their hand at pumping out more mid-height sneakers in 2020. Popularly maligned by the masses, the deviation from OG spec is considered inferior. Nike SB have all but phased out the Dunk Mid from their range in the past few seasons, and the Air Force 1 Mid is fighting for survival. Will 2020 mark a change in consumer confidence? Blazer Mids can stay though – especially the 1977 versions.
Collaborations = The New General Release
This definitely deserves a standalone analysis, but collaborative sneakers will definitely continue into the new decade. It’s a safe bet: perhaps the sentiment is that collaborations are the rite of passage for a sneaker to even get a bit of Internet attention. Many hands make light work when it comes to creating colourways, but too many cooks in the kitchen can also butcher a potentially great sneaker. To continue the culinary comparison, the cream certainly rises to the top when everybody gets a shot at a sneaker colab.
Going For Gold
Tokyo is hosting the Summer Olympics in 2020, two decades since the greatest Olympics of All Time (Sydney). The big footwear players will unveil their next technological marvels, and they might be launched with high-profile colabs too. If Gyakusou and Off-White are successfully making Nike Running desirable for the non-performance crowd – i.e. most sneakerheads – then the other brands need to do the same. The right collaboration may just help the Next Big Thing to stick. Team Trefoil are on the right path with countless UltraBOOST colabs, but they’ll need something crazy for 2020, because Nike’s likely releasing the next generation Vaporfly with AtomKnit and visible Zoom.
Image via Sneaker Freaker
We can’t talk 2020 without mentioning Kanye West. His presidential bid looks like it’ll be on hold until 2024, but in the meantime, he’s got some big claims to back up. If he keeps his word, we’ll see Made In USA Yeezy and algae sneakers, among his other audacious statements. On the maybe pile: Yeezy BOOST 350 v3 and Yeezy Basketball? We’ll avoid going on a Yeezus tour–style rant if he doesn’t walk the walk after talking the talk, though.
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