A Decade of Sneakers

For the last ten years, sneakers have been seen as more than just something we wear to cover our feet. They have been a cultural expression (and for some, an obsession) and an icon of modern times. In today's society, sneakers have become a design art form and to many, they make a person's outfit. Not to sound too superficial, but they are your visual identity. Your shoes represent who you are and what you're into; what culture you're part of. So, what culture are you apart of?

A Decade of Sneakers

A decade is a monument and a period of time worth observing – especially when it comes to sneakers and the trends that have come and gone during the past 10 years.

10 years is a pretty major milestone for me personally too. Rewind the clock back to 2004 and it was the year I finished High-School. Yes, there have already been talks of a reunion – and no, I will not be attending. But man, do I feel old. :/

But back to the task at hand. This write-up is about the sneaker trends that we witnessed and participated in from 2004-2014 – from the good, the bad, and everything in between. Are you ready to turn back time? ‘Cause I’ll be honest: I don’t know if I am, but here we go!

The sub-culture that sneaker fanatics have unknowingly created is a noteworthy explosion, particularly in the menswear fashion industry.

2004 saw the year of customisation with Nike introducing the NikeID sub-brand, allowing customers to design and personalise their Nike footwear. It was also the year that they introduced the Nike Free, a minimal shoe that followed the natural shape of the human foot and provided greater performance and strength. Nike Free made a statement in 2004 as the sneaker that could express natural emotion. Truly.


Nothing was cherished more among sneakerheads than exclusivity though. For example, in 2005, Jeff Staple caused a riot at his store, Reed Space, with the release of the Nike Pigeon (NYC). Police were called in to control a crowd waiting to buy the Nike Pigeon (NYC) Dunks, named for the bird stitched on its side. Only 150 pairs were made, making it a prized catch for collectors.

Side Note/Fun Fact: the term ‘hypebeast’ was added to the Urban dictionary, becoming a worldwide term in colloquial conversation with sneaker lovers alike.

Whilst Nike was ahead of the trend, customisation of shoes were coming into play or as it was termed, ‘remixed’ by other brands in 2005, whilst Nike released the Air Jordan Defining Moments Package, and SUPRA was just introduced to the world.


2006 was the year of the World Cup so we saw a lot of sneaker collections from Nike and Adidas dedicated to the major sports event.

In 2007, we saw sneakers with a little bit more pizzazz, expressed in bold colourways, non-traditional cuts, and/or unique designs. It was the 25th anniversary of the Nike AF-1, Vans collaborated with Mr Cartoon, and New Balance introduced plaid sneakers.


2008 saw some pretty cray cray trends. Stiletto sneakers came into play for the ladies – fierce for some; plain ugly for others (myself included). Adidas teamed up with Looney Tunes for their Remix EQT High campaign, and Puma teamed up with the bad boy of British fashion, Alexander McQueen.


In 2009, sneakers started getting recognition in mainstream media, with many big name collaborations and retro styles coming into play. Kanye West partnered with Nike to create the Air Yeezy‘s AND with Louis Vuitton to create Signatures, retailing at a hefty price tag of $1000 a pair!! Vans teamed up with Taka Hayashi, it was the 20th anniversary of the Reebok Pump, and jumping on the ever-growing fixed-gear bike trend; adidas, streetwear blog Hypebeast, and retail store Solebox collaborated together to create the cycling-influenced Zeitfreis with only 50 pairs hitting retail stores.


Vintage styles came back into play for 2010, and we also saw a lot of textured footwear, particularly with suede which is neat, versatile and the perfect material to compliment that transitional in-between period between seasons.

In 2011, Nike paid tribute to the footwear of Back to the Future II with the MAG Air; Ladies saw the return of the hi-top sneaker coming back into play with haute-couture labels Maison Martin Margiela and Christian Louboutins both releasing a pair; and the “barefoot-running” trainers deemed to be the most popular trend of 2011.

For the Nike Free Run 2, the design team took the ‘human foot’ inspiration a bit further, designing the upper after the anatomy of the human foot. The upper layers mimic the ligaments, muscles, and bones – the inner workings of the foot – and offer a wider range of motion, and combined with the all-new Free grooved traction, the Free Run+2 was pretty much an extension of your body.


2012 saw sneakers make its way onto the high-fashion runways with Guiseppe Zanotti, Marc Jacobs and Christian Louboutin all including them into their catwalk shows. Isabel Marant introduced the coveted wedged sneakers causing a little bit of controversy as to whether they were “hot or not”; Nike introduced one of their comfiest sneakers – the Roshe Runs; and velvet and chambray made an appearance.


2013 seemed to be the year of comfort for the ladies. It wasn’t so much about looking ‘cool’ anymore, but rather a want (and need) to be as comfortable as possible. This was proven true with the abundant amount of women heading to Foot Locker around the world to pick up a pair of running shoes, which in turn motivated them to up their exercise game; and brands definitely listened to this sudden outburst.

For example, Nike released their Free 5.0 for women with strengthening benefits associated with barefoot training, and the flex groove design enhanced their natural range of motion. I know so many women who opted for a night of running over a night out of dancing/drinking and the like. Good on ’em!

As for the fellas?
Honestly? It was hard to keep up! It seemed like there was a new release every other weekend, but here are a few highlights: basketball sneakers went retro in OG colourways, collaborations between top brands were happening constantly, whilst camo and floral prints (I’m not kidding.), made a few appearances throughout 2013.


So what has 2014 brought to the table so far?

Retro is still going strong, lots of high-tech performance and innovation designs are coming into play, knee-high sneaker boots tried to become a trend for the ladies, and men’s sneakers are also crossing over into high fashion. But from what I’ve seen so far, the most important thing at the moment seems to be trying to find that perfect pair of shoes that doesn’t sacrifice function and quality over aesthetic appeal, and THAT is proving to be quite a challenging task for both men and women.

However, I may have found a contender!

Left: Nike Free OG // Right: Nike Free Breathe

To commemorate the 10th anniversary of the revolutionary Free 5.0, Nike have released the ‘Nike Free Breathe’ and ‘Nike Free OG’. Paying homage to its predecessors, they are a celebration of the original Free silhouette.

“Enabling natural motion, the Nike Free style allows the foot to bend, flex and behave as nature intended, creating a barefoot feel.”

Three major developments highlight the 2014 version of the Free, incorporating hexagonal flex grooves, anatomical shape and Nike’s Flyknit technology, providing lightweight comfort – All. The. Time.

“With its performance-inspired expression of style, the Nike Free Breathe and Nike Free OG is engineered for everyday life, and presents an evolution from the original Free 5.0, which transcended performance footwear to become a staple of style.”