Examining the difference between basketball sneaker trends in 2012 and 2022.
Sneaker trends are cyclical. A wave one day is an afterthought the next, only to be the thing everyone clamors for again in the future. How else could we explain the vintage basketball shoe trend we’re currently in? The movement is definitely rooted in, and is a reaction to, the basketball sneaker craze from 2012.
A decade ago, tech-laden basketball sneakers were in, with releases from LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, and Kevin Durant’s signature lines being the talk of the culture.
The Nike Air Foamposite One “Galaxy,” the perfect example of a maximalist sneaker design, was among 2012’s most hyped releases.
Flash forward ten years later to 2022, and retro hoops shoes with no ties to any specific players, like the New Balance 550 and Nike Dunk, are now the toast of the community. How did the change occur? A shift to a more casual way of dressing that favors minimalism from the maximal look popularized in street culture a decade ago is a leading cause.
The New Balance 550 is the “it” sneaker of 2022, a high contrast to the teched-out basketball sneakers dominating sneaker culture ten years ago.
More specifically, the pivot to a more toned down style came when Kanye West emerged as one of the most prominent figures in fashion and streetwear in the early-to-mid 2010s. With everyone wanting to dress like Ye, who at the time wore vintage band tees turned inside-out, slim denim, and minimalist shoes and combat boots, basketball stars were no longer the inspiration for street style.
As people traded in their old wardrobes to get the Ye look in the mid-aughts, the man himself simultaneously launched his adidas Yeezy footwear line. Shoes like the Yeezy Boost 350 V2, 700, 500, and more recently, the Yeezy Slide and Foam Runner, emerged, and with a lifestyle edge that focused on comfort, minimal branding, and neutral colors. These casual footwear options are the antithesis of the techy, brightly colored basketball shoes found in the Nike LeBron and Nike Kobe lines.
The adidas Yeezy Boost 700, which basically looks like a chunky retro running shoe, led the way for today’s more minimalist trend.
You may be wondering how vintage basketball shoes have become popular in recent years, and for that we again look to Kanye and his adidas Yeezy collection. Although he didn’t officially start the “dad shoe” wave, Ye played a key role in its rise to prominence with his Yeezy Boost 700 “Wave Runner” in 2017. The positive reception to the chunky, retro-looking shoe helped stoke demand for other models of similar ilk, including the New Balance 990 and, later, the New Balance 550, Nike Dunk, and more.
The Nike Dunk, which is about as simple as a basketball shoe gets apart from the Converse Chuck Taylor, has never been hotter than it is right now.
Minimalism, and vintage-inspired sneakers may be the wave for now. But if history is any indication, we’ll all be wearing the Nike LeBron 38—or something similar—for anything other than playing basketball again in no time.
In another ten years, will we be back to wearing retros like the Nike LeBron 10 instead of the Dunk? Only time will tell!