Legends live forever…and these icons of the streetwear game have made it to the top through sheer style and longevity. Far from just being shoes that are worn when you workout, trendy sneaks have fast become the starting point of every outfit. But with the sneaker industry growing at such an impressive pace year upon year, we still yearn for the classics of old that transcend time and remain as on trend today as they ever did. From Converse Chuck Taylors to adidas Originals Stan Smiths, here is a run down of the most legendary and iconic sneakers styles out there today.
adidas Stan Smith
Simple yet sophisticated, the Stan Smith is the ultimate sneaker chameleon. Starting out as a tennis shoe in the early 60s, they have evolved through the years without losing any of their classic, understated style. The original smooth leather upper, perforated stripes and iconic heel logo are as identifiable today as the list of celebrities that have adopted them as their footwear of choice. Since then, they’ve undergone adaptations from blue suede to tropical prints and more. But after years of incredible collabs and flashy updates, adidas did the unthinkable and removed them from the market in 2012. Far from putting an end to their run at the top, this only made Stan Smith’s more desirable. So when they were reintroduced with no shortage of fanfare in 2014, they resumed their rightful place at the top table of iconic sneakers. We haven’t taken them off since…
Vans - Old Skool
Vans Old Skool is the original surf and skate shoe. Released in 1977, it debuted the iconic sidestripe that continues to make Vans so identifiable today. As the first Vans shoe to incorporate leather panels for increased durability, the Old Skool lent itself perfectly to the 1980s where customised and customisable footwear was incredibly popular. The variety of materials used to build them allowed Old Skools to be modified to the liking of whoever was wearing them. Viewing footwear as an expression of the wearer’s personality, this tied in closely with Vans values and drove the evolution of Old Skools through the 90s with a series of exclusive collabs. But far from being a shoe solely for surfers and skaters, the Old Skool boasts heritage from the American punk rock scene. A true crossover sneaker that remains as on-trend today as it did in the 80s, the Old Skool is an icon that’s here to stay.
Reebok Club C
While other brands add more futuristic styles and innovative sneaker tech to their repertoire, the Reebok Club C remains a retro icon that is as relevant today as when it was originally released in 1985. Developed as a tennis sneaker with a durable upper and cooling terry towel inner lining for added comfort, nowadays you don’t need to look far to see a pair in action, whether enjoying a sunday brunch in a swanky cafe or pounding the streets as you catch up with friends. Since its inception, the Club C has hardly evolved, staying true to its roots with a simple, understated style that makes them as legendary today as they were back in the day. So while your sneaker wardrobe keeps growing in size, there’s no way you’ll be able to forget your classic Club Cs.
The classic shell toe. The legendary box logo. The serrated 3-stripes detail. adidas’ Superstar is as iconic as it is timeless, having been made for the basketball courts in the 1970s but remaining a streetwear classic almost 50 years later. Boasting that instantly recognisable shell toe that was developed to protect feet on the court, Superstars were a revolution compared to the largely canvas sports shoes of old, designed to provide greater support and more cushioning while being 30% lighter than other basketball shoes. Popular with B-boys of the 80s and skaters of the 90s, Superstars have been adopted and adapted for just about every subculture you can imagine. Fast forward to 2021 and you’re more likely to see them on the city streets than on the court, a true fusion of the worlds of sports, music and pop culture. Just about as iconic as it gets.
Onitsuka Mexico 66
Created by Japanese sneaker visionary Kihachiro Onitsuka, the Onitsuka Mexico 66 boasts over 50 years of heritage in the sneaker game. Originally designed as a shoe for the Japanese sports team at the 1968 Mexico olympics, they have transformed into an everyday icon that pairs smoothly with just about any outfit you’ve got going. With a look taken from the 60s but reimagined for today, the 66 retains its slim-line style and classic shape paired with modern materials that have only added to its timeless design. But they’re all about comfort too. The iconic heel-cross doesn’t just look good, it adds the support and comfort which are another key factor in their longevity. To finish, they’re adorned with legendary Onitsuka Tiger stripes down the side. Instantly recognisable and a clear example of what has made the Mexico 66 an iconic sneaker that crossed space and time.
A legend of the past, present and future, Puma Suedes have been worn everywhere from the basketball courts of LA to the streets of London, becoming a go-to choice for the trendsetters of every generation. Their most famous and influential appearance came during their debut at the 1968 Mexico Olympics, held by Tommie Smith as he made his historic protest against racial discrimination on the victory stand. Since then, they’ve been adopted by the likes of NBA legend Walt “Clyde” Frazier and the iconic b-boy crews of New York City, moving from their intention as a technical training shoe to a lifestyle classic capable of complementing any streetwear outfit. At over 50 years old, the Puma Suede isn’t done yet, its instantly recognisable style standing out from the crowd and ensuring this iconic sneaker remains as timeless as it ever was.
Converse Chuck Taylor
The OG. The Converse Chuck Taylor is the original sports sneaker, at one point being the NBA’s only shoe. And while it no longer serves as a technical shoe on the court, for a design that is over 100 years old Chuck Taylors remain as on-trend today as they ever were. Timeless and adaptable enough to be worn wherever and whenever you want. Boasting a stitched upper, iconic white toe cap and brown rubber sole, their legendary look has been copied unsuccessfully over the years. And it’s not hard to understand why. Chuck Taylors are more than just a sneaker, embodying the rebellious spirit of the 50s and 60s in a way that is impossible to replicate. Just ask the legends to have rocked them over the years.
It’s not often you can find yourself sneaker twinning with your Grandad. But the 574 is so legendary that it wouldn’t be unusual for you and your pops to be rocking a pair at the same time. Originally designed as a state of the art running sneaker back in 1988, New Balance have transitioned the 574 into a casual lifestyle sneaker that’s just as comfortable as its ancestors while adding a considerable amount of street cred along the way. While styles have changed and new technology has entered the sneaker industry, the 574 has remained a stalwart of the scene by retaining its minimalist look, subtle detailing and refined shape. So whether you’re strolling the college campus or proudly rocking the dad style, the 574’s timeless appeal is guaranteed to add something to your look. A true icon that deserves its place at the top.
Reebok Classic Leather
Developed during the fitness revolution of the early 1980s, the Classic Leather saw Reebok enter the market with a bang. Originally designed as a performance running shoe, the Classic Leather became the shoe of choice for young fitness-conscious urbanites who were looking for one shoe that looked the part and could do it all. From their first marketing campaigns, the Classic Leather was being talked up as a true lifestyle shoe, technical enough to be worn running but stylish enough to be worn casually. And while other brands were focusing largely on male performance shoes, Reebok looked into the future in 1983 by releasing the unisex Classic Leather. The original styles boasted premium leather uppers that were durable and soft, a gum sole for enhanced grip and the iconic union jack branding that we’ve all come to love. And like a fine wine they’ve only got better with age. What’s not to like?
The original shoe of skateboarders the world over, the Vans Era was the emblem of a generation, embodying the minimalist look and swag appeal of 70s skaters thanks to its availability in a huge range of different colour combos. Often touted as the first skateboarding shoe designed by skateboarders, the Era was developed by legendary skateboarders Tony Alva & Stacey Peralta who took the original vans #44 and added some extra soft padding to the collar while making other subtle tweaks to its look. Being based in Southern California when skateboarding was fast growing in popularity, Vans were in the right place at the right time to lead the emerging scene. What’s more, back in the day you could buy one Vans Era shoe at a time, important for skaters who are more prone to wearing out one shoe more quickly than the other. Still a staple of the skate scene, you’re now almost guaranteed to spot the Era being worn casually too. With such a rich history, it's no surprise that they’re here to stay.
Over the years there have been hundreds of important sneakers. And while this list is by no means a popularity contest, it is a look back into the history books at the most iconic and influential sneakers on the scene. Each style boasts their own story that forms an important part of its identity and has played an undoubted role in the evolution of modern sneakers. Whether these legendary styles have stayed at the top of the game due to their adaptability or their impressive defiance of change, they are a timeless collection of styles that transcend fashion and have become cultural icons.