The 25 Most Hyped Sneakers of All Time

Hype. It’s everywhere these days, preceding the release of damn near anything, especially if it’s “limited.” Hell, there’s even buildup around potato chip drops. So it’s no surprise that sneakers are hyped up to nearly comical degrees. With the “Cork” LeBron X release right around the corner and kids freezing in front of Supreme as we speak – and eight years to the day of the original Staple x Nike Dunk SB “Pigeon” release – it seemed like a good a time as any to take a look back through past releases. So with no further ado, we present The 25 Most Hyped Sneakers of All Time. Enjoy.


25. Reebok RBK S. Carter

Release Date: 2003

Back when a big dude from Carroll City named William Roberts II was still trying to get put on, the biggest rapper in the universe signed an endorsement deal with Reebok. Jay-Z wasn’t expected to actually wear Reebok all the time – an unprecedented agreement – but he was going to get a signature shoe, which he, er, loosely based on the classic Gucci tennis shoe. The excitement faded pretty fast, but the originals were plenty anticipated.


24. The Simpsons x Vans “KAWS”

Release Date: 2007

The refreshing thing about Vans is the decided lack of hype that surrounds their release. Sure, the Supreme collabs sell through right away, but what Supreme collabs don’t? The whole Simpsons series was something else, though. The Simpsons reach is huge, and when you add in the work of someone like KAWS, these appealed to a whole broad swath of people. Still do.


23. Nike Air Foamposite One “Eggplants”

Release Date: 2011

The Eggplant Flightposites were a big deal when they first surfaced back in the late ’90s, so it was only a matter of time until the colorway made its way to the Foamposite One or Pro. It took another decade. While it would have been nice if they were Kobe-branded just for an added tweak, they were still one of the most highly anticipated Foams of all-time. At least until the following year. But we’ll get to that.


22. Air Jordan 1 Retro “Black/Royal”

Release Date: 2013

There’s something special about the original Air Jordan colorways, however many there were. And besides the original Bulls versions, perhaps none is so beloved as the black/royal. Maybe it’s because Jordan himself wore it in promotional material, or because – since it was originally retroed in 2001 – it’s one that even younger Air Jordan aficionados can remember. So when pictures surfaced of a new retro with “Nike Air” on the tongue, the question went from “do I cop?” to “how many pairs do I cop?” in an awful hurry. Even a release-stacked All-Star Weekend couldn’t keep these from selling out instantaneously.


21. Nike Air Foamposite Pro “Retro”

Release Date: 2011

See what you did, LeBron? With “South Beach” fever still in high gear, NSW released the Foamposite Pro in a very similar “Retro” colorway. All it took was a pair of pink laces to flip these Foams into a “custom” South Beach pair – which, judging from Instagram, was a popular move. Anyone still wearing them, though?


20. Ronnie Fieg x ASICS GEL Lyte III “Salmon Toe”

Release Date: 2011

Ronnie Fieg is an astute marketer, but if the product ain’t dope, the shit don’t sell. The “Salmon Toe” ASICS GEL-Lyte IIIs are indubitably dope. Premium materials, perfect colorblocking and an extremely limited run – paired with Ronnie’s traditionally amazing preview flicks – ensured an instant sellout and much chaos on the re-sale market.


19. ALIFE x Reebok Court Victory Pump “Ball Out”

Release Date: 2006

ALIFE wasn’t the first to put tennis ball fuzz on a sneaker – word to Airwalk – but putting the material on Michael Chang’s Pumps was a stroke of genius. There were other colors, including white and orange, but the neon green joints are just as sought-after now as they were when they first dropped. As in, highly.


18. Nike Air Foamposite One “Neon Royal”

Release Date: 2011

The original Foamposites are still the best. Nike can do whatever they want with Penny Hardaway’s revolutionary signature shoe (and apparently they’re going to), and the Royals will still be the Ones. Whenever they’re re-released (which isn’t often enough, even for an indestructible sneaker), it’s an event.


17. Air Jordan XIII Ray Allen PE

Release Date: 2011

Air Jordan PEs don’t release to the public too often – especially not ones worn by a perennial All-Star and future Hall of Famer (sorry, Quentin Richardson). So when word leaked about a pair of Ray Allen XIIIs dropping at retail, the scramble to cop began in earnest. Hey, if we’re gonna call ANY Jordan XIIIs the “He Got Games” (and please don’t), why not these?


16. Nike Hyperdunk Marty McFly

Release Date: 2008

If there was any doubt whatsoever that Tinker Hatfield’s fictional Nike Air MAG influenced the design of 2008’s Hyperdunk, it should have been dashed when Nike released this Back To The Future Part II influenced version. And if you want hype, how about Kobe Bryant showing up at Undefeated in a DeLorean? Too bad he couldn’t have stopped off at the 2004 NBA Finals first.


15. BAPE x adidas Originals Superstar “B-Sides”

Release Date: 2011

It’s not that the original BAPE x adidas Superstars and Super Skates weren’t hyped up – they were. But by the time the “B-Sides” project came to light, there was just that much more of an effective hype machine in place. Plus, all the latecomers just getting into BAPE were eager to catch up on what they missed. People are still searching these out.


14. Nike Dunk Low Pro SB “Tiffany”

Release Date: 2005

It took a little while for the SB craze to get up to speed. Sure, the original Zoo Yorks and Supas were wanted, but in a more low-key way. And the original Supreme Dunks sold out, but in a rather orderly fashion compared to what happens now. The “Tiffany” Dunks, with their moc-croc texture and iconic colorup, were one of the first to drive nearly everyone crazy, including girls who for possibly the first time ever fully supported their guy’s habit.


13. Air Jordan 1 Retro “Banned”

Release Date: 2011

Air Jordan 1s, in premium leather, with Nike Air on the tongue. In 2011. The “X” on the heel was a bit much (what would that “X” have been crossing out on an OG pair – it should have been on the ankle collar), but sneakerheads were making plans to cop multiples of these before they even knew where they’d release. As it turned out, they dropped at Nike Factory Stores only, which was either completely stupid or absolutely brilliant. Still hard to tell which.


12. Reebok Question Retro Mid

Release Date: 2012

The Reebok Question had returned before, but never quite like this. Finally under the Reebok Classics umbrella, the Question hit shelves in limited numbers in its original colorway, enthralling an entire new generation of kids who never saw AI in his prime. A true crossover.


11. Nike Dunk Low Pro SB “Pigeon”

Release Date: 2005

Available only at Jeff Staple’s Reed Space in NYC, the “Pigeon Dunks” caused fights and made headlines in the New York tabloids. We’re not saying this release was solely responsible for the neutered world of raffles and Twitter RSVPs, but the chaos was certainly noted.


10. Nike Dunk Supreme 2012

Release Date: 2012

They don’t trade at the stratospherical prices of the original Supreme Dunks, but hell, at least people wore those. The latest Supreme Dunk, issued as a 10th anniversary celebration of the original, was hyped up big, sold out fast, and viewed as an investment piece rather than a pair of dope sneakers. They’re the Gregg Jefferies rookie card of the sneaker game – if you don’t know, you better ask somebody.


9. Air Jordan DMP

Release Date: 2006

The DMP never really made sense – it wasn’t the shoe Mike won his first title and his last in, which would have made more sense. But the combination of an Air Jordan VI and an Air Jordan XI, sold together in limited numbers with gold accents was not a package to be missed. The entire CDP concept doesn’t happen without the overwhelming success of this release.


8. Air Jordan XI Retro

Release Date: N/A

The Christmas release of the Air Jordan XI has traditionally been an adventure. The holiday spirit quickly turns to ill will when people waiting in line for hours – if not days – find their size sold out when they finally get to the store. Will a “Columbia” release this holiday equal the hype standard set by previous releases? Probably.


7. Air Jordan III Retro 88

Release Date: 2013

People have been clamoring for “Nike Air” to return to Air Jordans since, oh, 10 seconds after the first III with a Jumpman on the back went on sale. The Air Jordan III Retro 88, released at the exact minute 25th anniversary of Michael Jordan’s second Dunk Contest victory, caused a bigger computer panic than the year 2000. Insanity.


6. Nike LeBron 8 “Pre-Heat”

Release Date: 2010

When LeBron made his Decision, attention quickly turned to what Nike would do about it. What they did was create the “Pre-Heat” LeBron 8, aka the “South Beach” LeBrons. People who would have never worn pink and aqua sneakers lost their collective minds and went on Sonny Crockett type shopping sprees to get clothes to match. Cue Glenn Frey.


5. Nike Air Foamposite One “Galaxy”

Release Date: 2012

Nike’s “Galaxy” concept for the 2012 NBA All-Star Game in Orlando was undeniably brilliant, and no single shoe was more breathlessly anticipated than the Foamposite One. Released at the very height of the Foamposite craze complete with a star-printed upper AND a glow-in-the-dark sole, the Galaxy Foams were – and are – a statement piece.


4. Nike Air Yeezy

Release Date: 2010

From the moment Kanye West pulled the ultimate “what the fuck are those” moment at the 50th anniversary Grammy Awards, the Air Yeezy was an object of desire. This was a hyped release people sold other hyped releases to get, one that they were more than willing to spend double and triple (and quadruple, and quintuple, and…) retail to acquire. And then the other colorways came out.


3. Nike Air Jordan

Release Date: 1985

For a sneaker from 1985 to even make this list, let alone get into the top three, it had to be something pretty special. And the original Nike Air Jordan was just that. Nike played it just right with Michael Jordan, buiding hype by putting him in the shoe as early as the pre-season, airing commercials on how the NBA banned the shoe, having him wear ALL the gear for the 1985 Dunk Contest, then finally releasing the shoe at retail on April 1st. The result? Immediate sellthrough, kids (and adults) getting robbed for their sneakers, and $100 million in business the first year. This is as big as it got in the pre-internet era.


2. Nike Air MAG

Release Date: 2011

Long after DVD copies were relegated to the bargain bin, Back To The Future Part II had sneakerheads thirsting for a sneaker that never even existed except on a studio lot. The Nike Air MAG, designed (and storyboarded) by Tinker Hatfield, allowed the heralded designer to throw reality to the wind and design what he imagined a sneaker from the future would look like. The result was a super-high hightop with self-tightening laces and lights in the heel. With 2015 right around the corner and the Hyperdunk where it is, it seems that the MAG became something of a self-fulfilling prophecy at Nike. But the Air MAG itself is what people wanted, and in 2011 they finally got their chance. Released in incredibly limited numbers via auction only, the MAG raised an incredible amount of money for The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research and made quite a few sneakerheads’ dreams come true. For once, hype did a whole mess of good.


1. Nike Air Yeezy 2

Release Date: 2012

Follow-ups are always difficult, no matter the discipline. You have your entire life to craft your debut, and the second it releases, people start to wonder how you’re going to better it – and how soon. Hype for Kanye West’s Nike Air Yeezy 2 started bulding before anyone even knew there would BE an Air Yeezy 2, and only built to a staggering crescendo once images started to leak. Traditionally a graph of a shoe’s resale value spikes upon its release, drops sharply whenever the next big thing hits, then steadily climbs back up as nostalgia begins to take hold. The fact that Yeezy 2 resale pries never seriously fell off just goes to show that sometimes the hype – no matter how outsized – is justified.

* Repost via Complex Sneakers


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