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Sneaker News 2013 Year End Rewind: Day 3

December 18, 2013by Sneaker News
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It’s Day 3 and we’re just getting into the heart of our Sneaker News 2013 Year End Rewind. There’s still plenty of good stuff to come from some heavy hitters in the world of footwear, so get comfy and join us as we dive right into the next five categories of action with full rundowns of the year’s best and brightest moments.

Continue on to jog your memory on the 2013 highlights from Nike Sportswear and the Kobe Bryant line, as well as two foundational cornerstones of the sneaker industry in Converse and New Balance. The year’s top sneaker headlines rounds out the day’s menu, so there’s lots to sink your teeth into in the pages ahead.

Sneaker News 2013 Year End Rewind: Day 1
Sneaker News 2013 Year End Rewind: Day 2

With LeBron James relishing in another year of success and Kevin Durant’s stardom rising at a rapid rate, would there be enough elbow room for the elder statesmen of Nike Basketball? His Lakers weren’t performing at a Championship level, and a sudden injury near the end of the regular season prevented the superstar from chasing that coveted sixth ring. But despite the on-court setbacks, Kobe Bryant definitely held his own in 2013 for a number of reasons – a popular signature shoe, the first-ever Retro(s) in the “Big Three” era of Nike Basketball, and an incredible launch event for his revolutionary next model.

It’s no mystery that the Nike Kobe 8 (the lone Kobe model to release this year) deserves all the credit for keeping his name consistently in the sneaker headlines, with various treats like the Mambacurial and “What The Kobe” offering up plenty of excitement for his fans. But his triumphant return from injury, which coincided perfectly with the unveiling of the Nike Kobe 9 Elite and the eight-shoe Prelude Pack, may have boosted the 5-time champion to the top of the power rankings to end the year on a high note. To see how it all unfolded, get the full rundown of all the year’s major Kobe stories below.

With the Snake being the celebratory animal of the Chinese zodiac, there was no better opportunity for Nike to go the extra mile with the Nike Kobe 8 and the running reptile theme. Three “Year of the Snake” versions were created to bring the naturally-fitting concept to life – a special red Camo colorway, as well as black leather and red suede EXT editions.

The All-Star release of the Kobe 8 flexed the muscle of Engineered Mesh, presenting an incredible graphic print like nothing we’d seen before. The design took on the outer space theme head on, utilizing blazing hot orange and red tones with green accents to grasp the extraterrestrial feel of the Houston-inspired capsule.

Of the Easter-inspired trio of Nike Basketball signature shoes, the Kobe 8 was by far the most colorful of the bunch thanks to a multi-colored gradient fade across the Engineered Mesh upper.

A nod to one of the great attractions of Los Angeles, the “Venice Beach” colorway featured a series of abstract red, yellow, blue, and grey streaks unlike any other color or pattern applications seen on the Kobe 8.

Nike beefed up the Kobe 8 with the Elite installment, adding Dynamic Flywire and a carbon fiber heel-cup for added stability. A pristine Black/Gold version and the Superhero edition were the only two releases of the model, and with Kobe going down with his ankle injury before the postseason, viewers never got the chance to see much of the Kobe 8 Elite in action.

Surprisingly, very few Lakers-friendly versions of the Kobe 8 were released. One of the select few was the “Purple Gradient”, which featured a light-to-dark fade on the EM upper atop a speckled black midsole. With no storytelling elements or fancy nickname, this colorway stood on its own merits, making it an easy choice for Kobe 8 sleeper of the year.

The Kobe 8 went off-court with the NSW Lifestyle model, opting for a significantly simplified construction featuring classic vulc soles and ambitious upper materials like a textured green snakeskin effect and a Mexican blanket-inspired motif.

The soccer boot design aesthetic has been a key driver to the success of the Nike Kobe signature line, but it wasn’t until the Mambacurial that the concept came full circle. This summer release combined the Kobe 8 silhouette with the Mercurial Vapor cleats, porting over the trademark colorway and detailing for an incredible collision of two worlds.

It’s well known that Kobe Bryant is a revered figure in Asia, so it’s not surprising that Nike has worked some Asia exclusive colorways into the mix. Stateside Kobe fans were pining away for this elusive release boasting an insane exploding sparks graphic treatment.

Channeling the beast within Kobe, Nike brought out snakeskin in the form of the Pit Viper graphic. The initial Purple colorway was followed by a Green Glow version later on, while the graphic print itself became a selectable option on NIKEiD.

A major landmark was reached with the unveiling of the Flyknit-infused high-top Nike Kobe 9, and it was celebrated with an exclusive media event at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles. Kobe Bryant, Eric Avar, and Nike CEO Mark Parker were all in attendance for the kick-off just prior to the Black Mamba’s triumphant return from injury.

The popular “What The” concept returned to the Kobe silo for the second straight year, drawing the very best details of the Kobe 8 catalog, as well as some new ones, and juxtaposing them all onto one single mis-matched pair.

The Nike Kobe line finally reached Retro territory with the introduction of the Prelude Pack. All eight signature models were designed with a specific style of art in mind, with imagery depicting key moments from each year.

Perhaps the final bang before the launch of the Kobe 9, Nike brought the snake theme to the world of 3D with the eye-popping Kobe 8 SS, featuring a highly texturized upper with protruding silver studded scales.

Did New Balance, a brand that traces its roots all the way back to 1906, have one of its best years ever in 2013? Entering the year with considerable momentum that had compounded with some highly successful 2012 collaborations, NB doubled down with even more guest designers and high profile heritage-based in-house projects. They’ve been able to carve out a sizeable chunk of the classic running niche with carefully chosen team-ups and an undying commitment to killer materials and wearable make-ups, but in many ways, it’s still just business as usual.

New Balance remains the only major brand manufacturing shoes in America, and along with their UK factories, the company is committed to premium quality you can trust on all the models we’ve come to know and love. From vintage staples and anniversary celebrations to the latest and greatest space age tech, NBs ran strong all year, and after seeing the 1600 and 577 worked heavily in the 2013 rotation, we’re excited to see what other slept on silhouettes may be emerging in the year ahead.

One of a few integral NB classic runners to celebrate a quarter-century in 2013, the 576 OG hearkened back to 1988 with original navy and grey colorways made up in premium materials and featuring tasteful vintage detailing.

New Balance collectors will remember this as a turning point, when the brand’s Asian collaborations finally started consistently arriving at US shops. Doesn’t hurt that Fingercroxx’s MT580 is one of the best examples of camouflage all year either.

The long awaited “Tassie Devil” finally released from Australia’s stalwart sneaker publishers. The regal multi-purple/black Sneaker Freaker 998 turned out to be one of the year’s most sought-after and hard to track down New Balance drops.

Another milestone moment happened here with the 1600 getting its first collaboration.  The colorway based on American statesman Benjamin Franklin does Philly proud and further propelled the lesser known model into the spotlight.

After spring’s ‘Day Tripper’ ensemble, the American New Balance factories cranked out a set of 996, 998 and 1300s also known as the “American Rebel/Renegade” pack. These premium general releases showed the in-house design team at its best as they threw some subtle nods to ‘1950s car culture.

New Balance started 2013 by working on a new collection with a familiar partner.  Herschel’s 420s and H710s once again proved worthy of the luxury backpack brand’s reputation with the team-up proving so successful, it prompted a second wave of drops in late summer.

Another 25th anniversary celebrator this year, the New Balance 996 opted instead of looking to the past to jump ahead with the modern REVlite cushioning update. A new midtop version and the popular MT580 also aided in carrying the innovation to the trail.

One of the year’s best realized collab concepts surfaced in September when Bodega based their ‘Hypercat’ 577 on the original Star Fox game for SNES. A ‘Super FX’ upgrade of sorts took place on the rare occasion where the Boston shop’s stylized story tag replaced the traditional NB tongue branding.

Elsewhere in Boston in September, Concepts got their hands on not one, but two different 998s. First came the “C-Note” in tribute to the new US $100 bill, and then the happy news that the “Mint” edition celebrating the anniversary of former partner, The Tannery, would follow shortly after in October.

Burn Rubber knocked out one of the year’s best special packages in their tribute to fellow Detroit native, boxing legend Joe Lewis. The limited edition violin case box was an amazing touch, but the premium leather construction more than stood on its own as a sophisticated colorway approach.

Ronnie Fieg promised the most luxurious version of the 1600 yet and many believe he delivered just that with the “Daytona” edition. It released during the same holiday shopping weekend as the out-of-nowhere “Americana” 577, but it was the Florida-inspired take on the buzzed about 1600 silhouette that stole the show.

Rounding out strong years for both New Balance and St. Alfred was the latter’s guest spot on a red suede and mesh 1500 with a gum sole. An American answer to Japan’s United Arrows 1500s this past spring, this one proved that the Chicago shop can continue to ignore nicknames and backstories so long as their designs look this good.

This year was an eclectic one for the Nike Sportswear category. Thanks to Swoosh’s longstanding dedication to innovation, their list of greatest hits across the past 12 months isn’t merely a who’s who of collaborators and outside partners. Yes, they did link up with a few sneaker shops to revisit the times when Air Max models done up by choice boutiques were the hottest of commodities, but they also had a good number of solo efforts that turned heads as much as any x-marked collab shoe ever could. With such a deep arsenal of resources at their disposal, it’s reasonable for us all to expect a lot from the NSW category and 2013 had no shortage of worthy efforts.

Along with the various retro models, there were plenty of modern hits that reminded the sneaker world that the Nike Sportswear teams know what they’re doing when it comes to reinventing the brand’s heritage DNA. They took a minimalist budget banger like the Roshe to the next level and the resale market took notice. They smoothly transitioned Nike’s groundbreaking Flyknit tech into the lifestyle realm. They teased us with yet another Kanye West shoe, one that we’re still waiting for by the way. But most importantly, they proved that they’re still capable of throwing some unexpected curveballs to keep us all on our toes, always wondering what will come next.

It was only a matter of time before the Flyknit technology moved out of the running sphere. It did so with a bang this year in via the Nike Lunar Flyknit Chukka – a versatile silhouette that became an instant favorite for many.

A classic collab combination. The atmos team had us thinking of the good old days of their Air Max 1 bangers with these two contrasting animal print editions. Only released in Asia, this dynamic duo had us scrambling to hunt them down.

The Roshe had a few coveted versions before this release, but the forefoot Swoosh FB version brought it to unimaginable new heights thanks to a certain Yeezy-reminiscent colorway that sent sneakerheads into a frenzy.

No doubt one of the most talked about shoes for the better part of 2013. Kanye wore them, he promised to give away fifty pairs, October came and went with no release, and now he’s over at adidas. The eventual fate of the “Red Octobers” is looking as murky as ever.

The Nike Dunk Low “Viotech” unexpectedly returned 12 years after its original release with slight tweaks like that leather lining and the Nike Zoom insole.

The UK’s size is one of the last sneaker shops still locking down Swoosh collabs on a consistent basis. This year they got their hands on everything from the Roshe Run to the revived Nike Air Max ‘93 and Air Max Light.

At a point when camo saturation was at an all-time high, Nike jumped right on in and released a bonanza of Air Max editions based on the different types of military camos around the world. Patience paid off as the sneakers eventually trickled into US retailers and disappeared from shelves on arrival.

CLOT know their way around an Air Max 1 at this point. They proved it again this year with a sleek Special Projects installment dubbed the “Kiss of Death” that also featured a deluxe limited edition Chinese medicine-inspired box set only acquired by a fortunate few.

One of Nike’s most obscure relics makes an unthinkable return. The Air Python was right at the top of the list of incredible Nike classics we never thought we’d see as a retro. The infamous Air Jordan II-flavored enigma made its 2013 comeback in two OG colorways with the promise of a Dover Street Market collab and some Lux versions on the way. Year of the Snake indeed.

A Nike Basketball classic comes back to life. Gary Payton’s Nike Air Zoom Flight 98 “The Glove” arrived to plenty of fanfare and in a variety of new and old colorways with the release being a timely one thanks to GP’s September Hall of Fame induction.

Is there any sneaker that the “Infrared” color scheme doesn’t look good on? Two Tinker Hatfield classics came together in perfect harmony as the Air Trainer 1 met the Air Max 90, even going as far as to include a mesh toebox.

Apparently the atmos team wasn’t satisfied with just giving us one set of Air Max’s this year. November brought these two camo AM90s that proved pretty difficult to track down even though they did arrive at some top accounts here in the US.

At 105 years deep in the game, Converse is a brand that’s been around longer than pretty much any of the others that we cover here on Sneaker News. The fact that they are over a century old means that, in some respects, they’ve got more work to do in 2013. It means that many of its staple models were first put into production when your parents or even grandparents were still in grade school, so those models have at this point become cultural icons with a much more static and general identity than hyped silhouettes by adjacent brands. How then, are they to create energy and excitement around hallmarks like the Chuck Taylor or the Jack Purcell when they’ve already been issued in so many iterations for so many years now?

The answer for Converse this year involved some creative inline collections as well as some shrewd team ups with increasingly unlikely partners. They went high fashion with Comme des Garcons and Margiela and over to the Far East with CLOT and Neighborhood. They let a line of hotel chains have a stab at the Pro Leather, and they even gave a two-pack to a marquee name in Canadian blankets. It was through projects like these, along with a small sprinkling of more traditional joint ventures with artists, brands and sneaker shops, that the All-Star brand was able to make big noise across the past 12 months amd keep their tried and true classics in the limelight and still going strong.

Jay Z approved. One of the world’s trendiest hotels showed up with not one but two Converse Pro Leather styles this year.

Rei Kawakubo’s diffusion line continues to blow up. This partnership went all over in 2013 via some high and low Converse Pro Leathers.

The Taylor Gang is finally made official with this ambitious collection designed for Pittsburgh’s favorite Converse repper.

These sneaker collab veterans have both been around the Converse block together before. This time around, it was a low-cut Chuck that received a little bit of Undefeated’s signature military flavor.

This time the All-Star brand linked up with the oldest corporation in North America for some colorful blanket style Jack Purcells.

Margiela for the masses? Yes, they were colored Chuck Taylors dipped in white paint – if you didn’t get it, then it wasn’t for you.

On the eve of their 20th anniversary year, Neighborhood teamed up with Converse for the first time with a sleek tonal take on two different models.

CLOT got all Qing Dynasty on us with these traditional Chinese-flavored Chucks. Check out the knotted button sets on the side.

The Converse Aero Jam made its second retro return in 2013, reminding us all of the Larry Johnson “Grandmama” era and a time when the brand was a formidable competitor in the performance basketball market.

The Tribe follows up their patchwork Converse Pro Leather trio from last year with some slick Chuck Taylor designs featuring tonal uppers lying beneath an embossed croc pattern.

In addition to just product releases, there are plenty of sub-plots unraveling within the sneaker world at any given moment. Part of the fun of being immersed in the sneaker culture is engaging in the current hot topic debates of the day. There’s usually no shortage of juicy hot button issues and 2013 was no different.

Brands adding and dropping athletes and celebrity endorsers, polarizing trends, random restocks, rising prices, and intriguing new innovations. That’s just a sampling of the major side stories that were brewing over the past year, so continue on for a quick refresher on some of 2013’s most provocative conversation points.

While the return of Nike Air tongue labels to the Air Jordan 1 OG made a lot of people happy back in January, it was a month later that the Air Jordan III Retro ’88 put it back on the heel and sent the sneaker world into a frenzy. Since they first surfaced, the conversation about what other Jordans could, should, and will get the NIKE AIR treatment has never let up.

Restocks are always a polarizing topic. For every person that’s in the right place at the right time to scoop up a sought-after release through a random restock, there are 100 people enraged that the opportunity slipped right under their nose. Several shops and brands seemed to make a concerted effort in 2013 to level the playing field a little by putting the “random score” back into the realm of possibilities for consumers.

Reebok parted ways with brand endorser Rick Ross after they caught wind of some of his controversial misogynistic lyrics from the song “U.O.E.N.O.”. Despite severing ties back in April, Rozay has continued to rock the brand’s shoes and gear and it appears that there’s no ill will over the fallout on either side.

Reporter Darren Rovell’s ABC Nightline profile of the sneaker game had a lot of folks irrate with the narrow depiction portrayed in the segment. While it’s unrealistic to expect an 8-minute color piece to capture the entire spectrum of a culture, the common opinion was that it cast a less than flattering light on this thing of ours.

Aside from top NBA ballers like LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, we also saw the custom sneaker game get co-signed by a number of influential celebs like Jay Z, Wale, Victor Cruz and Joe Budden to name a few. Several of the customs scene’s top craftsmen got even better in 2013 and some formidable new contenders emerged on the scene as well, ensuring that the competition and creativity will only intensify from here.

Kanye had just blown minds by verifying the authenticity of the mysterious Red Yeezy 2 when he threw us for another loop by announcing the giveaway of  50 pairs in conjunction with the release of his Yeezus album. Contest winners were announced, but to our knowledge, the shoes have yet to be delivered with the Kanye-to-adidas development obviously further clouding the situation since.

Over the summer, King James put out a feeler in regards to the retro return of his first signature Nike model, the Air Zoom Generation. ‘Bron tweeted out some photos of the shoe, noting #TenYearAnniversary and asking “Retro time people?”

The past year saw a noticeable shake-up on the NBA endorsement circuit with a number of high profile players jumping ship from one brand over to another. In the wake of Russell Westbrook’s move from Nike to Jordan Brand late in 2012, we saw a bunch of stars follow suit with names like Rajon Rondo, Steph Curry, John Wall, and Tony Parker among others all finding themselves with a new logo on their shoes in 2013.

After successfully rehabbing from the injury that held him out of last season, Derrick Rose finally returned to action, much to the delight of Bulls fans, not to mention the folks over at adidas. Sadly, the return was short-lived as Rose fell victim to yet another season-ending injury only a few weeks into the new season.

Losing D Rose was a huge blow, but adidas quickly had their spirits raised a week later by adding Kanye West to the brand roster. After putting out two coveted models with Nike, Kanye let it be known that the relationship had gone sour, and after some rumblings and rumors, it was officially announced that Yeezus will be putting his unique touches on a variety of Three Stripes products in the not so distant future.

LeBron James sent shockwaves through the sneaker industry when he switched from his Nike LeBron XI back to the previous season’s Elite model. After experiencing some discomfort in the toebox area, Nike went back to work to address the issue and get him back into his latest shoe. It was recently reported that the situation had been resolved and we can expect to see LeBron in the XI for the rest of the year.

There has always been a lot of Air Jordan support in the rap community going back decades, but somehow it was Drake who cracked the elusive nut of infiltrating the brand on a contractual level. While the exact details and nature of the unprecedented deal are still somewhat unclear, we can expect to see more of this story unfolding in 2014.

Shortly after Nike introduced their revolutionary Flyknit technology, it became clear that it would eventually expand beyond its original form and make its way onto shoes from other categories as well. The Free Flyknit and Hyperfeel pushed the running envelope, but seeing it on the Kobe 9 goes to show that the applications may be limitless.

Rising sneaker prices are nothing new, but it’s not just Jordan Retros and signature basketball models that are seeing a spike in MSRPs. With the prices of materials and other production costs skyrocketing as well, we’ve even seen the pricetags on suede and mesh runners go through the roof with no relief in sight moving into the future.