John Gotty’s Top 20 Sneakers Of All Time

Managing Hip-Hop Editor
08.16.11 50 Comments

Graphic: Miss Dimplez

Footwear plays as much a role in my average day as mp3s do. After being the subject of a few recent features where kicks were part of the discussion, I compiled a quick list of my favorite models. Being a Gemini means lists like these are guaranteed to change with the seasons so an asterisk should added to the title. Two decades worth of consuming, narrowed down to 20 entries? Damn near impossible. Expect round two soon.

1. Nike Air Trainer SC (Auburn) — For so many years, these were my grails because a.) they were impossible to get b.) I associate the colors with Davey Johnson wearing them at Syracuse and c.) I grew up watching the SEC and remember Bo Jax as an Auburn Tiger. When I finally got a pair of these in the mid-2000s, I stopped collecting shoes and just went back to buying and copping whatever I happened to come across.

2. Ronnie Fieg x Nice Kicks Asics Gel-Lyte III “Super Murder” — Bloody murder. Tip your hat to both Ronnie and Matt at Nice Kicks for nailing these.

3. Huarache Lite “Ultramarine” — Cult classics.

4. Nike Air Force 1 Bobbito Aubergine/Beach-Volt — The deep purple toebox and luxurious leather are perfect execution. I have a feeling Cool Bob Love took Nike to task to make sure his AF1’s were made from the best materials possible.

5. Nike Air Max Uptempo 2 — Out of hundreds of pairs of shoes I’ve owned in my lifetime the Uptempo 2’s are the only ones I wore so much that I popped the Air unit.

6. Nike Air Max 2009 — Prior to the release of AM2009s, retros dominated my closet. The ’09s restored my faith that Nike could still create solid new models and I’ve been more apt to try others to the point where I have only a handful of old school kicks in the closet.

7. Jordan III White/Cement or Black/Cement — Many point to the Jordan I or others from the Roman numeral family but specifically the III’s changed the way sneakers are sold and consumed. From the actual design to marketing campaign, nothing’s been the same since Tinker gave us cement print and Mike and Mars were featured in the ad campaigns that made the kicks cool.

8. Air Maxim Trainer ND— I’ve spoken on these before. An absolute favorite and the only shoe I stockpile. See a pair, buy a pair, regardless of the circumstances.

9. Lebron 8 V2 — Similar to the AM09, Nike got me wearing newer basketball releases again after I gave these a shot. Now, I have all sorts of kicks crafted for the court even though I have zero intentions of ever shooting a jumper.

10. Manny Pacquiao x Nike “Lights Out” Air Trainer 1 — Do want but I doubt I’ll see a 13 any time soon.

11. AM1 Hufquake — Very distinctive execution on a model that never really gets old or loses its appeal because of the clean lines. The Hufquake version is magnificent with the print, perforated toebox and gum soles.

12. New Balance 580 — The super-duper heel and overall bulky look of 580’s turn off some but I’ve always loved them. Mad durable and the design allows for great color-blocking so they’re a designer’s dream. Also, 580’s set the mold when it comes to collaborations between footwear brands and designers, a movement initiated when Mita did their first version.

13. Air Trainer Max 2 ’94 — I had these in college when they first dropped. I came home for summer and once it was time to back to go back, I couldn’t find them for shit. I still think my favorite little cousin murked me for them, which doesn’t make sense since he wore an 11 and I wear 13. It’s cool. I actually scored the shits off a check scam myself.

14. Nike Air Rift — Another cult classic. When I see someone wearing Rifts I know they’re either one of us…or perhaps a runner or student of martial arts. I’d like to take this time to petition Nike to sell more of men’s Rifts in the U.S. and to start including the socks again.

15. Nike Trainer 1 “Vintage Box” — I paid a grip for two pairs of these, only to see them hit outlets. Still, they were worth every penny I originally spent. To recreate the the old school orange & gray Nike box on a sneaker was genius.

16. Huarache LE “Scream Green” — When the Huarache line first released, they blew away everything else. The secure sock-like feel was one thing but the inspired colorways left a mark on the game which still reverberates in shoes we see today.

17. Nike Tebow Trainer 1.2 — I missed the release on the Tebow Trainers and would pay a grip if I could ever get my hands on my size. I love blue hues and these are Crayola beautiful.

18. Jordan XVI Black/Red — These may not be a favorite for many people but the comfort on the XVI’s is amazing. Even though I’m not a huge fan of patent leather, the material’s subtle use here works. Just leave off the shroud and you’re good.

19. AM90 Free KAWS — Simple but oh so sexy. Yes, the major selling point is KAWS’ signature ‘X X’ but, much like any other hobby, the smallest of differences can make any item that much more valuable.

20. New Balance M992 — Thou shalt not overlook the comfort and subtle appeal of the 992’s. While they’ll never be trendy, you can’t go wrong wearing a clean grey pair.

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