Long before he was streetwear royalty… before he landed the job as the artistic director of Louis Vuitton menswear… before Off-White… zip ties… global DJ sets… Coachella… before he would rise so high in the game that he’d hit an inevitable era of backlash, controversy, and questions about his legitimacy and continued relevance, Virgil Abloh was — like his sneaker-designing contemporary and former mentor Kanye West — just a teenage kid sketching shoes in his spare time. But unlike your average sneakerhead, Abloh actually sent those ideas to Nike. And though nothing came of those early sketches, by 2017, after a brief stint as an architect, an internship in Rome at Fendi, and the successful launch of his own fashion label, Abloh’s swoosh dreams finally came true when he designed “The Ten,” a collection that would go down in history as the greatest sneaker collaboration of all time.
Since Abloh first reimagined 10 of Nike’s most iconic shoes in 2017, he’s gone on to design almost 50 different colorways across Nike’s vast roster of sneaker silhouettes. They haven’t all been great. Hell, even “The Ten” could’ve used some editing. But Abloh’s brightest design moments catch eyes, spark conversations, and create trends — a trifecta that even the most well-respected designers can’t often lay claim to.
“What we’re talking about here is larger than sneakers, it’s larger than design culture… It’s nothing short of state-of-the-art design,” Abloh said of his debut collection with Nike. “These 10 shoes have broken barriers in performance and style. To me, they are on the same level as a sculpture of David or the Mona Lisa. You can debate it all you want, but they mean something. And that’s what’s important.”
Thus far in his career, Abloh’s greatest contribution to the world of streetwear isn’t found in just one specific sneaker or brand or collaboration. It’s in his ability to recognize and reflect what sneakerheads all around the world have known for decades: that a pair of fire Air Jordan 1s aren’t just a shoe, they’re a modern-day canvas, a piece of wearable contemporary art to be collected, coveted, cared for, and loved.
To celebrate Abloh’s vision and philosophy, we’ve curated the 20 best Nike Off-White sneakers in the three-year history of the two brands acting in accord. For the sake of continuity, we’ve listed them in chronological order, from the very best of ‘The Ten’ to last month’s Off-White Jordan IVs.
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Off-White Nike Air Max 90 ‘The Ten,’ 2017
Remember when I said The Ten could’ve used some editing? I didn’t mean by a heavy hand. You’ll find eight of the original ten shoes that Abloh redesigned on this list. (I said this was the greatest sneaker collaboration of all time, and I meant it.)
We’re kicking it off with Abloh’s take on the Air Max 90. The Ten dropped in two sets of five, dubbed “Revealing” and “Ghosting” with the Air Max 90 leading the pack and exceeding expectations. With this design, Abloh deemphasized Tinker Hatfield’s original look, breaking the sneaker down to its silhouette and paneling with a few minimalist accents that help the design feel fresh.
With a pristine white leather upper, an oversized white Swoosh, and grey suede overlays atop an icy blue midsole, and yes, zip ties, The Ten’s Air Max 90 almost looks like it should be in a museum.
Off-White Nike Air Presto ‘The Ten,’ 2017
You’ll find The Ten’s Air Presto topping a lot of lists chronicling Abloh’s greatest designs and for good reason. While by 2020’s standards a lot of the gimmicks from ’The Ten’ don’t seem all that revolutionary, the prevailing trend of deconstructed sneaker designs started with Abloh, and it hasn’t really be equaled or surpassed since. For the Air Presto, Abloh once again broke down the sneaker to its skeleton, stripping away the sleek layers of the Air Presto for a lightweight mesh upper with a bone-like lace cage. Even three years later, they just look so damn cool.
Off-White Nike Air VaporMax ‘The Ten,’ 2017
Off-White has dropped two other Nike Air VaporMax sneakers since the original black pair from The Ten, but nothing matches these. This is simply one of the best VaporMax colorways and designs of all time.
Abloh’s VaporMax features a Flyknit upper with a bright white over-sized swoosh stitched on, atop a blacked-out VaporMax sole that gives off heavy Darth Vader vibes. Abloh is a Star Wars head, so we’re almost certain that’s what this big nerd was going for.
Off-White Nike Air Jordan 1 ‘The Ten’ 2017
C’mon, you knew you were going to come across this pair. It’s easily the most recognizable sneaker Virgil Abloh has ever designed. This is the shoe that Abloh-haters use to discredit his craft and that’s probably because it includes every cringey Abloh trademark, from the “Air” quotation marks, the visible stitching on the swoosh, the Beaverton, Oregon production stamp. Ugh, right?
It isn’t even an original colorway, borrowing the original “Chicago” makeup, which is legendary unto itself. Does this dude even actually design anything? But look closer and you’ll see that this is how Abloh infuses the spirit of hip-hop into his design work, and why it catches hold with heads worldwide. Abloh is sampling a piece of sneaker history and recontextualizing it for a modern sensibility. Is Drake’s “Nice for What” any less of a great song because it owes a debt to Lauryn Hill’s “Ex-Factor” which itself sampled “Can It Be All So Simple” by the Wu-Tang Clan, which draws from “The Way We Were/Try To Remember” by Gladys Knight & The Pips?
Nope — that’s what art does. Borrows, remixes, and makes the old new again. That’s where Abloh excels.
Off-White Nike Blazer ‘The Ten,’ 2017
We have Virgil Abloh to thank for breathing new life into Nike’s Blazer sneaker, which prior to 2017 was a seriously overlooked shoe. Nowadays, even Nike is showing the Blazer constant love, releasing vintage colorways on a yearly basis. For The Ten’s Blazer, the upper is dressed in white leather with a descending swoosh that dives into an off-white midsole. The inner side of the sneaker features the Beaverton, Oregon production stamp, which is a call back to where the original design was crafted.
Off-White Nike Air Force 1 ‘The Ten,’ 2017
While Abloh’s “Revealing” set from The Ten shed away layers to reveal the inner workings of these iconic silhouettes, for his “Ghosting” set, Abloh opened a window, dressing each sneaker in a translucent upper, another trend that has become pervasive since the designer popularized it.
Abloh’s Air Force 1 is probably the most extreme design out of the “Ghosting” collection, it’s so broken down that it almost looks like it’s still midway through production. If you don’t like deconstructed sneakers, you probably won’t like these, though it’s pretty hard to mess up the Air Force 1.
Off-White Nike Hyperdunk ‘The Ten,’ 2017
The Ten’s Hyperdunk was a way for Abloh to prove that he wasn’t just about style over substance. Through and through, this Hyperdunk is a court-performance sneaker, despite its high-fashion appearance. A breathable FlyKnit upper keeps players light on their feet, with an added midfoot strap for extra support atop a bouncy React midsole. The hype for The Ten was so great that you’d have to be insane to actually wear these on the court, but we like to spend some time imagining what that might look like every time we see them.
Off-White Nike Zoom Fly ‘The Ten,’ 2018
All right, so of The Ten, we’ve included nine Abloh designs on this list — and we were truly torn about including this one. It was a toss-up between this debut colorway or Abloh’s Tulip Pink iteration from 2018, but at the end of the day, there is a reason this pair still fetches a $1000 on the aftermarket while the Tulip Pinks are much more affordable.
This pair truly comes alive with your sock game, making the Zoom Fly one of the most visually varied sneakers Off-White and Nike have ever made, and giving it a slight edge over the Tulip Pink — which are a little harder to rock.
Off-White Nike Air Max 97 ‘The Ten,’ 2017
Virgil Abloh’s Air Max 97 is pretty interesting in that its design changes the way you normally see the Air Max 97. Usually known for its aerodynamic waves, Abloh instead obscures those eye-leading lines beneath a translucent upper, with a large, long swoosh in place of the sneaker’s usual tiny swoosh — which works to highlight the sneaker’s aerodynamic shape.
This very minor change really manages to give the Air Max 97 a totally unique look within its own history. It’s proof that small changes can equal out to really radical results.
Off-White Nike Air Force 1 ComplexCon, 2017
We’re finally out of The Ten territory with this ComplexCon exclusive. If The Ten’s AF-1 was a little too stripped back for your liking, Abloh released a design that played things pretty close to the original with his second Air Force 1. Featuring a clean all-white leather upper, the ComplexCon sneaker sports a metallic swoosh with exposed stitching, and orange branding tags on the exposed foam tongue and Nike check.
In terms of moving the AF-1 forward, this sneaker doesn’t do too much to change the game — but it’s quite the sight regardless. Unfortunately, giving this sneaker’s exclusive status, there aren’t many pairs out there floating around.
Off-White Air Jordan 1 White, 2018
It won’t come as a surprise to find out that the second Off-White Jordan 1 was actually Abloh’s original idea for the sneaker’s entry in The Ten, as its all-white upper with off-white overlays looks a lot more visually consistent with the rest of the collection. But then, it’s hard to blame Abloh for taking a crack at the OG Chicago colorway.
It might be a controversial opinion, but we dig these over the original pair from The Ten. Easily.
Off White Nike Air Jordan 1 UNC, 2018
Naturally, you’re going to find a lot of Air Jordan 1s on this list and while we tried to avoid too many doubles, Abloh has a particular talent for understanding what makes the Air Jordan 1 so great. Featuring a powder blue paneled upper with white accents and contrasting orange stitching, the UNC continues Abloh’s practice of taking the absolute best
Air Jordan 1 colorways — in this case, the Michael Jordan University of North Carolina Blue — and giving them a modern revamp.
Off-White x MoMa x Nike Air Force 1, 2018
We don’t know why Virgil Abloh insists on making his Air Force 1s — probably one of Nike’s most popular silhouettes — the most exclusive Off-White and Nike link up, but with the instant sell-out of the AF-1 from The Ten, the hard to find ComplexCon exclusive, and this three-way collaboration between Nike, Off-White, and the Museum of Modern Art, AF-1s designed by Abloh is a rare find.
This 2018 release is essentially identical to the ComplexCon exclusive, only this time its dressed in black.
Off-White Nike Blazer Hallow’s Eve, 2018
Released for the Halloween season, Abloh’s All Hallow’s Eve colorway feels more targeted toward Thanksgiving than All Hallows Eve itself, but we’ll try not to get too hung up on that fact. Featuring an orange toned tan upper with a deep-diving wrap-around pumpkin swoosh, the Blazer All Hallow’s Eve is the best Nike Blazer Off-White has ever put out.
If this didn’t have the teal swoosh tag and the “Shoelaces” text, you might even be able to fool a staunch Abloh hater into admitting that these are pretty dope.
Off-White Nike Blazer Grim Reaper, 2018
See, now this sneaker should’ve been given the “All Hallow’s Eve” name! Oh well, the Grim Reaper differs from the other Nike Blazer Off-White silhouettes in its use of a translucent black panel along the upper coupled with a bright white wrap around swoosh.
It’s hard to not love this sleek pair, though it does feel like a step down in general creativity from the All Hallow’s Eve.
Off-White Nike Air Max 97 Serena. 2018
Ahead of Serena Williams’s opening match at the 2018 US open, Abloh dropped a few silhouettes that bare the tennis legend’s name — the best of which was the Air Max 97 Serena. Ditching the translucent sheath obscuring the 97’s wavy lines, the Serena features a soft pink-toned upper with a pink, purple, and gold gradient midsole, a yellow tab, and an oversized swoosh.
Off-White Nike Air Force 1 MCA, 2019
It’s pretty clear that while Abloh might have a knack for producing fire colorways of the Air Jordan 1, it’s the AF-1 that he considers a true masterpiece. Why else would he drop another exclusive fine art Air Force 1 with the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art? This pair is dressed in a beautiful University Blue all leather upper with a metallic silver swoosh.
These are so beautiful that a part of us absolutely hates the idea of someone wearing them.
Off-White Nike Air Max 90 Desert Ore, 2019
The Off-White Air Max 90 Desert Ores represent a transition in design styles for Abloh, featuring touchstones from his work immediately proceeding The Ten to the more modern Off-White Nikes we see today.
Featuring a dark beige upper with a bright mango swoosh, the Desert Ores look a bit like what we imagine a Yeezy and Off-White link up might look like — thanks to its dusty earthy appearance.
Off-White Nike Air Jordan V Muslin, 2020
It’s a little hard to believe there aren’t more Air Jordan Vs by Abloh. An often overlooked sneaker in the Jordan brand line, the V Muslins represent a newer aesthetic era for the designer. Sure, he’s still using translucent textiles and breaking the sneakers down to their rough interiors, but now he’s doing it in a much more refined way. While it doesn’t feel as groundbreaking as anything from The Ten, we appreciate Abloh’s commitment to pushing his designs forward and not just cashing in on the trends he made popular.
Off-White Nike Air Jordan IV Sail, 2020
The Air Jordan IV Sail brings us to current day offerings from Off-White and they’re proof that even with the haters and the missteps, Off-White is still pretty f*cking dope. Released as a women’s size exclusive — much to the dismay of big-footed sneakerheads — this Air Jordan 4 features a full-grain leather and grid mesh upper, with clear textiles, air cushioning, exposed foam, and a totally monochromatic makeup.
These sneakers were an instant sell-out and are currently fetching prices well above $1000 on the aftermarket, making them the most beloved Off-White Nike’s since The Ten era. In a dark year, it’s a bright reminder that even three years into their extended collaboration, Off-White and Nike are a natural matchup.