The franchise-sneaker tie-in is for better or worse, a part of modern sneaker culture. Just like brand or celebrity collaborations, every year brings a fresh crop of franchise-sneaker tie-ins that make us either cringe, scratch our heads in confusion, or salivate with enthusiasm. Sometimes they can be great, like this year’s Space Jam Air Jordan 6 Hares, but most of the time they’re blatant cash grabs that make us roll our eyes in disgust. We’re looking at you, Game of Thrones sneaker series.
Very rarely do these kicks make our weekly column, where we round up the week’s best sneakers and apparel — SNX DLX. So when I heard that an entire collection of sneakers from Adidas celebrating the 40th anniversary of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back would drop this year, I found myself in a tough spot. How could I, a life-long Star Wars fan, find a way to write about these sneakers which celebrate my favorite Star Wars movie knowing full well that I’d probably never feel compelled to include them in a single entry for SNX DLX? Time for a top to bottom ranking, of course!
As iffy as the Star Wars Adidas collection is, and brace yourself, it does get iffy, it’s also incredibly interesting. Almost every design in this ten sneaker collection is marred by a single detail that absolutely ruins any good idea it had going for it. In a way, the sneakers manage to reflect the troubled and divisive franchise that they’re celebrating and that’s pretty fascinating.
Let’s dive in!
Star Wars x Adidas Rivalry Hi Chewbacca
Certainly, you could argue, “well, what do you want a Chewbacca shoe to look like?” But come on, this is just a little too out there. Adidas’ choice to use the Rivalry Hi silhouette is great, it has a tall, surprisingly-thin-but-sturdy shape — just like Chewbacca — but then Adidas had to go and cover the whole thing in faux fur.
They could’ve just gone with the mixed leather and suede upper, or here is an idea: they could’ve used fuzzy suede, or in place of suede, chenille. Anything but this. The fur makes the sneakers virtually unwearable unless you know, you’re insane or you’re rolling up to Burning Man or putting in a minimal amount of effort at a cosplay convention.
Bottom line: Um… the whole collection is a step up from here.
Star Wars x Adidas Superstar Darth Vader
The Adidas Superstar Darth Vader unfortunately suffers from this collection’s tendency of mixing good ideas with at least one really stupid one. Here we have an Adidas Superstar — nice choice for Vader, we would’ve gone with a boot though — dressed in a double Core Black colorway with Scarlett red detailing on the heel tag and branding with a leather upper and exposed horizontal stitching meant to resemble Darth Vader’s suit.
The Superstar’s three stripes feature a glossy black material, subtly suggesting the character it’s named for in so many interesting ways… and then you get to that cup toe. What could’ve been an awesome design is totally ruined by the bizarre decision on Adidas’ part to swap out the Superstar’s shell toe cap with a molding of Vader’s helmet.
Bottom line: It’s a little too on the nose, veering into “cool dad” dorkiness.
Star Wars x Adidas Top Ten C-3PO
Repping C-3P0 is a Metallic Gold Top Ten High with Cloud White accenting and a synthetic upper atop a rubber cup sole. No major missteps with this one, the introduction of the synthetic upper in place of the sneaker’s usual leather is a clever tongue in cheek way of referencing the character it’s named for.
Which is all to say, conceptually the sneaker is solid, but visually, we’re just not loving it. What would’ve been cool is this same sneaker in a deconstructed form since C-3PO gets dismantled in Cloud City and haphazardly put back together by Chewbacca in The Empire Strikes Back.
Bottom line: Just hire me, Adidas.
Star Wars x Adidas ZX 2K BOOST Han Solo
Released exclusively to the Japanese market, the ZX 2K BOOST Han Solo is so close to being dope. Featuring a Core Black colorway with synthetic fabrics, TPU overlays, sand leather accents, and a cushy BOOST midsole, the Han Solo is ruined by the garish “blaster buckle” that clasps over the sneaker’s lacing system.
Without the blaster buckle? Sneaker is fire, and still accurately reflects the character it’s named after, but you can’t remove it. So close Adidas, so close.
What would we have done? A GORE-TEX equipped boot — Han’s most iconic Empire moment Is when he cuts that tauntaun open on Hoth. Make that a shoe!
Bottom line: Falls victim to the “hit ’em over the head with a nerdy reference” problem again.
Star Wars x Adidas NMD_R1 Lando Calrissian
I have a sneaking suspicion that whoever designed the Adidas NMD_R1 Lando Calrissian either was a fan of Billy Dee Williams’ Lando, or has absolutely no idea who Lando is. This is one of the few sneakers in this collection that doesn’t feature an insane character detail that totally ruins the design. Instead, the sneaker captures the hue’s of Lando’s outfit accurately and features an extra responsive BOOST midsole that will make you feel like you’re walking on clouds.
Bottom line: A dorky Lando shoe would have been a travesty. This one evades that trap.
Star Wars x Adidas UltraBOOST Princess Leia
Thank God Adidas didn’t go and find a way to add cinnamon roll buns to this sneaker. The UltraBOOST Princess Leia is pretty solid, it features a breathable knit upper with an ultra-responsive BOOST midsole, with some braided graphic detailing dipped in a Chalk White, Cloud White, and Core Black colorway that resembles the princess’ fit in the film.
Bottom line: Very solid… but just a tad boring.
Star Wars x Adidas NMD_R1 Stormtrooper
Like the Lando Calrissian, the NMD_R1 Stormtrooper features a remarkably tame design. Featuring a clean white one-piece Primeknit upper with black flecks throughout, recalling battle-scarred armor, with blue detailing on the heel, the NMD R_1 Stormtrooper is totally wearable on the streets.
Bottom line: Pretty fly, but let’s get real: Who’s a fan of Stormtroopers?
Star Wars x Adidas Ultra BOOST Yoda
The UltraBOOST Yoda features a mixed upper of Primeknit and moisture-wicking yarn that ups the sneaker’s breathability, making it an incredibly functional running sneaker that has a performance-based edge over the Princess Leia. The added texture of the yarn is a dope visual reference to Yoda’s weathered robes and the sneaker’s mix of Trace Cargo, Core Black and Raw Khaki does a good job of reflecting both the colors of Yoda and the planet of his exile, Dagoba.
Bottom line: No major errors, but it’s sort of hard to imagine someone wearing these.
Star Wars x Adidas Top Ten Hi Boba Fett
The Top Ten Hi Boba Fett is the only sneaker in the entire Empire Strikes Back 40th Anniversary collection that can get away with its insane character detail. While we could’ve done without the attached pouch — which, we hate it break it to you Disney, absolutely will be used for stashing drugs — this iteration of the Top Ten Hi isn’t that bad. Even solely as a collector’s item it’s a pretty solid attempt at translating a beloved character into sneaker form.
Aside from the Trace Green and Scarlett upper, the Boba Fett features yellow and powder blue detailing and “blast holes” that provided some extra breathability, all coming together to recall Boba Fett’s iconic armor.
Bottom line: This finds the right balance of character details mixed with wearability and sneakerhead coolness.
Star Wars x Adidas Stan Smith Luke Skywalker
The debut sneaker in the Empire Strikes Back 40th Anniversary collection the Star Wars Stan Smith Luke Skywalker is also the collection’s best. When it initially released in July of this year, we thought that surely the designs would get more flashy from here, but it turns out that’s the last thing we actually needed.
That Chewbacca sneaker will forever haunt us.
The Luke Skywalker Stan Smith features a Chalk White and Cloud White (like the Princess Leia, nice touch Adidas!) canvas upper with bright blue accents on the heel tab and tongue atop a translucent blue sole. It’s simple, desert-y, and oozing with 70’s vibes, just like the character it’s named for.
But does it say “Empire Strikes Back?” Nah, we don’t think so. In order to do that Adidas would have to just sell you just one sneaker instead of a pair.
Bottom line: The coolest of the bunch — mixing a classic look while capturing the vibe of the movie.