2020 has been a weird and, frankly, horrific year. And while it seems like COVID-19 has canceled just about everything from our favorite music festivals to, you know, the entire travel industry, the one thing it hasn’t been able to stop is the sneaker world. Pandemic be damned, brands still managed to crank out release after release for sneakerheads to lose their minds over. In fact, when looking over all the sneakers that have dropped this year — from new Off-White Nikes to the countless Yeezy drops to the numerous rereleases of some of the Nike Air Max ’90s — 2020 has been a great year for sneakers.
While this year in sneakers has been filled with a lot of highs, it’s also had some lows. And some really weird left turns and random collaborations. But this year’s oddest brand and designer co-releases are only a product of the truly insane world we live in now. In 2020, we impeached the president, entered a global pandemic that completely changed our lives, made people hot for Andrew Cuomo for like a week, dodged murder hornets, started wearing facemasks, witnessed a Travis Scott McDonald’s burger that was literally just a Quarter Pounder with cheese and bacon take over the world, and came to grips with just how fragile our democracy can be. So it really doesn’t surprise us that 2020 was also the same year that the Grateful Dead would come to dominate the streetwear scene or Bad Bunny would release a glow in the dark Croc or Adidas a would drop a sneaker that looks like Chewbacca. Hell, there was even a full Reebok-Minions collection — yes, those Minions.
To highlight some of our favorite style-related 2020 weirdness, we gathered all our favorite oddball sneaker collaborations in one place. To be clear, this isn’t a list of the best sneaker collaborations of the year (that’s coming), nor is it a list of the worst sneaker collaborations (believe us, there are a lot of those and they’re bad). These are the “just plain strange” entries that feel like they could only exist in the upside-down world that is Earth in the year 2020.
Let’s get into it.
PUMA Sonic The Hedgehog RS-X3 Collection
The first of two video game collaborations released by PUMA this year, the Sonic the Hedgehog RS-X3 collection is actually pretty dope, as far as videogame-themed sneakers go. Released to coincide with the Sonic the Hedgehog movie, there is something haunting about this release within the context of COVID-19. While we’ve had many random and weird collaborations drop this year, this one released a month before life as we knew it came to a screeching halt and it carries a sort of carefree innocence to it.
Both pairs in the collection feature a blocky shape with semi-translucent uppers and suede overlays in either a blue Sonic-themed iteration or a red colorway that looks more Knuckles-esque (or is it Eggman?) but are strangely still Sonic branded. We would’ve preferred a real-life replica of Sonic’s runners, but overall this was a pretty solid collaboration between two unlikely brands.
Ben & Jerry’s Nike SB Dunk Low Chunky Dunky
Why does this work so well?
It shouldn’t — mixing an ice cream brand, no matter how beloved, with one of Nike’s greatest sneaker silhouettes should look like a stupid cash grab. And yet… the Chunky Dunky is so packed with detail that we can’t help but marvel at the work that went into this collaboration. A psychedelic collar references the Vermont ice cream brand’s crunchy hippy roots, the leather upper recalls the brand’s iconic label with rolling green hills and a perfect blue sky.
As for that expert use of cow print? Come on, sneaker collaborations rarely get this good.
The Chunky Dunky was unsurprisingly one of this year’s most hyped sneaker drops and that popularity seems to have held nearly half a year after its release, with aftermarket prices still hitting the $1,500 mark.
Nike SB Dunk Grateful Dead Collection
Before they dropped, I wrote off the Grateful Dead Collection as ugly garbage. I still think they’re ugly but boy was I wrong about them being garbage. Which pair is garbage exactly? Is it the yellow pair that sells for $800+ on the aftermarket? Certainly, it isn’t the green pair that goes for $1,000. Oh I know, it must be the orange pair that routinely sells for over $2200…
Point being, people really really love this shoe. The Grateful Dead Dunks pay considerable tribute to the Grateful Dead’s dancing bears with Nike saying that the shoe features “bear-inspired detailing” which… sounds adorable. The upper features a mix of suede and faux-fur with a frayed Nike Swoosh.
I will never doubt the power of the Dead again.
PUMA Super Mario 64 RS-Dreamer
How do you celebrate a 35-year-old video game icon? By giving him a signature sneaker, of course. This Super Mario 64 PUMA RS-Dreamer coincided with the release of a 3D Mario collection on the Nintendo Switch, as well as other Mario-branded memorabilia as part of everyone’s favorite mushroom tripping Italian plumber’s 35th birthday.
As we’ve come to express from video game/cartoon/franchise collaborations, this RS-Dreamer is pretty much just Mario in sneaker form, with a red, blue, and white mesh upper with coin, star, and other Mario-world graphics spread throughout. Because this is J-Cole’s signature Puma, you can look at this as a three-way collaboration between Super Mario, J-Cole, and PUMA — a surreal reflection of just how weird this year has been.
Adidas x Star Wars The Empire Strikes Back 40th Anniversary Collection
We’ve fully ranked the entire nine-sneaker Star Wars The Empire Strikes Back 40th Anniversary Collection and the full line definitely has its highs and lows. On the horrible end of the spectrum, you have a sneaker that resembles Chewbacca complete with faux fur and a utility belt. On the other side of things, you have an UltraBOOST tastefully colored to resemble the terrain of Dagoba, or a Top Ten Hi that actually looks like something Boba Fett might be caught wearing.
The full list of characters that got the three stripes treatment includes Chewbacca, Darth Vader, C-3P0, Han Solo, Lando Calrissian, Princess Leia, a Stormtrooper (for some reason), Yoda, Boba Fett, and Luke Skywalker. Adidas, if you’re listening, can we please get a sneaker to rep Ghost Obi-Wan Kenobi? Make it translucent!
While the collection was overall uneven, it was still a lot of fun and a bright spot in a dark year.
PlayStation x Zara
This is easily this year’s worst brand collaboration. Who exactly was asking for a PlayStation branded sneaker from Zara? This release being a kid’s only size doesn’t make its existence make any more sense, either. What kid wants a PlayStation branded Zara sneaker? Sporting a remarkably unappealing PS-1 era colorway and modeled after a 16-year-old system that was popular before the shoe’s target audience was even born, the Playstation Zara sneaker doesn’t have a single appealing quality.
But it’s here because it’s weird, not just because we wanted to dunk on it. As fun as that felt.
Chinatown Market x Crocs x Grateful Dead
While I’m humbled to admit that I was wrong about the Grateful Dead Dunks I feel pretty confident that this three-way collaboration between Chinatown Market and Crocs and the Grateful Dead is not cool.
Did it sell out? Absolutely.
These clogs are dripping in psychedelic tie-dye patterning and come with dancing bear Jibbitz. While it is definitely very Grateful Dead, it’s also very Chinatown Market, and as far as collaborations go all three brands feel pretty well represented in a respective and tasteful way.
Yes, we just called a tie-dye clog “tasteful.” 2020, am I right?
LEGO x Adidas ZX 8000
I don’t hate these. I mean sure, I wouldn’t wear them, like not even to LEGO Land, but as far as the concept goes — a LEGO-branded Adidas — this collaboration nails it. Featuring a white mesh upper with off-white suede accents, the LEGO Adidas ZX 8000 features vibrant primary colors on the sneaker’s paneling, looking exactly what you’d imagine a LEGO sneaker might look like.
It would’ve been interesting to see Adidas try for something a little more blocky here, but that might’ve slipped the sneaker too far into gimmickry. In the end, they probably made the exact right call by keeping things subtle.
Reebok x Minons Collection
I will never understand America’s fascination with the Minions. People keep dressing like them, and brands keep dropping Minion-themed collections. Made in celebration of next year’s release of Minions: Rise of Gru, Reebok dropped a six sneaker collection of Minion themed gear along with two t-shirts. That’s right, Reebok dropped a not one, not two, not three, four, five but SIX sneaker collection themed around a movie that isn’t even coming out this year.
Consisting of a Question Mid, three Instapump Furys, and two Club Cs, the Minion collection is full of movie tie-ins that we can’t possibly take the time to fully dive into. Some of them glow in the dark, some of them look like what a Minion would look like if it were a shoe, all of them are on the edge of being bizarre.
Crocs Bad Bunny Glow In The Dark Clogs
You wake up one morning, and suddenly everybody owns a pair of Crocs. The popularity of the Jibbitz-encrusted clogs has slowly been bubbling up over the last couple of years and the latest celebrity to lend their name and style to the brand is none other than Bad Bunny.
Made in celebration of Bad Bunny’s YHLQMDLG, these Crocs glow in the dark and come equipped with Bad Bunny-referencing Jibbitz and Bunny logo branding. We can’t believe we’re saying this but with that clean white colorway, these are looking pretty damn crisp.