What Is Really Killing the Popularity of Basketball Sneakers

Basketball sneakers haven’t been on-trend in quite some time, and experts believe it stems from  its lack of off-court wearability, a result of technology’s influence on aesthetics.

“Basketball shoes are supposed to be protection for your feet while on the court, so they have to offer some sort of speed, protection, ankle stability. It has to function,” renowned designer Jeff Staple told FN. “These things go against the grain of the athleisure thing, for lack of a better word, of just being laid back and comfortable. We as humans just want to be cozy and comfortable, not protected and equipped.”

And Derek Curry, owner of Louisiana-based boutique Sneaker Politics, believes this need for the shoes to function doesn’t allow today’s models to be visually appealing. “There’s better technology [today] and they’re great on the court for basketball. But guys don’t wear them in the streets. They’re too hard to wear with things like jeans,” Curry said.

However, the storeowner noted retro basketball is still selling, naming Air Jordans and former NBA star Allen Iverson’s first signature shoe, the Reebok Question, as styles he sells out of quickly.

Reebok Classic Question x Curren$y "Jet Life"
Reebok Classic Question x Curren$y “Jet Life”
CREDIT: Reebok

Curry said he stopped regularly carrying performance basketball sneakers around the time Nike released the LeBron 8, a signature look for LeBron James, and has stocked some current models — such as Paul George’s Nike PG 2 and James Hardens’ Adidas Harden Vol. 2 — which were both met with a lukewarm reaction from shoppers.

Despite the style of silhouette not being the first choice of sneaker enthusiasts today, Staple applauded the efforts of brands for trying to make them with more lifestyle appeal. However, he doesn’t believe the changes of aesthetics is the choice of the labels.

“I think that’s coming from the player. They’re asking for [lifestyle influence] because they’re saying I don’t want to wear a big clunky thing or a typical basketball shoe. I want my signature shoe to have a streetwear element to it,” Staple said. “Brands are answering their requests.”

Of the basketball sneakers on the market, Staple named Nike with its LeBron franchise and Adidas with its lines for Harden and Damian Lillard as the silhouettes with the most lifestyle appeal. Curry named the PG 2 as a style with a more street-ready look he is particularly fond of.

Adidas Harden Vol. 2 Step Back
A look at the Adidas Harden Vol. 2 “Step Back.”
CREDIT: Twitter: @footlocker

And it’s James’ line with the Swoosh, according to data provided by The NPD Group Inc. to Forbes for a report, that’s winning at retail amid the category’s struggles. The baller’s signature sneaker sales led all others in 2017, followed by Kyrie Irving’s shoes with Nike, then Kevin Durant’s looks with the Swoosh, Stephen Curry’s line with Under Armour and Michael Jordan’s franchise (which is up to the Air Jordan 32).

While the fashion-focused aren’t running to stores to buy the latest basketball sneaker anymore, Curry hopes one day his customers — specifically the younger ones — will buy the kicks of their on-court heroes — like he still does with Jordans.

“I love LeBron, I love KD, I love all these guys and I would love to wear their shoe off the court,” Curry said. “Plus, it gives the kids something. In 15 years when all the kids grow up, it would be cool for them to be like, ‘Oh man, the LeBron is coming out again, I want it. I used to wear these to school every day.’”

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