It’s safe to say there wasn’t a shortage of hit sneaker collaborations in 2021.
Throughout the year, leading brands such as Nike, New Balance, Vans and others tapped the hottest designers and retailers including A Ma Maniere, Joe Freshgoods and Salehe Bembury to reimagine their classic silhouettes. The hits also included shoes with atypical collaborators, such as Reebok with Eames and Fila with Sprite.
Below, in no order, are 19 of the best sneaker collaborations and collaborators of 2021.
A Ma Maniere x Jordan Brand
Another banner of James Whitner’s The Whitaker Group, A Ma Maniere, was behind the year’s most beloved collab: a new-look iteration of the Air Jordan 3. The collaboration, which arrived in March, is a high-end take on the iconic basketball shoe created as a tribute to the strength and resilience of Black women.
Joe Freshgoods x New Balance
Joe Freshgoods, one of the best storytellers in footwear, delivered yet another hit with New Balance in September. For his latest effort, the “Outside Clothes” 990v3, he told a story of the impact being outside has had on his creative process.
Eames x Reebok
Paying tribute to famed architects and designers Charles and Ray Eames, Reebok delivered the “Monotone Pack,” consisting of reimagined Club C sneakers. The two-shoe collection, executed in all-black and all-white colorways, arrived this month.
Aleali May x Jordan Brand
Aleali May, the first woman with a Jordan Brand women’s footwear and apparel collaboration, delivered a new collection in April, inspired by her time on the Inglewood High School drill team in California. The range was highlighted by a new-look Air Jordan 1 Zoom Comfort. May would deliver an equally compelling iteration of the Air Jordan 14 in August, dressed in a light sand hue with marbled jade green throughout.
Social Status x Nike
The Whitaker Group was behind some of the year’s most impactful collaborations, including the Social Status x “Free Lunch” Nike Dunks, consisting of two styles that released in September. The looks were inspired by the impact of summertime free lunch programs in underserved communities, and were delivered in “Chocolate Milk” and “Strawberry Milk” colorways.
Kith for Nike Air Force 1
Ronnie Fieg opened Kith locations in Paris and Hawaii this year to much fanfare, and with each release came a special-edition Nike Air Force 1 inspired by the area. The Paris- and Hawaii-themed looks were released exclusively at each new location in February and August, respectively.
Salehe Bembury x New Balance
Salehe Bembury, FN’s Designer of the Year in 2020, delivered hit after hit yet again in 2021, including a pair of looks with New Balance. In June, Bembury and New Balance delivered the “Water Be the Guide” 2002R, which inspired by the designer’s trip to Havasu Falls, located in the Grand Canyon in Arizona. This month, the two teamed up for two colorways of the 574 “Yurt,” highlighted by an oversized midsole and a whistle on the heel.
Aimé Leon Dore x New Balance
Aimé Leon Dore founder Teddy Santis, who will assume the creative director role at New Balance Made in USA next year, helped make the brand’s 550 shoe one of the year’s most sought after. Although New Balance’s inline versions were popular, it was Aimé’s collaborations delivered with subtle hits of subdued colors that stood out the most.
Billie Eilish x Jordan Brand
Although Jordan Brand has worked with a who’s who of celebrity collaborators, the namesake company of NBA icon Michael Jordan tapped a new pop megastar face in September for its next project: Billie Eilish. The artist opted to rework the Air Jordan 1 KO, dressing it in the bold volt hue, and delivered the Air Jordan 15 in light brown.
Kith x Vans
One of Kith’s collaborative collections celebrating its 10-year anniversary was with Vault by Vans. The range, which arrived in May, featured 10 premium iterations of the iconic Slip-On silhouette.
Patta x Nike
One of the year’s most sought-after collabs came from Patta and Nike on the iconic Air Max 1 silhouette. First, the two dropped the “Monarch” iteration of the shoe this month, complete with a new wave pattern on the mudguard. The two followed with the “Noise Aqua” colorway of the shoe, also arriving this month.
Union x Jordan Brand
Having already delivered several celebrated collabs with Jordan Brand, Union once again gave the label’s Air Jordan 4 a new look to much fanfare. In June, a pair of outdoor-inspired Union x Air Jordan 4s dropped, dubbed “Taupe Haze” and “Desert Moss,” which featured a look reminiscent of the stylish mountain gear worn throughout the 1980s and early ’90s.
Bricks & Wood x New Balance
South Central Los Angeles-based apparel brand Bricks & Wood joined forces with New Balance for the first time in June, creating an eye-catching version of the 57/40. The shoe was delivered with green suede uppers, silver hits on the upper’s “N” branding and heel tab, white midsoles white midsoles and pink outsoles.
Sprite x Fila
NBA legend Grant Hill had several high-profile endorsements during his pro career, including Sprite and Fila. For the athletic brand’s latest collaborative sneaker release, it looked back to the baller’s ads with the soft drink company in the 1990s for a new-look Grant Hill 1.
Bodega x New Balance
Known primarily for its beloved collaborations, pioneering retailer Bodega delivered one of its best to ring in its 15-year anniversary. In June, Bodega dropped the “Anniversary” 990v3 with New Balance, which it described as “a celebration of timeless, trend-defying quality in a form meant for everyday wear, in every mood.”
Travis Scott x Fragment x Jordan Brand
Travis Scott continued to deliver hit collabs with Jordan Brand in 2021. However, the rap megastar managed to add more hype around his shoes by making them a three-way collaborative effort with Fragment Design. The trio’s Air Jordan 1 High arrived in July, and a low-cut iteration followed in August.
Undefeated x Nike
Retailer and brand Undefeated delivered several hit collabs with Nike throughout the year, starting with a new-look Air Max 97 executed in hues reminiscent of UCLA. From there, Undefeated and Nike delivered the Kobe 5 Protro “Hall of Fame” in May (and rereleased the Nike Kobe 4 Protro collection from 2019 in April), and the “5 On It” Dunk Lows and Air Force 1 Lows in August and September.
Sacai x Nike
Frequent Nike collaborator Sacai delivered hit after hit with the Swoosh in 2021, including multiple new-look Blazer Low and VaporWaffle silhouettes. Also, Sacai and Nike teamed up with other labels on those same styles for three-way collabs, including Clot and Jean Paul Gaultier.
Maison Margiela x Reebok
Reebok and Maison Margiela continued their partnership into 2022 with new-look takes on the heritage athletic brand’s icons. Most notably, the high-fashion label reworked the Classic Leather, which arrived in February, and the Club C in March. Also, three colorways of their collaborative Tabi Instapump Fury Oxford arrived in April.