A look into the most important sneaker releases of 2020


Nirvan Manet-Bhaskar


This curated list attempts to portray the most important 2020 sneaker releases, as measured by the change they have caused in the shoe culture and industry. Regardless of what your Travis Scott Stan says about Travis Scott SB Dunks, no, this list is not that of the most popular shoes of 2020, but rather one of the shoes with the longest-lasting impact. With that being said, on to the Sneakers.

#1   Nike SB Dunk Low “Civilist”:

2020 can certainly be called the year of SB Dunk. The multiple iterations have proven paramount to Nike from a financial viewpoint, as well as provided the brand unparalleled attention after the shoe was thrust into the cultural spotlight. Popular releases such as the Nike SB Dunk “Travis Scott” or The Nike SB Dunk “Chunky Dunky” have served their purpose in terms of marketing and financial success, yet they also act as a double-edged sword by angering many purists who claim to have supported the shoe before it became a “mainstream fad” and boasted resale markups of up to 600%.

The Nike SB “Civilist”, despite undertaking a bold and creative design with profound meaning, did not quite garner such attention. The shoe was designed in collaboration with “Civilist”, a Berlin Skateshop that has been supporting the community for 11 years. The shoe’s design at first seems rather elementary with a simple black leather upper and a classic SB Dunk sole, yet a closer look at the shoes reveal a trick up its sleeve: when exposed to heat, the leather used in the construction of the shoe exposes a colourful thermochromatic pattern. The shoe is meant to pay homage to the Berlin raver culture, with the black leather used in order to represent the all-black and mostly leather outfits that ravers can be seen sporting and the Colourful, heat-changing leather representing what is seen on a rave dance floor.

In my opinion, this release is the perfect compromise to a very controversial shoe and provides an important example as to how Nike should address future releases to keep both sides happy. Paying homage to a Berlin skate shop that has contributed a lot to the community - and subsequently to Berlin culture - keeps purists happy, while the eye-catching heat-changing leather causes the opposite spectrum of hybeasts to drool over the shoe. At the same time, it might have many concerned parents wondering why their 14-year-olds are holding a lighter up to their shoes.

My Score: 8.5/10

#2 Yeezy QNTM Line:

By launching his long-awaited Yeezy QNTM Basketball line, Kanye was able to finally deliver on his promise of innovating the Yeezy catalogue after the Yeezy Cleats’ failed stint. The Yeezy QNTM is a true performance-centered shoe, taking advantage of Adidas technology such as “Primeknit” and “Boost” to ensure optimal on court performance.

Rumors of such a step from Kanye began in 2016 with SLAM reporting that a Yeezy basketball shoe was in development and would release as early as 2017. Considering Kanye’s poor track record on being timely, it was no surprise that such a shoe encountered many delays, with the shoe only being officially debuted three years later. As the delay led to inevitable speculation and hype around the shoe, it was unveiled on the biggest stage: the 2020 NBA All Star game by Zach Lavine.

In my opinion, this release is a huge win for both Yeezy and Adidas. QNTM is a breath of fresh air in the Yeezy footwear line as recent releases have solely included new colourways of existing shoes (such as the Yeezy 350 V2). And with the popularity of the latter shoe declining, a new sneaker is exactly what Kanye needed to regain the interest of consumers. For Adidas, this shoe provides a gateway into the basketball footwear market as previous Adidas basketball shoes being unable to capture the public’s interest. It gives “the brand with the three stripes” a second shot at competing in a market already skewed in Nike’s favour. Additionally, the bonus of having such an influential artist such as Kanye West associated with Adidas may attract a younger clientele.

My score:9/10

#3 Nike x sacai VaporWaffle:

Founded in 1999 by famed designer Chitose Abe, sacai has continuously been cited as influential in breaking down the dichotomy between casual and formal attire. With the founder of sacai spending a long period of time in the “Comme des Garçons” creative team and with renewed interest in sacai from prestigious brands such as “Colette” and “Barney’s” in the early stages of the brand, we had no doubt that sacai would once again accomplish this feat.

The shoe is described by Nike as being for “those who recognise the importance of yesterday when building a better tomorrow.” This description stems from the shoe incorporating the classic Nike Pegasus waffle sole and midsole from 1983 with the very futuristic Nike Vapormax upper, built for ultimate comfort and performance. This interesting combination, along with the stylized “double-tongue” and “double-midsole” which seem to have been inspired from the futuristic and angular design of Tokyo Architecture (Tokyo being where Abe grew up), conform very well to the sacai brand ideology of “Boundary-Pushing.”

In my opinion, this shoe is a breakthrough as it provides a new framework for designers, therefore allowing them to pull different positive elements of design from different shoes in order to create a whole new design. The shoe’s mainstream release provides major recognition towards sacai and other Asian designers such as Alexander Wang, putting Asian designers on the map and creating a fanbase for collections to come.

My Score: 9/10