With collab portfolios seemingly getting thicker every week, we look back at the first collab efforts from some of your favorite collaborators in the game today!
From shops, magazines and artists all across the globe, sneaker companies have continually used collaborations to generate excitement for their brand, introduce a new audience to an older silhouette or celebrate a particular anniversary/milestone…just to name a few.
With some of these releases dating back to probably before you were even into sneakers or learned about a particular shop/brand, how many of these can you say you were familiar with? Take a look and let us know in the comments section below which of these first collabs you still have in the ‘ol collection.
Sneaker: Supreme x Vans Old Skool
Now pretty much known as the king of collabs, particularly for their resume of dope Nike releases, Supreme has been dropping fire footwear for nearly two decades now. But, despite all the hype their releases garner these days, their first sneaker collab harkens back to the brand’s roots. They were of course, started as a skate company. Which is why the Vans Old Skool was a perfect canvas to get the collab portfolio started on. Dropping in three colorways – two camo and one 3M joint – these Old Skools are understated and perfect.
Sneaker: atmos x Nike Dunk Low & Air Force 1 Low
When you hear about a new atmos collab, you almost always think of some crazy-limited Air Max, often done up in some loud animal or camo print that you’ll probably never be able to get your hands on. But, the Japanese boutique’s first foray into sneaker collaboration came in a much more neutral tone. In 2001, we were served with a double dose of Nike and atmos, teaming up on both low top silos of the Air Force 1 and the Dunk.
Sneaker: Footpatrol x Nike Air Epic Hyperstrike
When brands and shops get together to collab on a sneaker, nostalgia is often used as the catalyst for bringing lesser-known silhouettes back from the dead. As was the case when London-based Footpatrol got their feet wet in collaboration with Nike. Digging through the vaults, Footpatrol and Nike chose to bring back the Nike Air Epic in a suitably gloomy colorway. Unfortunately for most sneakerheads, exclusivity ruled over this release, as it got dubbed a hyperstrike and was limited to a rumored 24 pairs.
Sneaker: Sneakersnstuff x Puma Basket Hemp
To say that Sweden-based footwear hub Sneakersnstuff has really honed their craft in recent years, would be both accurate and short-sighted. They have dropped some excellent collabs of-late. But they’ve actually been putting out that heat since way back in 2003. To kick things off, SNS did its thing on this super clean Puma Basket in a neutral hemp material. Limited to just 136 individually numbered pairs, these Baskets are awesome.
Sneaker: Stash x Nike Air Force 1 High
With numerous classic sneaker collabs under his belt, Josh “Stash” Franklin has undoubtedly put his mark on the game. Though widely known for his infamous Air Max 95, in a now trademark palette of blue hues, it was his first collab with Nike that set the mark for how a collaboration should be done. Now considered one of the best Nike collabs in most circles, 2003’s graffiti nozzle “Stash” Air Force 1 High is an icon all it’s own.
Sneaker: Futura x Nike SB Dunk Low
Graffiti artist Futura has been getting down with Nike for a long time now, and the results to this point have been fantastic. While most folks know of Futura through his legendary designs on the likes of the UNKLE or FLOM Dunk Highs, his first collab with Nike actually came back in 2003, with this SB Dunk Low. Dubbed simply the “Futura” colorway, a lot of folks overlook this collab, simply because of the understated colorway. But one thing to make note of is, at a time when folks primarily did their uppers in one material (suede, leather, etc), the Futura Dunks opted to combine mesh, suede and leather to add an interesting contrast to this seemingly simple colorway.
Sneaker: N.E.R.D. x Nike Dunk High
You already know that style gawd Pharrell has collaborated on everything from clothing to perfume to furniture. But we’re super excited to see what else his deal with adidas brings to fruition. Prior to his work with BAPE and the gents at adidas, Skateboard P got his first footwear collab teaming up with Nike on the excellent “N.E.R.D.” Dunk High. Releasing in 2004, Pharrell’s Dunks are interesting, not only because of how dope they are, but also because their so subtle. Always known for his epic style, it’s interesting to look back at his first footwear collab and see such conservative composition. Oh, how times have changed.
Sneaker: Jeff Staple x Nike Air Max 90 “Navigation Pack”
While everyone and their mother knows about Jeff Staple’s legendary “Pigeon” Dunks, not many folks know about his footwear collabs prior to that 2005 release. Teaming up with Nike a few times prior to the Pigeons, Staple got the chance to help design one of Nike’s “City Pack” releases; 2004’s Navigation Pack. Adorned with a pattern resembling an aerial view of New York City, Staple actually got down on both a men’s and women’s colorway. Of course, the very next year, he’d be asked to take part in designing an SB Dunk, and thus creating the Pigeon legacy.
Sneaker: Kanye West x Nike Air 180
When Kanye’s sneaker legacy is finished being written, there’s no doubt that the Nike Air Yeezy series will stand out as the tipping point. However, most people aren’t aware of the design work he did before the Yeezy. In fact, the Air Yeezy wasn’t even Ye’s first collab with Nike. Back in 2005-06, after the success of the College Dropout album, Ye teamed up with Nike to hit up the classic Air 180. The result was this excellent animal print-clad banger. Unfortunately for us, these babies were a friends and family release that never made it to retail. We wouldn’t get a Kanye sneaker collab at retail until 2006’s Dropout-themed Bapesta.
Sneaker: Sole Collector x Nike Air Presto “Honolulu”
We’ve already professed our love for Sole Collector’s work here in the past. But, if you’re looking for more reasons why, look no further than their very first sneaker collaboration; the “Honolulu” Nike Air Presto. Released at a Honolulu NikeTown event in 2005, these aloha-themed Prestos were limited to just 48 pairs and, naturally, sold out instantly.
Sneaker: Dave White x Nike Air Max 90 “Neon”
While many of us are most familiar with artist Dave White’s high-profile work with Jordan Brand, his first footwear collab predates those 1s by the better part of a decade. Often credited as the pioneer of the “sneaker art” movement, his art even hangs in the hallways and offices at Nike HQ. So White was an obvious choice to get the nod on a collab when Nike was putting together 2005’s “Neon” or “Wet Paint” pack. For his part, White chose to create a modern take on the iconic Air Max 95s “Neon” colorway, on the equally excellent Air Max 90. These are just so dope.
Sneaker: Solebox x New Balance 1500GGB “1 of 150″
When you think of the Mt. Rushmore of sneaker collaborators, if you’re not including Hikmet and the folks at Berlin’s Solebox, you better think again. Known world-wide for some of the finest collabs the sneaker world has ever seen, Solebox has that fire. But it all began in 2005, with the “1 of 150″ New Balance 1500GGB. Just a prelude to their brilliance (particularly with regard to their New Balance work), these 1500s are so clean.
Sneaker: Patta x Nike Air Max 1 “Amsterdam”
Oh, Patta. Perhaps no other shop has ever had as many highly regarded sneaker collabs as Amsterdam’s Patta. And their first forray into collabs was a legend in the making. Interestingly, the folks at Patta didn’t actually design these beauties, Dutch artist Parra did (Patta oversaw the project). Even more interestingly, the legendary colorway we know today, almost never was. Initially, the intended colorway for the “Amsterdam” Nike Air Max 1 was a very dope blue and orange pair, inspired by the colors of a local supermarket in the Netherlands. However, before the shoes were pushed into production, the store chain switched up their brand identity, including those infamous colors. So Parra did away with the original design, in favor of the colorway we’re all familiar with today. Inspired by the neon glow of nighttime in Amsterdam’s Red Light District, these 1s are some of the best ever. Though there are some samples of the original colorway floating around, we’d really like to see those release sometime in the future.
Sneaker: Undefeated x Pro-Keds Royal
LA’s Undefeated has been grinding! Nowadays known for their almost quarterly collabs with major brands like Nike, Converse and adidas, UNDFTD has gone from local boutique to full-fledged streetwear label. But their first sneaker collab came by way of the iconic label Pro-Keds. Teaming up to drop this military themed Royal, these canvas high tops dropped prior to all their work with Nike, way back in the spring of 2005.
Sneaker: UBIQ x Reebok Court Victory Pump & Ventilator
Released on Black Friday 2005, Philly’s UBIQ blessed us with their very first collaboration, an excellent take on two classic Reebok silhouettes. Taking their shot at both the Court Victory Pump, and the infamous Ventilator, UBIQ gave us this slick maroon and beige colorway. Trimmed up with olive green hits and the always-welcome gum soles, these were a really tough collab. Not only aesthetically, but with only 48 pairs released in each silo, they were difficult kicks to get your hands on as well.
Sneaker: BAPE x Converse Chuck Taylor All Star Ox
We covered these BAPE Chucks in our previous collab post, but 2006s team-up with Converse signaled a big change for BAPE as a brand. Prior to it, the company had been pushing out nothing but their own “inspired” versions of already classic silhouettes like the Bapesta. But these All Star Ox’s marked their first footwear collaboration, and also the first time we saw that “Ape Camo” on a sneaker.
Sneaker: Sneaker Freaker x Lacoste Missouri 85 “Minty Fresh”
Another one of our favorite sneaker publications, Sneaker Freaker, is also a very accomplished collaborator. After getting their magazine off the ground in 2002, it wasn’t long before they had a steady circulation and were looking to take it to the next level. Fast forward to 2006, and every significant shop and designer is getting down on a footwear collab of some kind, and Sneaker Freaker wanted in on it too. One of the things we like most about SF, is their penchant for choosing nontraditional silhouettes to collab on (like their famous Blaze of Glory Pumas). Sure, they could have gone with an Air Force 1, or a pair of Chucks. But for their first collab, the boys from Sneaker Freaker chose to team up with Lacoste on a silo that hadn’t been seen since the mid 80s, the Missouri. Done up in a classic white/black/grey colorway, the Missouris are offset with nice hits of mint. Released in typical Sneaker Freaker fashion (ie, super limited and hard to get), these were an excellent stepping stone to help put Sneaker Freaker on the global map.
Sneaker: Blends x Nike Air Max 95
Though perhaps most well known for their fantastic collaborations with Vans, Southern California footwear staple Blends began their collaborative portfolio with this wild tag team with Nike. Using exclusive iD options, Blends was allowed to create this collab back in 2006, releasing just 95 pairs, and breaking a lot of hearts along the way. Utilizing black buffalo skin, neon and white patent leather and those super loud blue laces, these 95s were an ultra-tough cop.
Sneaker: Ronnie Fieg x David Z. x Asics Gel Lyte III “252 Pack”
Ronnie Fieg is often credited with breathing life into the Asics lifestyle division with his unique designs of their Gel Lyte silhouettes. And it all started in 2007. After moving his way up from the stock room to become the head buyer for New York’s David Z, he got the opportunity to collaborate with Asics on this trio of Gel Lyte IIIs, dubbed the “252 Pack.” Releasing just 252 pair of each colorway, the pair pictured above was the first to drop. The other two colorways were released at a Complex release party and online. After garnering enough hype to justify a cover appearance on the Wall Street Jounral (!), the rest was a wrap.
Sneaker: Bodega x Converse Jack Purcell Mid “Lumberjack Collection”
For their first footwear collaboration, Bodega teamed up with Converse to create an excellent Jack Purcell that fits perfectly within the Boston-based shop’s storefront. Packaged in a resealable bag, and done up in a meaty brown leather, these Purcell mids are set off by a healthy dose of black and red lumberjack flannel. That’s the one thing we’ve always loved about Bodega’s collabs, they’ve always got an awesome theme and very detail-oriented packaging to go with it. It’s the little things.
Sneaker: Concepts x New Balance 576
Concepts has made a name for itself with top-notch collab designs and crazy releases that have folks lining up, often in the cold, for days at a time. But it all started back in 2007, as one would expect, with their Massachusetts neighbors New Balance, on this excellent 576. Look, the UCLA-like colorway might not be for everyone. We actually dig them. But, what we love most about this particular collab is the variety and detail of materials used. Peep the pebbled white leather, the plush blue and yellow nubuck, and just a couple quick hits of white patent leather. This collab was a perfect start to a partnership that has benefitted sneakerheads for some time now
DJ Clark Kent
Sneaker: DJ Clark Kent x Nike “112 Pack”
If there is a more appropriate way to start your collaborative portfolio, we can’t think of one better than DJ Clark Kent’s beloved “112 Pack.” For those of you unfamiliar, Kent is from Brooklyn, in which all zip codes start with “112.” In what has become a go-to Nike colorway, Kent got down with this pack of “1” silhouettes. Featuring an Air Max 1, an Air Force 1 and an Air Trainer 1 Mid, the “112 Pack” ensured summer 2008 really brought that HEAT!
Sneaker: Nice Kicks x Ronnie Fieg x Asics Gel Lyte III
Oh, you thought them Yeezys started the all red wave? Nah, neither did these fire Asics GL3s done up back in 2009 by Ronnie Fieg and the good folks over at Nice Kicks. But, they did put RF, Nice Kicks and the Gel Lyte III silhouette onto the radars of a lot of sneakerheads. Back in ’09, Ronnie teamed up with three well-known blogs (Nice Kicks, Highsnobiety, and Culture Shoq) to drop these fantastic collaborative Gel Lyte IIIs. For their first collab, Nice Kicks really showed out.
Sneaker: A.P.C. x Vans Authentic & Chukka
French menswear label A.P.C. has really been making a name for itself lately. With high-profile get-downs alongside the likes of Louis Wong and Kanye West, they’ve also begun to dabble in sneaker collaborations as well. But, while everyone knows about their recent drops with Nike (those gum soled Air Max 1s are just so dope), their sneaker portfolio started off a bit more humble with Vans. Initially teaming up in 2011 on three shoes, A.P.C. approached this collaboration with the same understated premium quality that has made their Nike drops so popular. Encompassing three pairs of Authentic’s and a pair of Chukka’s, A.P.C.’s high-quality, low-flash Vans are perfect.
Sneaker: Extra Butter x Reebok Pump AXT “Achoo”
You see, when people talk about sneakers telling a story, this is the kind of off-the-wall stuff we love to see. The boys at Extra Butter really went in on their first collab, 2011’s “Achoo” Reebok Pump AXT. Yes, Achoo is the sound you make when you sneeze, but it was also the name of Dave Chappelle’s character in the cult-classic Robin Hood: Men in Tights. A wonderfully random and equally awesome idea to model a sneaker after, this clean Pump is colored up to resemble Achoo’s wardrobe when he’s introduced into the film. And the interesting way EB decided which silo to collab on? In the movie, there is a fight scene in which Chappelle’s Achoo calls time out, and stops to pump up his Reeboks before resuming the medieval brawl. See? Sometimes this stuff figures itself out!
Sneaker: BAIT x Saucony Shadow 6000 “Blue Apple”
If you haven’t already noticed, Southern Cali’s BAIT has been putting out some fire collabs in recent years. But, one you thing you might have missed, is that most of them come in a variation of their signature BAIT colorways: blue (B), apple (A), ivory (I), and tan (T). Their first collab, this banger with Saucony, on the classic Shadow 6000, was dubbed the “Blue Apple.” Designed as an homage to the original ‘bait,’ the Garden of Eden’s forbidden fruit, this Saucony is a real head-turner.
Sneaker: Packer Shoes x Reebok Pump “20th Anniversary”
It’s crazy to think that it took until 2009 for one of America’s oldest sneaker stores, Packer Shoes, to get their first collaboration, but here we are. Our favorite part of this particular collab is that it also rectifies a long-standing sneaker snub; giving the legendary Dominique Wilkins his own sneaker. Back in ’09, the boys at Packer were tabbed to help Reebok celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Pump silo, and did so by giving Nique some much deserved shine. Dialing up a colorway that could’ve easily passed for a signature sneaker, Packer really put it down on this one. It’s just a shame that there were only a scant 31 pairs released to the public.