Some sneakers need no introduction. If there was some kind of Name That Tune game for sneaker identification, you could probably name them based on the lace aglet alone. (FWIW, the agelet is what you call the little tube part at the end of shoelaces. Now go and impress your friends with that knowledge.)
Kicks like the Air Jordan 1 or the Nike Roshe One or the Adidas Stan Smith get tons of attention. They are the subjects of countless new colorways and collaborations that keep the classic silhouettes fresh.
Shoes like that are great and I would never do anything to besmirch their good name. But the flip side to their popularity is that you see them everywhere. They’ve become like the indie band you loved when they were first coming out that now get played on the radio ad nauseum.
That ubiquitousness makes stunting in a pair more difficult. As much as we hate to admit it, part of rocking great sneakers is turning heads of fellow aficianados. It’s also about showing off your own personal style and standing out from the pack. While you don’t want to be the victim of a “What are thoooooose????” prank, eliciting curiosity is a key part of the sneaker game. So we found six sneakers that exist under the radar, away from the hypebeasts. Some are from lesser-known brands, while others are overlooked options from the big boys.
Not only do these shoes look great, but because they aren’t the subjects of countless blog posts about first looks, release dates and other details, you can easily buy a pair without having to spend nights camping outside a store or huddling over your computer with twitchy fingers waiting for the exact moment they drop online.
So as you’re putting together your spring sneaker rotation, here are six shoes that you should definitely add to the mix.
1. JORDAN HORIZON
While retro Air Jordans seem to elicit a frenzy every time a new pair comes out, the Jordan Brand’s other sneakers are pleasantly devoid of hype even though many of them look just as dope. The Horizon takes the midsole from the Air Jordan XIII and combines it with a one-piece upper that has great texture and a minimal design that makes it feel more refined than a typical sneaker.
2. FILLING PIECES MOUNTAIN CUT
Based out of Amsterdam, Filling Pieces has been around since 2009 and has carved out a unique space in the middle ground between streetwear and high fashion sneakers. The Mountain Cut applies the D-ring eyelets you’re familiar with from hiking boots onto a just-chunky-enough leather upper. The navy and salmon colors used on this version are perfect for spring and will look good for any occasion.
3. YORK ATHLETICS HENRY
The sleek design on these shoes from startup York Athletics might lead you to believe they are a lifestyle sneaker suitable only for brunching. But they’re actually a high-performance shoe that are built to withstand your most punishing workout, whether that’s boxing or lifting weights. And the combination of a grey upper with a gum bottom always looks on point.
4. NIKE SB ZOOM ALL COURT CK
If you’re looking for a classic tennis sneaker, there are no shortage of options. Ditto if you want to get in on the toecap trend that is sweeping through sneakers right now. But pro skater Cory Kennedy’s sneaker adds Nike’s Zoom Air cushioning to make it more comfortable. There is also no sewing inside the shoe so there is nothing for your foot to rub up against.
5. Y-3 RETRO BOOST
Leave the Yeezy frenzy be. Another Adidas collaborator whose name starts with “Y” has a sneaker that is as good if not better. The Y-3 Retro Boost from Yohji Yamamoto has a similarly futuristic upper that sits atop the ridiculously comfortable Boost cushioning. The use of bolder colors is also a nice departure from the earth tone themes of the Yeezys thus far.
6. ETQ MID TOP 1
ETQ is another Amsterdam-based sneaker brand that doesn’t feel the need to create over-the-top names for its shoes. Simply called the Mid Top 1, this shoe lets its style do the talking. The luxurious vegetable-tanned leather feels absolutely amazing and looks better over time. These shoes also fall into that rare category of sneakers that look great with a suit.