There’s no denying it: Supreme has the Midas touch. Every collaborative piece that they work on is instantly rocketed into the streetwear stratosphere, and although some question their design chops (more loudly so in recent seasons), nobody doubts their ability to generate hype and desire in a way that no other brand in the world can. They’ve worked with a veritable “who’s who” of fashion-industry royalty, from Comme Des Garcons to Brooks Brothers to Lacoste, but one of their longest-standing and most successful collaborative runs is with Nike, whom they’ve been working with since 2002.
The two titans of industry have released many a legendary sneaker over their 15-plus years of collaboration, from the OG Dunk Lows in 2002 to the Blazer SB’s in 2006 to the Foamposite 1 in 2014, but another interesting facet of their relationship has always been their propensity for shining a light on upderapprecaited, un-hyped models from Nike’s archive.
The first noticeable instance of this collaborative phenomenon came in 2007, when the two came together for three colorways of the Trainer TW2, a shoe that even at the height of Nike SB’s popularity still managed to fly under the radar. With a dash of Bo Jackson and a sprinkling of skate aesthetic, they became a cult classic, loved by SB heads and Supreme collectors the world over. More importantly, it marked the first time Supreme brought a great deal of hype and attention to a Nike model that wasn’t widely known.
Now that the obscure collaborative backstory has been set, let’s now take a jump forwards in time, 9 years to be exact. The release of four special colorways of the Air Max 98 came as a surprise to many when the shoes were unveiled as Supreme’s S/S ’16 Nike collaboration. Usually when classic Air Max are revisited on the collaborative front it’s one of the more legendary silhouettes, i.e. the 1’s, the 90’s, the 95’s, or the 97’s, but Supreme was taking a crack at a pair that flew under the radar for all but the most hardcore Air Max fans. Done up in a unique silver/snakeskin pair (the most desirable/valuable of the lot), as well as three patent-leather adorned colors inspired by Prada sneakers, the 98’s caused quite a stir in the world of streetwear and sneakers, and are now widely regarded as one of the best releases of 2016.
Here’s where these under-the-radar sneaker silhouettes start getting interesting: Remember, this is 2016, before Air Maxes became the shoe of choice in streetwear. This is pre-RevolutionAIR contest. This is pre-Vapormax, pre Sean Wotherspoon, pre OFF-WHITE. This is two years before the 20th anniversary of the Air Max 98, which Nike just announced will be seeing a re-release in three OG colorways (pictured above) sometime in 2018. Supreme was given the opportunity to take the first crack at a style of shoe that Nike clearly had plans to bring back to the forefront of cool at a later date. Here we are at the beginning of 2018, and that silhouette that was obscure two years ago is primed for a huge year, in large part to the residual hype from Supreme’s collaborative pair.
No matter who’s calling the shots when the two collaborate, this is masterful marketing and hype-building. Either Supreme is digging deep in Nike’s archives to come up with a unique design on an interesting silhouette instead of going for the low-hanging fruit like an Air Force 1 or a Jordan V (even though they’ve done both of those too) and Nike is then using that collaborative gas to re-introduce one of their heritage models, or Nike is insisting that Supreme do a less-hyped up sneaker that they plan to release later so they can pique the interest of sneakerheads before their in-line releases drop.
It doesn’t matter if it’s Nike or Supreme taking the first step in the process: it’s great marketing. The hype and anticipation surrounding the shoes is extremely organic, as no advertising campaign is necessary. The original collaborative shoes become more coveted than ever when the in-line releases drop and the in-line shoes benefit from the collab, as they themselves enjoy residual hype from sneaker heads that either couldn’t get their hands on the collaborative pair, or have developed a new appreciation for the silhouette because of it. A perfect example from 2017? The Air Uptempo. The Supreme version (pictured above) made the silhouette so highly desirable that even standard, straightforward in-line releases of the bulky, clunky basketball sneaker without any special branding were gobbled up long after the Supreme pairs were gone from physical and virtual shelves.
And there’s a good chance we’ll be seeing yet another redux of the Supreme hype cycles in 2018 with a different pair of obscure Nike kicks. For their F/W ’17 collection, Supreme released four collaborative colorways of the Air Humera, a chunky trail running shoe that was originally brought to market in 1996.
The shoe was far from a hit at first. Almost universally panned for being bulky, and ugly with a less-than desirable color pallet, it still sold out but goes for around retail on the aftermarket, an unfortunate indicator of a sneaker’s success and popularity (or lack thereof) in today’s sneaker game. Interestingly, this was actually not all that different from the Supreme 98 release: the shoes sold out (they are Supreme, after all) but were originally going for $220-$300 on the resell market … until Air Max became the cool kid shoe du jorr, and the resell prices skyrocketed, with some colors even landing north of $500.
Just look at the parallels between the two: the chunky shoe trend had not reached its peak when the Supreme Humeras originally dropped, much like the Air Max trend hadn’t started to hit when the 98’s were first made available. Both pairs are a shoe from deep in Nike’s archive that had not enjoyed their moment in the spotlight yet. And both were recently announced as an upcoming general release, with Nike stating that the Humera would return in big, bold colors in 2018 … just in time to capitalize on streetwear culture’s strange thirst for dad sneakers.
A Supreme collaboration just might be an instant recipe for success when it comes to Nike sneakers. Even though not every pair that releases is a huge hit at first, the attention given to the silhouette due to the collaboration carries over into the in-line releases, and can sometimes even make those in-line releases icons in their own right when trends and tastes shift. So be sure to stay tuned for what Nike and Supreme have in store during 2018 … we’ve got a gut feeling that it’ll be a foreshadowing for whatever the next big trend in sneakers is.
What do you think of Nike and Supreme’s collaborations? Would you agree that they shine a spotlight on some of Nike’s models that aren’t as well-known? In your opinion, does a Supreme collaboration guarantee success for a Nike sneaker? Sound off in the comments with your opinion, or hit us up and let us know on Twitter!