Basketball sneakers haven’t been on-trend in quite some time, and experts believe it stems from its lack of off-court wearability, a result of technology’s influence on aesthetics.
“Basketball shoes are supposed to be protection for your feet while on the court, so they have to offer some sort of speed, protection, ankle stability. It has to function,” renowned designer Jeff Staple told FN. “These things go against the grain of the athleisure thing, for lack of a better word, of just being laid back and comfortable. We as humans just want to be cozy and comfortable, not protected and equipped.”
And Derek Curry, owner of Louisiana-based boutique Sneaker Politics, believes this need for the shoes to function doesn’t allow today’s models to be visually appealing. “There’s better technology [today] and they’re great on the court for basketball. But guys don’t wear them in the streets. They’re too hard to wear with things like jeans,” Curry said.
However, the storeowner noted retro basketball is still selling, naming Air Jordans and former NBA star Allen Iverson’s first signature shoe, the Reebok Question, as styles he sells out of quickly.
Curry said he stopped regularly carrying performance basketball sneakers around the time Nike released the LeBron 8, a signature look for LeBron James, and has stocked some current models — such as Paul George’s Nike PG 2 and James Hardens’ AdidasHarden Vol. 2 — which were both met with a lukewarm reaction from shoppers.
Despite the style of silhouette not being the first choice of sneaker enthusiasts today, Staple applauded the efforts of brands for trying to make them with more lifestyle appeal. However, he doesn’t believe the changes of aesthetics is the choice of the labels.
“I think that’s coming from the player. They’re asking for [lifestyle influence] because they’re saying I don’t want to wear a big clunky thing or a typical basketball shoe. I want my signature shoe to have a streetwear element to it,” Staple said. “Brands are answering their requests.”
Of the basketball sneakers on the market, Staple named Nike with its LeBron franchise and Adidas with its lines for Harden and Damian Lillard as the silhouettes with the most lifestyle appeal. Curry named the PG 2 as a style with a more street-ready look he is particularly fond of.