Decade’s Best: Sneaker
Versatile, honest, unique. It’s the Zoom Kobe IV.
by Khalid Salaam
Off top you should know I’m not a sneakerhead. Not even close. I’ve never waited overnight to buy anything and if I did, I assure you it wouldn’t be for shoes. I’m not judging those who do or would, I’m just saying that I can’t. Because I’m not built in that way. Concert tickets, maybe, but not clothes or sneakers. Got it? Good.
That being said my eyes don’t lie, I know quality when I see it. Over the years I’ve rocked a little bit of everything, couple that with my involvement with the KICKS section of SLAM, and I feel qualified to speak on this subject. But this was still hard. Figuring out the sneaker of the decade was mega hard, actually. Initially it seemed like the sort of thing one can do right off the top of head. But I was wrong.
And by the way, damn the suspense — I’ll just tell you now. It’s the Zoom Kobe IV.
I thought it was important not to do retros even if I did buy a bunch of Dunks this decade. Also, there are no Jordans either even though I rocked the Forest Green Vs heavily in ’05 and ’06. I just figured allowing shoes from a generation ago was wrong. I want to define what makes this era great.
There were a lot of shoes created in the last 10 years from all sorts of companies. In the ’90s, the big companies dominated the marketplace but in the 2000s new brands sprung up every few months, flooding the consumer landscapes with more options than ever. Though the truth is, most of those shoes suck both style wise and performance wise. There are lots of people working in the sneaker industry who have absolutely no vision, no taste and no idea what the hell they’re doing. I’d go into more detail, but I don’t want to get off on a tangent. Lucky for them.
I broke it down into two obvious categories. First, just purely: Are they hot? I mean, is the shoe something I would buy no matter what, with the price being a later concern? Is the shoe design appealing enough that I can automatically comprehend what the people who made it were thinking, and is the silhouette handsome enough that its adaptability won’t be too problematic? I’m talking about that first look and you’re hooked energy, that undeniable sh*t ya know? What are the colorways? I’ve seen great designs ruined by corny or boring color selections. I want to be challenged as a consumer but I also need a realistic viewpoint to manifest in the colors. It doesn’t matter how nice they look if the colorway is a combination of pink, brown, aquamarine and metallic baby blue.
Second, what the hell do they feel like when I put them on? Do they run big? Do they run small? Is the sole awkward? Will I roll my ankle running in these? Do they offer the right kind of arch support? Are they snug enough in the toe box and at the same time flexible in the heel? Are they cut wide, slender or perfectly? If they’re marketed as casual, performance or outdoor terrain specific then they better work in that environment. Now of course these are individual demands but they should be important to anyone who wears them. I don’t care how nice they are, if they don’t fit right I’m tossing them in the trash.
The thing about the Kobe IV that I liked is that it pushed the envelope. Sure, it wasn’t the first shoe that was a low-top and performance-based, but it felt like it was. It didn’t come off like a gimmick, just a reality that the makers shared with the consumers. And the weight of the shoe is really noticeable. They are remarkably light. and comfortable while sacrificing nothing in style. And they aren’t over-designed how some sneakers are. I know you know what I mean. Some kicks are so futuristic that they only look appropriate on middle school kids. You see them on a grown man and you wonder if he’s a chump for being so gullible as to buy such a bad pair of shoes.
Now the Kobe IVs weren’t without comp. The Huarache 2K4s were my second, and it was pretty close to be honest. I just felt like the Huarache’s were a little less versatile because they had such an athletic look to them. The Kobe joints give me more flexibility.
So, to each his own and I’m sure I’ll get plenty of feedback from this post. Which I welcome, surprisingly enough.
For more Decade Awards, check out the archive.