Making Huarstory

by August 27, 2012

Originally published in KICKS 15

by Khalid Salaam / @MrKhalidS

All you have to say is the year the shoe came out and people know exactly what you’re talking about. The 2K4. Fans already understand the importance of those three characters, already can sense the synaptic connection immediately happening deep in the brain, already know the adrenaline rush will be respectfully energetic.

When the Nike Huarache 2K4 debuted in ’04, it was nothing short of a revelation. If you somehow only saw the shoe for the first time today, you’d have no idea that the design was almost a decade old.

The 2K4 has been and will always be a fun shoe, a shoe that exudes confidence. It’s also a tall shoe, which makes it somehow look menacing and athletic, even when you wear it off the court. The pylon midsole helps with foot cushioning and comfort, and its trademark Velcro ankle strap gives it stability and style. As a whole, what makes the 2K4 so dope is its everyman appeal that still leaves enough room for it to feel special. In their heyday, if you were wearing 2K4s, whether there were cats rocking Js nearby or dudes rocking some limited-release joints from overseas, you never had to feel like your kicks were in any way inferior. In fact, you felt better knowing that your sneaks were undoubtedly less expensive and just as hot. Pretty much uncategorizable—neither old school nor new school, neither athletic nor lifestyle, somehow sturdy and comfortable—the 2K4s best of both worlds’ build is what has kept the shoe popular and relevant.

Not only does the shoe have a story, but the name, Huarache 2K4, does, too. Originally slated to be Kobe Bryant’s first Nike shoe, the working title was changed at the last minute due to his Colorado-related court proceedings. That name change—to Huarache—was a big deal to people who grew up in the early ’90s with the original Huaraches.

First seen in ’92, the original Huaraches were like something straight from the future—arrogant and powerful. Other than Jordans, they were one of the first pairs of Nikes that omitted the Swoosh logo. At the time, that was phenomenal—revolutionary, even. In part to detailing like that, the design was forward-thinking from both an aesthetic viewpoint and a functionality aspect. The colorways were dope and the shoes durable, and it remains one of Nike’s truly iconic models. It only reinforced how awe-inspiring they were when the Fab Five—google “Fab Five + the University of Michigan,” if you must—started rocking them, which of course, vaulted the popularity of the shoe somewhere into the stratosphere. Over the years however, the Huarache brand was allowed to whither on the vine and didn’t get yearly updates. So when Nike brought the name back in ’04, it instantly resonated and brought nostalgia without the baggage of an outdated design. The 2K4s were an immediate hit, and Nike continued the next year with the 2K5s, but then it sort of vanished again. There were other incarnations, but they were spotty (no annual releases), and some of the designs seemed uninspired.

But when word leaked at the top of 2012 that the 2K4s were being reissued, the buzz reignited. When Rajon Rondo sported them during the Eastern Conference Finals, everyone was put on notice that the shoe’s return wasn’t just some internet hoax—the 2K4s were coming back for real. To that end, they’ll be in stores by the time you read this at the original $125 price point (unless they’re sold out). Nike is even bringing back some of the original colorways like White/Red/Black, not to mention some surprises like Neon Green.

One of the best athletic shoes of the past decade—just ask Rondo—the Huarache 2K4 is more than deserving of a place in the KICKS Hall of Fame. The 2K4 is a people’s champion kind of shoe: not flashy but nice enough that people know you care about your appearance. Are people going to be camped out to grab these? Nope, probably not at all. But it’s obvious that this is a beloved shoe, with a legacy built on versatility and comfort. Truth is, we didn’t really have to wait eight years to induct the 2K4s into the HOF…we could have done it in ’04.