"I thought Jordans and a gold chain was living it up!" - Nas
That statement rung true in '96; Jordans were the epitome of class and cool from a footwear perspective. Everything from the design to the price point gave Jordans the air of a "luxury" shoe. Fast forward almost 20 years, and that statement still rings true... well, sorta.
Somewhere in the mid 2000's, a shift slowly started taking form. Logos took a backseat to minimal design. Nike checks started getting replaced with calf-skin and suede. And the NBA and NFL were getting overruled by PFW; that's Paris Fashion Week, for those outside of the know. High-end luxury footwear staked its claim on the streets and hasn't looked back since.
Brands such as Christian Dior, Maison Martin Margiela, and Yves Saint Laurent, traditionally renowned for dinner gowns and women's high heels, slowly started to approach the men's footwear scene. Christian Dior Men's, helmed by Hedi Slimane, rebranded to Dior Homme and really placed emphasis on the sneaker as an item of luxury. With references to German military footwear and classic tennis silhouettes, Dior Homme was instrumental in bringing an item traditionally regarded as sportswear, to the high-fashion forefront.
As with traditional sneakers used for sportswear, there were your Jordans, your Agassis, your Bo Jacksons, your Stan Smiths, your Reebok Pumps and such. For the early part of the rise of the high -nd luxury sneaker, the reigning champ of the genre was undoubtedly the Yves Saint Laurent "YSL Rolling Sneaker." From the sleek versatile design, giving it a dress-up or dress-down feel, to the patent leather finish reminiscent of the Jordan 11s, all the way to the price ($360 was the initial price upon release; its price soared to the $500 mark as popularity grew) this was the "it" shoe to have for the moment.
A strong case can be made for the Maison Martin Margiela "Replica" sneaker or the Louis Vuitton "Fastball" sneaker as reigning supreme, but no other high-end luxury sneaker affected the market the way that Lanvin did. From the high tops with multi-colors/multi-fabrics, to the low top with the patent leather cap toe, Lanvin elevated the luxury sneaker game to heights unseen before by any other luxury line. Championed by everyone from Kanye West to David Beckham to even Lebron James, Lanvin sneakers dominated the luxury sneaker game. Lanvin still continues to this day to produce a multitude of quality footwear: further blurring the lines as to what is sportswear and what is "luxury."
With new lines popping up seasonally with a focus on luxury sportswear, brands like Common Projects and Christian Louboutin, and other high-end fashion houses like Balenciaga and Chanel, are joining in on the trend. The sky's the limit for the luxury sneaker game. Who knows what comes next? We've seen Nike Air Force Ones come down the runway recently; who's to say we won't see a pair of Saint Laurent SL-1's on the ball court soon? The possibilities are endless.