What are the best sneaker brands? The answer is kind of complicated. The sneaker market is vast and multi-varied, and, let’s face it, “best” is a tad too definitive. We could rattle off a list of the largest sneaker brands by sales per square foot or some other arbitrary metric of commercial success, but bigger isn’t always better. (Though, yes, some of the biggest sneaker brands in the world also happen to be some of the best.) In the sneaker game, cult-loved boutique labels routinely go toe to toe with billion-dollar sportswear behemoths in a cutthroat competition for sneakerhead attention—that’s what makes keeping track of it all such a blast.
So what truly separates the companies making waves in the sneaker space from the names that could drop a new silhouette overnight without the internet making a peep? A longstanding history of innovation always helps. A deep roster of beloved retro styles to fall back on never hurts. Above all else, though, a reputation for consistently providing a high-quality product tends to do the trick, whether you’re hawking running shoes available at every Foot Locker in the world or high-end, limited-edition kicks that resell for quadruple their asking price.
So consider this, if not a definitive list, then at least a comprehensive breakdown of who’s who and what’s what in today’s sneaker market. Below you’ll find 18 of the best sneaker brands you need to know—including the requisite Nike, Adidas, and New Balance shoutouts—along with a whole bunch of styles they’re famous for. From Italian-made suede low-tops to dependable canvas high-tops, one of these brands is guaranteed to have what you need.
Don’t miss GQ’s definitive guide to everything kicks—from the types of sneakers always worth copping to the best ways to score the next hot drop.
Suffice to say Nike didn’t become the biggest, baddest name in the sneaker business by making an inferior product. The Swoosh earned its placed at the top of this list through sheer consistency, building out a deep roster of iconic sneakers it’s hard for any other brand to compete with. After over 50 years in the sneaker game, Nike is still the one to beat.
From retro-leaning styles like the Samba to forward-looking silhouettes like the Ultraboost, Adidas has worked tirelessly to establish itself as a serious player in the sneaker space, hardly content to play second fiddle to Nike’s daunting presence. Over the last few years in particular, the Three Stripes has emerged as the preferred collaborator for some of fashion’s most interesting minds and wildest dressers, linking and building with the likes of Blondey McCoy and Kerwin Frost.
Frankly, the enduring appeal of the Chuck Taylor alone would be enough to merit Converse’s inclusion on this list, but the brand has more to offer than its all-star (heh) product. Go to Converse for OG basketball shoes dripping in retro charm or classic canvas kicks that—yes—will only look better the more beat up they get.
Founded in Britain, based in Boston, and bought by Germany’s own Adidas in the mid-aughts, Reebok is an international brand through and through, with designs that reflect its far-reaching roots. The brand’s Club C style remains an enduring hallmark of modern sneaker history, a go-to of megawatt A-listers and tapped-in tastemakers alike. If you’re looking for a pair of sneakers with plenty of fashion credibility at a bargain price, Reebok won’t steer you wrong.
Since the early 1900s, the quintessential dad shoe brand has inspired countless imitators, near-singlehandedly catalyzing a craze for unabashedly chunky sneakers that has yet to fully abate. With a Made in the USA line helmed by Aimé Leon Dore’s Teddy Santis and collaborations with the some of the buzziest names in streetwear, New Balance remains an arbiter of geriatric good looks. Wearing the brand’s sneakers is the most effective way to borrow the considerable swagger of a semi-retired Upper East Sider with a penchant for ultra-comfortable, high-quality kicks.
Vans are authentic in a way most sneakers can only pretend to be. (The brand’s signature style is, fittingly, the Authentic.) Founded in the late ’60s to service the West Coast skate scene, the company’s affordable, unpretentious sneakers immediately took off among locals and then eventually the whole country, somehow retaining their associations with the counter-culture in the process. To fully harness their power today, make like Harry Styles, who wears his with flared trousers and statement outerwear, or mimic the millions of skaters who adopted the sneakers before you and throw on a pair of Dickies and a big, boxy tee. Their off-the-wall good looks will anchor all your big fits with ease.
When Rudolf Dassler founded Puma in 1948, he set the stage for the most legendary rivalry in sportswear. Up until that point, Rudolf had been working together with his brother Adi on a shoe company headquartered in Germany, before the relationship deteriorated and the two decided to go their separate ways. (Adi went on to lend his name to Adidas, the second-largest sportswear company in the world. Don’t shed any tears for Adi.) Today, Puma is a sneaker powerhouse with a formidable selection of retro-inflected lace-ups, one that remains largely impervious to the type of sneaker trends that cause other brands to change their entire aesthetic identities on a whim.
The industry has changed a lot since Nike introduced the Air Jordan 1 in ’84, but the brand hasn’t stopped coming with the heat since. Today, Jordan Brand counts a roster of sneakerhead-approved styles to its name, but the AJ1 remains the brand’s hero product, a perennial favorite of the biggest names in the design world and the ideal canvas for their wildest interpretations. The Air Jordan 1 birthed modern sneaker culture, and there’s still no silhouette more influential—and few brands with the same cachet.
Over the last few years, Kanye West has transformed Yeezy into a multibillion dollar brand and a sizable portion of Adidas’ larger sneaker business. To say Kanye manifested the brand’s success through sheer force of will is only half-right—sure, the man talks a big game, but under his direction Yeezy developed a reputation for innovative designs that push the industry in exciting new directions. As Ye will be the first to tell you, that’s worth recognizing.
Asics is beloved by the world’s most elite runners for a reason: The brand’s sneakers deliver unparalleled performance all without compromising on the support and all-important cushioning that makes them such a fan favorite. More recently, the fashion crowd has cottoned on to their appeal, yielding delightfully freaky collaborations with industry firebrands like Vivienne Westwood and Kiko Kostadinov.
With over a century’s worth of sneaker-making experience under its belt, Saucony isn’t exactly slept-on. But the brand tends to get a little less shine than some of its glossier, household-name counterparts, despite a roster full of low-key bangers. The sneaker-loving masses’ loss is your gain.
Veja burst onto the sneaker scene with an emphasis on simple, sustainable kicks. The brand incorporates materials like vegetable-tanned leather and rubber sourced from the Amazon to craft a product that looks killer without killing the environment. It’s no surprise its instantly recognizable “V” emblem is everywhere, from the feet of the Duchess of Cambridge to the tanned toes of the Californian goth lord Rick Owens.
Salomon emerged as a fashion-crowd favorite relatively recently (we named the brand’s XT-6 style our sneaker of the year back in 2019) but the French sports brand has been churning out tactical, trail-ready shoes since its founding in 1947. Turns out, all the tired tropes about looking “as good on the slopes as it does on the streets” are entirely true: If you need a sneaker ready-made to take on any terrain, chances are Salomon makes it.
Long before minimalist white sneakers were a bona fide thing, as ubiquitous as fast-casual salad joints, Common Projects was using the type of leather typically reserved for dress shoes to make its trademark streamlined sneaks. Today, CP has no shortage of imitators, but when it comes to simple, quality kicks, the brand with the signature gold serial number still reigns supreme.
Luxury sneakers used to be an oxymoron. No longer. Over the last decade, capital-D designer brands like Gucci and Balenciaga capitalized on the sneaker craze with gusto, churning out hit after hit like Lil Baby halfway through a long night in the studio. Today, every fashion house worth its weight in gratis champagne offers an extensive sneaker selection—some of ’em very good. (Though be warned: they tend to come with a correspondingly sky-high price tag).
18 Best Sneaker Brands in 2021: Nike, Adidas, New Balance, and More Source link 18 Best Sneaker Brands in 2021: Nike, Adidas, New Balance, and More