The Future. For the past decade, the best-selling sneakers have been variations of the hits, including Nike’s Air Force 1s and Dunks and adidas’ Gazelles and Sambas — all shoes that debuted between the 1950s and 80s. For consumers, the iconic shoes may fall somewhere between a conscious status symbol and a simple belief that there’s no need to fix what’s not broken. Yet, the newest trend that may take the sneaker world by storm is young people remixing retro styles with their own flair… and brands could benefit from encouraging it.
New classic style
Old shoes are so hot right now.
- On StockX, only three of the top 50 best-selling sneakers this year were made in the past five years.
- Chris Gibbs, owner of retailer Union Los Angeles, says retro styles, including new collabs and colorways of those styles, are “driving our market.”
- Over the last ten years, retro styles helped double Nike’s sales to $51.2 billion and boosted adidas’ by 50% to $24.3 billion.
But what’s driving the trend? The Business of Fashion found factors like widespread nostalgia, the cultural dominance of hip-hop and streetwear, and even COVID supply chain crunches created a perfect fit for customer demand and brand focus.
Even beyond sneakers, the retro phenomenon is what Status and Culture author W. David Marx calls “retromania,” which he says is a byproduct of an internet age when everyone has access to products and information. People learn what’s cool (like retro sneakers) and acquire it at scale… making it harder for new products to get a foothold in culture and break out.
That doesn’t mean brands will stop trying out new sneakers (Nike is upping R&D spending), but it probably won’t be their focus.