The Best Sneaker Revivals of 2022
While the world loves seeing cutting-edge innovations and novel designs in sneakers, sometimes nothing can quite beat a good sneaker revival. Here's some of the top nostalgic offerings from 2022.
By Anton Karve
2022 was a year full of welcome surprises for the sneaker community. Brands both big and small have pushed the limits of imagination with the creation of new silhouettes and colourways, collaborations and innovations. For instance, A-COLD-WALL and Converse’s collaborations produced various space-age silhouettes such as the Sponge Crater CX and Geo Forma over the course of the year.
However, while many releases dazzled the world with new, cutting-edge elements never before seen on sneakers, countless others instead focused on the old, delivering a mix of nostalgia and excitement to long-time sneaker lovers. These retros of past, sometimes long-forgotten silhouettes and colorways have become known as sneaker revivals, and we’ll be giving you some of this category’s best offerings in 2022.
1. Nike Air Ship
The Nike Air Jordan 1 is considered by many to be the grandfather of the sneaker game as we know it, spawning many of today’s sneaker phenomena. Thus, it’s only right that we kick off this list with the predecessor of the AJ1, the Nike Air Ship.
One of the most mysterious sneakers due to their rarity, the Air Ship was the first shoe Michael Jordan played in after signing with Nike in 1984. Nike had provided him with player exclusive Air Ships that exchanged the typical “Nike Air” branding with “Air Jordan”, which MJ wore out to his regular season NBA debut. The next year, Nike received a letter from the NBA, stating that the “red and black Nike basketball shoes” were prohibited by the Association’s uniform regulations, effectively banning the Air Ships from the court.
While the NBA had banned the “Bred” Air Ships, Nike later aired their smash-hit “Banned” commercial which attributed the ban to their newly-released “Bred” Air Jordan 1s. This stroke of marketing genius contributed to the explosion of popularity that AJ1s experienced upon release, with the “Bred” colourway in particular gaining widespread hype and notoriety within sneaker and basketball communities.
In a way, without the NBA banning the Air Ships, AJ1s might not be the sought-after sneakers we see today, and the “Bred” colourway might never have burst into the public eye. Almost to honour the legacy that the Air Ship created, Nike continued to revive the age-old silhouette, with the A Ma Maniére x Nike Air Ship “Game Royal” dropping in a limited August 2022 release.
2. New Balance 550
The 1980’s vintage basketball silhouette was archived for more than three decades before it began to peek out of store shelves in late 2020. By the start of 2022, the sleek, hardy leather design had been released in countless colourways, and quickly became one of the most coveted silhouettes on the market. Besides being picked up by global fashion waves such as Tiktok’s biggest sneaker trend, the New Balance 550s also saw collaborations with celebrities such as Jack Harlow.
The curvy design lines, coupled with a cartoonish, nostalgic “N” logo and “550” branding are iconic, and the variety of colourways meant that 550s could be as eye-catching or as neutral as you wanted them to be. Until today, despite that the majority of NB550s are undergoing general release, many stockists still consistently sell out of this sneaker revival.
3. Asics Gel-Lyte
The year saw the Asics Gel-Lyte III OG being revived countless times, as it seemed every other design label wanted to make their mark on the 32-year-old silhouette. Between KITH, PLEASURES, atmos, Awake NY, as well as many more collaborators, it seemed that there were almost too many Gel-Lyte III releases to go around, to the delight of those that favored the model’s vintage running shoe aesthetic.
Different releases throughout 2022 heavily played with the Gel-Lyte III’s colours and textures, with some brands such as atmos even going so far as to plaster the world map over the surface of the sneaker, creating some of the biggest design variations we’ve seen within a single silhouette.
4. Reebok Club C 85
Interestingly seen by some as a more readily available, comparatively low-key alternative to the New Balance 550, the Reebok Club C 85 Vintage has proven to please general markets with its old-school aesthetic, neutral colour schemes, low price-point and ability to seamlessly work with just about any outfit.
The unassuming silhouette had flown under the radar for years, only resurfacing now due to ongoing fashion trends, but rightfully so – though the design appears plain from a distance, a closer look reveals some rather complex stitching patterns across the upper that even enhance the shoe’s aesthetic after being worn-in. Somehow, the Reeboks manage to revive themselves.
Image via The Fashion Guitar
5. adidas Samba
If we were to choose any of these sneaker revivals to pay special attention to in 2023, we would pick the Samba. Once a specialty shoe tailored for traction in icy football fields, then a general-use shoe for most football environments, and later an all-rounder in sports requiring agility and grip such as skateboarding, the Samba has gone through many evolutions. Its latest evolution, curiously, was into one of 2022’s fashion staples.
Through much of the 2000s, the silhouette was decidedly un-hyped, but everything changed in 2022. Rising trends that favoured easy-wearing, neutral tones, and simpler designs paired up perfectly with Wales Bonner’s Spring/Summer 2022 take on the Samba. This, in turn, was uncannily synchronised with pictures surfacing on the internet of fashion icons such as Bella Hadid, Kendall Jenner, Emma Chamberlain, A$AP Rocky and Rihanna rocking the Sambas in their day-to-day life.
Coupled with an increased interest in Sambas on social media platforms such as Tiktok, this was the push it needed to turn the silhouette from an outdated dad shoe to one of the most hyped sneakers moving into 2023. Somewhere in the world, there is at least one dad wondering why his favourite football shoe is completely sold out.
More Best of 2022 Features:
The Best Jordan Brand Collabs of 2022
2022’s Best-Selling Travis Scott x Nike Sneakers on SNKRDUNK
The Best New Balance Collabs of 2022
The Best-Selling Air Jordan Sneakers of 2022 on SNKRDUNK
The Most Unique Sneakers of 2022
2022’s Best Anime Sneaker Collabs So Far