At this point, it’s almost cliché to say that 2020 has been unexpected. From a global pandemic to murder hornets and everything (yes, everything) in between, it feels like the world stopped turning this year. Meanwhile, the sneaker industry has been turning out hyped releases all year long.
In fact, it’s been a pretty great year for sneakers. Kicks king Virgil Abloh unveiled his new Off-White Jordan’s. Nike SB kept the Dunk Renaissance alive with countless new drops. And sustainability got another boost from big brands across the board.
When COVID hit, there were rumours the resale market would crash. Sneakerheads feared that brands would go under and brands feared that sneakerheads wouldn’t be interested in buying kicks when they could buy carts of toilet paper.
Instead, what we saw this year was a never ending lineup of fresh ideas, lovable retros, and inventive and unforgettable collabs. Some good, some bad, some ugly, and some just plain weird.
That brings us to our roundup of 2020’s most unexpected (and frankly, strange) sneaker collabs.
You knew we were going to start with this one, so let’s just get it out of the way. When Nike SB unveiled the Chunky Dunky’s at the top of the year, sneaker lovers were prepared for a quick laugh before moving on to the next drop. Instead, what they got was a masterful colourway, truly inventive multi-textile panelling, and - ultimately - the most memorable sneaker of 2020.
Featuring hairy-suede cow print, uppers painted like rolling fields, stitched-on clouds under the heel tab, and a tie-dyed lining and insole, this Ben & Jerry’s partnership is easily one of the most intricate and truly unpredictable collabs of the year.
In a year full of franchise sneaker tie-ins, this might be the wildest. Adidas celebrated the 40th anniversary of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back with 9 fits inspired by the characters.
From a cringy Rivalry Hi, modelled after Chewbacca and covered in faux fur, to an impressive Top Ten Hi resembling Boba Fett’s iconic armour (including the side pouch), this collab was just weird enough to be exciting and just good enough to be cared about.
Keeping it in the retro franchise realm, these PUMAs celebrate the Nintendo icon’s 35th anniversary. Designed to look just like Mario (surprise, surprise), the RS-Dreamer silhouette is decorated with a red, white, and blue mesh upper and classic Super Mario symbols sprinkled across the heel tab and sole. A peek inside reveals Mario-branded graphics covering the entire insole.
The best part? Since J. Cole is responsible for this signature basketball fit, he could be considered part three of the collab. (Did we mention 2020 has been weird?)
We’re pretty sure you saw this one coming, too. These SB’s were a summertime surprise that gave a whole new meaning to furry footwear. In partnership with the iconic counter-culture supergroup, this Dunk Low drop was Chunky Dunky déjà vu.
Complete with a bear-like faux fur and suede upper, a frayed Nike Swoosh, and the Dead’s iconic dancing bear on each tongue, the three neon colourways were immediately adopted by sneakerheads and deadheads alike. If the resale prices have anything to say about it, this might be the most unlikely hit of the year.
You read that right. To promote next year’s Minions movie, Reebok dropped a six shoe collection inspired by everyone’s favourite Despicable Me creatures. The Instapump is arguably the most memorable, with bright yellow and blue detailing, a single Minion eye over the tongue, and honeycomb imprints across the chunky sole.
The other kicks in the collection are varying levels of bizarre, from glow-in-the-dark textiles to fuzzy counter lining and incoherent patterned panelling. But one thing’s for sure - they got us talking.
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