The Sneaker Breakdown

Six of the best sneaker brands to shop Superbalist for

The Sneaker Breakdown

Whether you’re a connoisseur who picks and chooses favourites as the trends progress or a full-blown fanboy, never letting your allegiance falter and camping out for every drop, it’s always worth knowing a little more about your go-to sneaker brand. Their stories can offer another dimension to identity of each, beyond the brand ambassadors and activation marketing. We break six down to the most interesting details for your interest. 

adidas Originals

Established: 1924 (as Gebrüder Dassler Schuhfabrik), 1949 (as adidas)

Founder(s): Adolf Dassler

Logo: Trefoil, Originals, Three Lines

Notable Collaborations: Kanye West, Pharrell Williams, Kendall Jenner, Jeremy Scott

Signature Shoes: Stan Smiths, Superstars, Gazelles, NMDs

If it were a superhero movie, adidas Originals would probably have the most interesting origin story. After completing an apprenticeship as a baker, Adi Dassler did a 180 and followed in his father’s footsteps and started making shoes. One of his co-founders in the predecessor to adidas, his older brother Rudolf, had created Puma in parallel, leading to Adi forming his own brand. 

Their most famous silhouettes have undergone countless reissues and collaborations, from cutting edge to retro, while still remaining timeless. 


Established: 1908

Founder(s): Marquis Mills Converse

Logo: Chevron, Star

Notable Collaborations: Chuck Taylor, Nintendo, Andy Warhol

Signature Shoes: Pretty much just Chuck Taylor All Stars

After initially focusing on rain shoes, Converse found a niche in the athletic shoe market. Soon professional basketball players were favouring the All Stars, for their enhanced flexibility and ankle support, and the design has primarily remained unchanged since 1917. Once they penetrated subcultures around the country, the shift from athletic footwear to casual sneaker allowed them to branch out. While it’s now a subsidiary of Nike, Converse has managed to maintain a standout brand of individuality, through their many collaborations with artists and popular brands. 

New Balance

Established: 1906

Founder(s): William J. Riley

Logo: NB, The ‘N’

Notable Collaborations: (Unofficially) Bill Clinton, Raekwon, Steve Jobs, Action Bronson

Signature Shoes: 574s, 320s

Although they didn’t make their first pair of sneakers until 1938, they quickly made inroads in the athletic shoe market. It was 1976’s release of the 320, their first shoe to sport the infamous N logo, that made them a global brand in the sporting world. New Balance’s tendency to name their sneakers with numbers instead of names comes from designer Terry Heckler, who wanted an equal perception of each sneaker, letting the public choose their favourites objectively. 

In 2009 New Balance shed it’s “Endorsed by No One” philosophy, which dictated that no celebrities or athletes received handout sponsorships. This has allowed them to make an all out push to become one of the heavy hitters in both the athletic and casual markets. 


Established: 1971

Founder(s): Bill Bowerman, Phil Knight

Logo: Swoosh

Notable Collaborations: Cristiano Ronaldo, Michael Jordan, Bella Hadid, LeBron James 

Signature Shoes: Jordans, Cortez, Air Max, Air Force 1s

Nike, taking its name from the Greek goddess of victory, can count itself among the super brands. It’s owned and sold a number of subsidiary companies and currently owns Converse and Hurley International. Their signature Swoosh logo was designed by a Portland graphic arts student for a measly $35, and it’s changed little since. Through their focus on sportswear Nike has always been at the forefront of celebrity endorsement and collaboration, no more so than with Michael Jordan, who’s work with Nike has spawned countless sneaker designs that would make any collector green with envy. 

Beyond the world of sport, the Swoosh became a status symbol in modern streetwear and hip hop fashion in the 1980s, and maintained its influence on popular culture since then. 


Established: 1958 (after 

Founder(s): Joe Foster, Jeff Foster

Logo: Side Stripe, Cross Check

Notable Collaborations: Gigi Hadid, Jay-Z, 50 Cent, Scarlett Johansson

Signature Shoes: Classic Scrimmage Mids, Leather Whites

Since 2005, Reebok has been a subsidiary of adidas, but they’re still offering their unique British-inspired styling to the sportswear game. They operate at either end of the spectrum, opting for simplistic style or bombastic, vibrant designs. Before they actually became Reebok, their predecessor company, J.W. Foster and Sons, got started in athletic footwear, much like the other top sportswear brands. Offering them to British athletes for the 1924 Paris Olympics, their popularity skyrocketed. Reebok have dabbled in aerobics, basketball, hockey, recently CrossFit and almost any other sport you could wrap your head around. 


Established: 1966

Founder(s): Paul Van Doren, James Van Doren, Gordon C. Lee

Logo: Off the Wall, Vans graphic

Notable Collaborations: Nintendo, Marc Jacobs, Murakami, Star Wars

Signature Shoes: Old Skools, Check Slip-on, Sk8 Hi

As much now as they did when they started out, Vans as had an equal focus on skating and casual apparel. Much like Converse, they’ve waved in and out over the decades, being retro the one minute, the hottest new thing the next. Vans have openly expressed that they don’t believe they need to rely on celebrity endorsements opting to focus on sponsoring music and sports events, and trusting the timeless style of their products to weather the cyclical trends. In 2011, Vans exceeded $1 billion in annual sales for the first time in their history, making them the only skateboarding company to do so, cementing itself as one of the sportswear giants. 

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