The best 90s-style sneakers worth owning, whether you’re out stunting or going to work
Whether you call it a chunky, anti-fashion or ugly sneaker, the 90s footwear trend is pretty damn polarising – especially when looking at what's being sent down the runway or what hypebeasts are lining up for. However, if the return of light wash jeans, windbreakers, cross body bags, stripes and big logos are anything to go by, then the 90s resurgence is officially a thing and it's safe to say that even the detractors will be pulling on a very different style of sneaker to what they're used to.
We think the following four sneakers are the best way to dip a toe into the trend and, full disclosure, yes we know that some of these sneakers were released in years that fall outside of the 1990s, but hear us out – this is an interpretation of what was big in the 90s and not a literal representation of the sneakers that dropped between 1990 and 1999. Just enjoy these nostalgic throwbacks which you may use to build your best 90s looks from the feet up.
Asics Gel-Mai: the fashion-forward 90s shoe
The backstory: Originally released in 1990, the Gel-Mai created a stir when it first dropped thanks to its unique design and the GEL insole that also made them some of the most comfortable sneakers.
Their cultural impact: The Gel-Mai’s asymmetrical eyelets and unique lacing that also tightened the shoe around the ankles were a standout feature and among the first of their kind. Since the release of the modernised version, Asics has collaborated with the likes of Kith’s Ronnie Fieg and BEAMS to create small and exclusive colourway drops. In other words, rare releases for OG-level sneakerheads.
How to wear them in 2018: Wear them with cropped chinos, matching plain socks, a striped shirt and a single-breasted coat and you’ll look like the street style king you know you are.
adidas Originals Nizza: the no-fuss 90s shoe
The backstory: The Nizza was created as basketball shoe in the 70s and came in both low- and high-top forms. The off-white sneaker was made from canvas, rubber sole and toe bumper.
Their cultural impact: Evoking images of sweaty players on a wooden court in high-waisted shorts and headbands, the Nizza was one of the first basketball sneakers that made their way onto the streets much like the Converse Chuck Taylor. They were underrated because Jordans were the ultimate shoe for the sport but their sleek and timeless silhouette was a win on adidas’ part.
How to wear them in 2018: Rolled up dark jeans, a white tee and an overshirt gives you a Pinterest-worthy look inspired by Japanese workwear. Pair them with wide-leg chinos and a hoodie for something more street style-inspired.
adidas Originals New York: the office 90s shoe
The backstory: Despite their premium and minimal look, the New York actually started off as a running shoe in adidas’ Marathon series (along with the Boston Super, Toronto and Dallas) but wasn’t extremely popular, even with its features.
Their cultural impact: adidas brought the shoe back out of its archives in 2015 with an updated mesh and suede upper, no doubt thanks to the rocketing popularity of similar silhouettes around the time (more on them in a bit). But the aesthetic is still very much 90s-inspired: heritage sneakers from decades before started selling out as street culture (and hip-hop) became more prevalent.
How to wear them in 2018: Complement their low-key, all-white colourway with a similarly understated outfit. Cropped chinos and an oversized knit should do just fine, especially if you’re a short on time but still need to flex.
New Balance M990XG2: the OG 90s shoe
The backstory: Introduced in 1982, the New Balance 990 has seen several re-releases and updates in subsequent years but has remained a standing favourite for dads all over, including the biggest New Balance advocate, Steve Jobs.
Their cultural impact: In the 90s, the silhouette and others like it were pretty ubiquitous but in the age of Yeezys and plain white Common Project Achilles styles, they invite a lot of attention today. Thanks to the ugly sneaker trend, they’ve gone on to be one of the best-sellers, and their heritage no doubt plays a role in the sales.
How to wear them in 2018: Step away from the baggy bootleg jeans. Show them off in a pair of joggers or pin roll your jeans (socks optional, but if you go for them make sure they’re plain) and tie the straight-out-of-a-90s-sitcom aesthetic up with an oversized colour block sweatshirt and a baseball cap.