If you’re looking to upgrade your shoe collection — without stepping away from the classics — consider this your guide, with examples sold at Christie’s
Air Force 1s, Air Jordans, Converse… they’re everywhere. But there are also elevated, collectible versions of these shoes, from limited-edition drops to designer and celebrity collaborations to one-of-a-kind player-exclusive, signed and game-worn shoes. We tracked down the rarest, most sought-after versions of these classic sneakers — so you can stick to tradition and still have the shoes that no one else can get their hands on.
If you like Nike Air Force 1s… see the Louis Vuitton Nike Air Force 1 low white sneaker by Virgil Abloh
The Nike Air Force 1 was designed in 1982 by Bruce Kilgore. It’s a staple sneaker — especially in New York City, where it has a rich history in hip-hop culture. Forty years after the original release, Louis Vuitton dropped an exclusive, elevated version in collaboration with Nike. The late designer Virgil Abloh created 47 bespoke pairs for the collection, using materials and textiles from the LV SS22 show, and incorporating signature details, like his iconic quotation marks, as well as embossed LV detailing throughout the silhouette.
Released posthumously, the collection fuses the rich histories of Nike and Louis Vuitton with Abloh’s iconic artistry. The first model in the AF1’s history to be crafted outside of a Nike factory — they were made by Louis Vuitton in Italy’s Fiesso d’Artico — they are one of the most exclusive sneakers in history.
If you like Air Jordans… see the Michael Jordan dual signed Original 1985 Air Jordan 1 ‘Chicago’ sneakers
When Nike made its first pair of basketball sneakers for Michael Jordan in 1985 — the Air Jordans — it simultaneously launched the collectible sneaker market. People began wearing basketball shoes off the court, collecting different colourways, and today over 37 years later, Air Jordan releases still sell out in seconds. There are countless colourways, collaborations, limited editions and retro Jordans across a range of price points, but this original pair is at the most exclusive end of the market.
‘Player Exclusive’ refers to sneakers made for specific athletes: with unique designs and colourways that aren’t released to the public, they rarely make it to the resale market. The value of this pair goes beyond their ‘PE’ status — they were made in 1985 for the most beloved figure in the history of basketball, and the shoe’s namesake — Jordan himself.
Signed twice by Jordan, one on each collar, this pair holds an iconic place in the history of basketball and streetwear.
If you like Dunks…see the complete set of 2003 Supreme/Nike SB Dunk high sneakers
Nike Dunks may be ubiquitous today, but this complete set of 2003 Supreme/Nike SB Dunk high sneakers is exceptionally rare, and a tribute to the shoe’s rich history. The original 1985 Dunk shared many of the Air Jordan 1’s aesthetic elements, but it also took design cues from the Nike Terminator and the Nike Legend — it was a fusion of the most popular basketball shoes of the era.
Initially aimed at college basketball teams and their fans, by the 1990s Dunks had fallen out of favour with the mainstream consumer and were more likely to be seen in flea markets than on a college court. As the public fell out of love with them, the skating counterculture fell in love with them — they were cheap and readily available in thrift shops, their tough durability made them perfect for skating, and the fact that they were no longer trendy appealed to the rebelliousness of skaters.
Nike switched gears accordingly, and in 1998 they updated the Dunk High from a basketball shoe to a skate shoe (the tongue was changed to nylon, for example, which made it easier to skate in). The 2000s were Dunks’ golden era, as they spread to other countercultures from punk rockers to hip-hop lovers.
This 2003 collab with the legendary streetwear brand Supreme is an emblem of this golden era and the epitomy of what Dunks stand for.
If you like the Reebok Instapump Fury… see the Chanel Reebok Instapump Fury
To the untrained eye, the Chanel Reebok Instapump Fury might look like any other mainstream Reebok Instapump Fury. Lean a little closer, and you see the details: the iconic ‘C’ logo impressed on the heel with plastic retroreflective material and the uppers constructed in the high-quality leather that is characteristic of Chanel craftsmanship.
This shoe was shown in the Chanel 2001 Spring Summer collection, and whilst it might be common now for high fashion houses to collaborate with sneaker brands, in 2000 it was almost unheard of. Representing one of the first high-end sneaker collaborations in contemporary fashion history, this shoe was revolutionary. A limited number of pairs were gifted after the show to friends and family, making them exceptionally rare: collectors refer to this sneaker as a ‘unicorn’.
If you like Converse… see the pair worn by DJ Kool Herc
Sometimes it's not the edition, collaboration, or drop that adds value to a shoe but the person who once wore them. This pair of ‘Sedgewick and Cedar’ Converse limited-edition sneakers — part of a collection of four pairs of sneakers — were owned by DJ Cool Herc, who is widely credited as the originator of hip-hop. Their history renders this ordinary-looking pair of Converse irreplaceable.
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