Last week we saw the return of streetwear royalties Supreme collaboration with sportswear powerhouse Nike. The two have joined forces on numerous occasions and it is always a release that fans of the two brands look forward to every year. The pair generally link up to release an apparel capsule, but the main event of the collab is the exciting sneaker releases that come from the partnership.
Supreme has left no stone unturned when raiding the Nike archives. We’ve seen them take over every kind of silhouette you can imagine. From runners to basketball sneakers, Supreme has added their unapologetic flair to all of Nike’s most iconic shoes.
I take a deep-dive into how the Supreme x Nike partnership came about, our favourite sneakers from their back catalogue and what’s next for the hottest collab within the industry.
Where did it all begin?
The year is 1994 and designer James Jebbia opened a skate store called Supreme. Based in New York City on Lafayette Street in SoHo, the shop was in the centre of NYC’s fashion scene. A brand known for its brash attitude and borderline vulgar designs, Supreme did not care whether you liked them or not. This approach, in turn, drove more and more customers to the store and eventually lead to the Supreme we known today. World Famous.
On the other side of the coin, Nike had been dominating the sportswear space since the 60s. Dominating every sport you can imagine, Nike even tried their hand at getting into the skateboarding space with Nike SB. Unfortunately, the skateboarding line didn’t go quite as well as planned, with many skaters opting to rock the basketball silhouette the Nike Dunk instead. The sneakers were high tops with ankle padding and came in bold colourways allowing skateboarders to flex when boarding. Nike saw this as an opportunity to transition a failed basketball shoe into one of the greatest skateboarding silhouettes of all time.
How would Nike get the word out about the transition of the Nike Dunk into the skateboarding world? By joining forces with Supreme and tapping into that carefree skateboarding fan base. Having them push the Nike Dunk was an excellent foundation for a relationship that has come on leaps and bounds over the years. Eighteen years later and the Nike x Supreme collaborations is still one of the most highly-anticipated drops year after year.
Our top 5 drops from the collaboration
Supreme x Nike Dunk (2002, 2012)
It would be impossible to discuss Nike and Supreme’s most significant collaborations without talking about the Dunk that started it all and the re-release on its tenth anniversary. The Dunk, of course, had its fans before the Supreme release. However, the 2002 limited edition release put both Supreme and the Dunk on the map for sneakerheads.
The colourways were exciting due to the similarities to the ever-popular Jordan 3. The now infamous elephant print had only ever been used on the AJ3 before. When people saw it pop up on the Dunks everyone rightfully so went mad for them. New Yorkers were well known for skating in Jordan’s, so to see the instantly recognisable colourway put onto a Nike Dunk was massive for skaters. Nike and Supreme limited the release to around 1250 pairs and drip-fed them by releasing a certain amount a day for a week. Collectors would queue each day hoping to cop a pair. Nowadays, it’s impossible to get into Supreme without queuing, but back then it was brand new for the skate store.
Supreme and Nike revisited the legendary collaboration on its tenth anniversary. In 2012 we saw the same colourway release, but the silhouette was this time dominated by the Supreme red tone. An almost full-circle moment for the brand’s collaborations and although the Dunk’s popularity had plummeted when these released, collectors of the OG colourways were delighted to see these drop.
Supreme x Nike Blazer SB (2006)
For me, the most beautiful sneaker this duo has ever released and one I continue to hunt for today. The Blazer has a special place within Nike’s history. Dating back to the 70s when Cali-kids would skate empty pools in them. As soon as you set eyes on the Supreme Blazer, you get an instant sense the shoe is premium.
Supreme managed to elevate a skate sneaker into a dress shoe. The quilted uppers with snakeskin swooshes ensured these sneakers would not look out of place on the red carpet. You can find gold accents on the tongues branding and lace tips. We even see a Gucci’esque heel tab feature on the back of the sneaker. Still a grail for many, you will be hard-pressed to pick up a pair for less than £1500 today.
Supreme x Nike Air Max 98 (2016)
One thing that becomes evident with Supreme’s collaborations is their willingness to go in a different direction to what you would assume. We saw it when they got a Jordan collaboration and opted to take over the 5 instead of some of the more popular silhouettes. They did the same with this Air Max collab. Opting for the lesser-known 98 over some of the more popular options.
Fortunately, being in London means that Air Max 98’s are very much a part of our sneaker culture. The grime scene has ensured the 98 has always been a popular sneaker here. So when Supreme released their collaborative effort of the shoe I for one was excited.
The triple black version perhaps reflected the culture that the sneaker was intertwined with best. But for me, the snakeskin pair was the pick of the four.
Supreme x Nike Air More Uptempo (2017)
A sneaker that divides opinion, the Uptempo is most definitely a love it or hate it sneaker. I can’t even decide how much of a fan I am of the silhouette as my opinion changes case by case. With that said, I feel like the Supreme Uptempo catapulted the brand into another level of fame. I remember seeing Neymar rocking the gold pair on the way to a match for Barcelona. The world’s most famous athlete, playing for the best team in Europe rocking a pair of Supreme kicks. This image, for me, was the changing of the guard for Supreme as they hit rockstar status.
The ‘Suptempo’ took the classic ’96 silhouette and added their flair to it. Supreme swapped out the legendary AIR lettering that features around the lateral and medial sides of the sneaker. Instead, the wording spelt out Supreme. Coming in a completely gold colourway, a very on-brand red and white colourway and the classic triple black. The silhouette is still today classed as either instant classic or ugly. There really is no in-between.
Supreme x Nike Air Max Plus TN (2020)
Much like the Air Max 98, I feel like the TN holds a special place in UK sneakerheads hearts. Once again, the UK Grime scene is perhaps to thank for the popularity of the sneaker here in England. With MC Skepta repping the TN over the years, younger fans of the artist have recently been put onto the TN wave too.
An iconic running silhouette with its legions of fans, three colourways released just last week and instantly sold out. The Tuned Air cushioning paired with the classic TPU fingers running up the side gave this sneaker an OG feel. In true Supreme fashion, much like the Uptempo, the TPU fingers were customised to spell out the name of the infamous brand.
Much like many of Supremes items, the TN ultimately divided opinions with some fans hating the shoe. I do think it is essential, however, to note the importance of the silhouette within the sneaker industry before writing it off.
Want to add the latest Nike x Supreme collab to your collection? Click the links below to find your size:
Where do they go next?
Whenever you are dealing with a brand like Supreme, it is impossible to see what they are going to do next. There are rumours of an Air Jordan 1 releasing which comes across a slightly uninspiring compared to their usual collabs. Any Jordan 1 that drops right now will be an instant hit. I prefer my Nike x Supreme collaborations to act as an education into an OG forgotten model. Spice it up with some insane colour combinations and watch sneakerheads swoon.
One thing we do know though is Nike and Supreme working together rarely misses. I will most definitely be waiting to see what they get up to next.