This year, the sneaker industry is celebrating four years since the launch of the legendary Nike x Off‑White “The Ten” collection. A collaboration that’s secured a place in the history books, this range of elevated classics was specifically designed to pay homage to only the most iconic silhouettes in Nike’s arsenal. Legends from the Air Force 1 and Air Max 90 to the Air Jordan 1 and newer Air VaporMax got the Virgil treatment, and they’ve since stolen the throne as some of the most tough‑to‑get sneakers of a generation.
As we look back at this game‑changing release, we’re going to take a deep dive into how it altered the industry and paved the way for other iconic collabs to follow.
1: Works of Art
Speaking on his initial trip to Nike HQ in Beaverton, Oregon, Virgil Abloh said: “By the time I made my first trip to Beaverton, I immediately wanted to make something.” Proving that his love for sneakers goes beyond surface level, the Illinois‑born designer then went on to say, “These 10 shoes have broken barriers in performance and style. To me, they are on the same level as the sculpture of David or the Mona. You can debate it all you want, but they mean something.” Offering an insight into why each sneaker silhouette was carefully selected, Abloh’s meticulous attention to detail on each and every addition to “The Ten” is a representation of his personal affection for the Nike trainers.
2: A New Era of Hype
Ahead of the release, which kicked off on the 27th of October 2017, a new‑at‑the‑time marketing technique was adopted by Abloh and the Swoosh brand. Harnessing the unstoppable power of social media, A‑listers and influencers, the duo teased the collaboration on Instagram months ahead of its release, which marked the origins of social media sneaker hype. Soon, everyone from Drake and A$AP Rocky to Naomi Campbell and Kim Jones was flexing their unreleased Nike x Off‑White sneakers on the ‘gram, leaving sneakerheads across the globe itching to get their hands on a pair.
3: Grail Status
After the dust had settled, Virgil Abloh took his place as 2017’s most influential person of the year. If that wasn’t enough, his Off‑White x Air Jordan 1 ‘Chicago’ was awarded the best sneaker of 2017 by High Snobiety readers, securing “The Ten’s” place as a history‑making collection. Even now, four years later, the price of this holy‑grail shoe is over 2000% its original retail price, proving the demand for this rare kick is just as high as ever.
4: A Collaborative Legacy
The cultural importance and industry disruption of “The Ten” collection can’t be ignored. The start of something huge, every year since the partnership’s inception, a new Nike silhouette ‑ doodled on by Abloh ‑ has been released, making the same waves as the OG collection did back in 2017. Heroes include 2018’s neon yellow Air Force 1, 2019’s Dunk and 2020’s coveted Air Jordan 4. When 2021 rolled around, Nike and Off‑White took the collaboration even further with the launch of the Nike x Off‑White “The 50”. A collection of 50 Nike Dunks ‑ mostly in pastel grey ‑ each detailed with a different hued cable. Using the same marketing technique that worked wonders in 2017, this drop was a bit more inclusive, giving loyal Nike customers priority access to the products on the SNKRS app.
5: A Blueprint for the Future
Sportswear retailers collaborating with luxury brands is now more common than ever before. While adidas is teaming up with Prada, Nike is adding heavyweights like sacai, Dior and AMBUSH to its ever‑growing list of premium collaborations. Proving that the sneaker industry is stepping away from functionality and leaning more towards fashion as demand continues to grow, fans are left wondering: what’s next for Off‑White and Nike?