The Hi-Top Resurgence

According to fashion publications of the moment, the style of the 90s is having a resurgence. As a child of the 90s, the thought of shell suits and Global Hypercolor tees making a comeback fills me with dread but of course there are some 90s concepts worthy of reawakening – notably, the feature of this article, high top trainers.

1990s style was influenced largely by sportswear and favoured bright colours and fluorescents. These characteristics inevitably spilled over to feature in footwear – specifically high tops whose design was chunkier than standard footwear and often contained larger-than-life, vivid colour choices to accentuate their larger proportions. Although the vibrant, retro versions of the 80s / 90s are still available on the high street, fashion designers have now taken the high top phenomenon in a different direction by creating styles which are more minimalist in style and more subdued in colour.

High tops experienced a huge boost in 1985 when Nike started to design a high top style specifically for famed basketball player Michael Jordan. In fact, the Nike Air Jordan range, originally designed for and officially endorsed by Jordan himself, grew so popular, that Nike have released a new design every year to popular acclaim. The fact that the high top style remained popular even after Jordan’s retirement from professional play demonstrates the style’s staying power. Additionally, Nike now also allow customers to inject an element of personal style with the set-up of where you can customise your own trainers and choose colours / materials for your own shoe. Personal design and self expression has never been so accessible.

The predominant feature of the high top is pretty self-explanatory – the top of the trainer which extends above the ankle and demands to be shown off. This means high tops look great when teamed with (the current trend) shorter trousers and rolled up hems on jeans for a casual outfit, but can also look amazing with chinos or slim trousers for a smarter, more relaxed formal look.

Interestingly, the current high top renaissance represents a unique fashion comeback as it has originated in menswear and has filtered down to influence both male and female collections. In 2009, Kanye West collaborated with Louis Vuitton to create a sell-out range of high-fashion high tops, and this season, both Jimmy Choo and Christian Louboutin themselves are bucking the trend and releasing new ranges of high top trainers for both men and women.

As commonly occurs, the designer take on high tops has had a huge influence on the high street versions. By blurring the lines between casual and smart, and moving the notion of high tops away from their traditional sporty and functional stereotype, extensive variations on high top designs have emerged. Different materials and textures have been embraced – from Diesel’s Black Gold Denim Hi-Top, to Marc Jacobs’ Quilted Patent Hi-Top. Accessories have even been added to the trainers themselves – as displayed by Raf Simons’ ‘Astronaut sneaker’ which features a zipper pocket.

Although sportswear high tops are stereotypically bright and multi-coloured – the new designer take on the high top has it in more muted, monochrome colours and teamed with sharp tailoring. This idea of ‘dressing up’ by adding an element of ‘dressing down’ successfully smartens up the concept of the high top sport shoe and adds an urban edge to a stylish look.

Celebrity/Editorial Examples

A number of celebrities have been seen recently pushing the trend, and rocking a variety of hi-top styles within their looks. You have Jude Law wearing Lavin, Chris Brown in Supras, Justin Timberlake rocking the Pumas, and Kanye rolling in his own line. There is a massive variety out there right now so find what suits your own personal style and tastes:

Celebrities in Hi-Tops

Runways Featuring the Hi-Top

All the images below come from the Spring/Summer or Autumn/Winter 10 runways, and as you can see the hi-top has really been pushed within all the big fashion houses who sent models down the runways in casual and formal outfits, showing how versatile they have become. Below features images from Moschino, Giuliano Fujiwara, Christopher Shannon – Top Man, Emporio Armani, Jean Paul-Gaultier and of course Adidas Y-3:

Designer Hi-Tops on the Runways

Traditional High Tops:

For traditional retro high tops – you can’t beat the old skool sports brands: Nike, Adidas and Reebok.

Nike Vandal High U Men's ShoeNike Dunk High 08 LE Men's Basketball ShoeAir Jordan 1 Retro High Premier

BerlinEx-O-Fit HiRe-Up Select


Dynasty High (86607)Air Zoom Oncore Hi (43519)Forum Mid (86246)

AF1 Hi Premium (45535)Dynasty81 Hi Quickstrike (21585)Air Royal Mid (86446)

High Street and Mid Range:

Black Retro Hi-Top BootsGOLIATH OVAL BOOTFable Canvas Boot

G-Star Zenith Hi Silver TrainerJersey High Top TrainersBrandon Hi Top

ASOS Three Strap Perforated Hi-Top TrainersDiesel Black Gold Future Treated Denim Hi-Top TrainersVans Sk8 Hi-Top Plimsolls

Bryant Hi TopVans SK8-Hi Deconstruct Hi-Top PlimsollsSuperdry Classic Hi-Top Trainers

Supra Chad Muska Skytop Shoes (Black Croc)Supra Vaider Shoes (Red)Supra LTD Edition TK Society Shoes (White Perf)

High Fashion/Designer:

balenciagadolce & gabbanalanvin

lanvinguccimartin margiela

BalenciagaPuma by MiharaLanvin

Raf Simons Astronaut BootsAlexander McQueen For Puma Welterweight Mid TrainersMarc Jacobs Zip Canvas Mid-Top Trainers


Diet Butcher Slim Skin Mid SneakerChristian Peau Strap Color SneakerChristian Peau Washed Leather sneaker Boot