Classic or Trash: Off-White x Nike "The Ten"
Classic or Trash: Off-White x Nike "The Ten"
- Words Grailed Team
- Date July 18, 2019
”Classic or Trash” is a recurring franchise highlighting a specific item and asking exactly that question: is it classic or trash? Granted, each member of the Grailed community is entitled to their own opinion, and while the Grailed editorial staff does its best to judge items objectively, we encourage you to disagree and sound off in the comments below.
While not the globally recognized cultural force he is today, even in 2016 few creatives could compare to Virgil Abloh. Designer of the fastest growing contemporary luxury brand in the world, long-time Kanye West collaborator and increasingly booked DJ, Abloh was already in ridiculous demand when Nike came calling. When the two finally agreed to work on a joint project, whether you were a fan of Abloh’s or not, you knew the ensuing collaboration would shift the paradigm. And it did. In 2017, Abloh and Nike officially announced “The Ten.” More than just the collaboration of the year—in reality the next two years—”The Ten” was a series of sneakers that reshaped the entire secondhand market.
After dominating resell with the success of Yeezy, adidas made significant gains in the U.S. market. Allied with not only Kanye West but Pharrell, Raf Simons and (at that point) Rick Owens, adidas concerted effort to own the fashion-sneaker market helped the German sportswear giant capitalize off a hungry audience that, at that point, Nike had no interest in speaking to. While former CEO and chairman Phil Knight insisted for years that Nike was more of a “sportswear” than “fashion” company, eventually the Swoosh realized how these partnerships influenced public perception. So, it quickly allied itself with—as far as the youth is concerned—the most influential man there is.
A lifelong Nike fan, Abloh’s relationship with Nike stretches back to his childhood in Chicago, when he and close friends would sketch Jordan concepts and mail them to Nike. During his first trip to Beaverton, Abloh found an X-ACTO knife and retooled a pair of triple black Air Force 1s, exposing the foam inside the tongue, removing and altering the swoosh and finally scribbling various phrases using a sharpie—most famously “Air.” The 20 minute exercise transformed into a series of 12 custom handmade Air Force 1s which Abloh’s team wore to Design Miami in 2017 for the debut of Off-White Furniture. With the deconstructionist design language in place, and rumors of a collaboration churning, the foundation was in place, and “The Ten” was born.
Focusing on ten iconic models—the Air Jordan 1, Air Max 90, Air VaporMax, Air Presto, Blazer, Air Force 1 Low, Hyperdunk 2017, Zoom Vaporfly, Converse Chuck Taylor and Air Max 97—the sneakers were split into two distinct groups of five. First, there was “Revealing,” a collection directly inspired by Abloh’s first X-ACTO knife session. Each sneaker in “Revealing” featured a tongue with foam exposed, repositioned (and sometimes enlarged) swoosh and pop of collar courtesy of an orange tag. Then, for “Ghosting”, Abloh recreated five classics with translucent uppers in order to illuminate their shared technology and highlight their cumulative history. While the “Revealing” collection received a limited drop at select NikeLab stores in the US and Europe throughout September, the full collection dropped worldwide in November of 2017. The response was overwhelming. Even Abloh dissidents loved them.
After two years, resale prices have stabilized, hype has somewhat subsided but Abloh himself is bigger than ever. New—and arguably more interesting—Nike silhouettes are in the works, as exhibited on Off-White runways and his mid-career retrospective in Chicago. Still, arguing that the Off-White x Nike Air Jordan 1 Chicago is anything but a classic is laughable. So, where do we stand?
In retrospect, the actual “Ten”—the first 10 sneakers Abloh worked on with Nike—were a mixed bag. Every sneaker in “Revealing” is a certified smash. The “Ghosting” capsule, however, is hit-or-miss. Off-court no one is inching to get their hands on Off-White Hyperdunks, and even die hard fans will admit the translucent Chuck’s are not a hill worth dying on. Yet, the Presto, Blazer, VaporMax and Air Max 90 are all still just coveted and aesthetically pleasing as they were on drop day. Many have speculated that “The Ten” was originally “The Five”, that “Revealing” was the entire collection and due to surging demand Nike brought Abloh back to the studio to devise another five sneakers. It makes sense, given their aesthetic direction is much less clear. Whether or not that’s the case, one thing is for certain. Just shy of two years later, you can forget your “Ghosting” Air Force 1s—Abloh almost certainly has—but those first five sneakers, the Air Jordan 1, Air Max 90, Air VaporMax, Air Presto and Blazer are more than just sneaker collab of the year (or perhaps decade), but signifiers of how Abloh changed sportswear-fashion partnerships moving forward. They won’t be forgotten.
Disagree? Whether you think the Off-White x Nike “The Ten” is classic or trash, let us know in the comments below.