A blink-and-you’ll-miss-it year, 2021 was a whirlwind of highly technical jargon (NFT, who?), archival kicks and game-changing collaborations. The year that heralded a brand-new era of fashion, the sneaker industry took its first steps into the metaverse, but that wasn’t all that went down. Here, we’re going to dig into 2021, to really dissect what went on behind the scenes of the sneaker industry in 2021. 

Dubbed a ‘supply chain crisis’, 2021 started with delayed drops, longer delivery times and less stock, and this shows no signs of slowing down in 2022 – with some experts predicting it to last until 2023. What caused the supply chain issues? Well, put simply, the US was dealing with a pretty tense trade relationship with China pre-pandemic, and when Covid-19 hit, material shortages, factory closures and shipping issues caused a collapse in the system (which is why you couldn’t get your hands on those usually easy-to-get Triple White Nike Air Force 1s back in March ‘21). How will this affect 2022? Designer heavyweights like Nike and Supreme are already tightening their belts to prepare for the challenges to come. Shortages and shipping delays will inevitably lead to a drop in revenue, and a leaked email from the Swoosh brand showed that Nike has already had to cancel some in-store orders. 

While the top dogs in the sneaker industry focused on remedying the global supply issues, designers throughout the big-name brands focused on  new collaborations and reviving silhouettes from the archive. The year started with Yoon Ahn’s AMBUSH x Nike Dunk High which sold out instantly, but this was just a warm up for what was to come. As the year progressed, over 255 Dunk colourways landed, with design updates from the likes of Supreme, Off-White and Union. 

Proof that retro style was the name of the game, more and more old-school silhouettes started to make their resurgence – and not just from Nike. New Balance got in on the action with a huge focus on the New Balance 550, while adidas released new Forum colourways almost monthly. Following suit, Jordan Brand put the crowd-favourite Air Jordan 1 on the backburner for a sec, shining a spotlight on the Air Jordan 3, Air Jordan 4 and Air Jordan 5 instead. 

The final third of 2021 is when the industry started to pick up speed with releases and new exciting content. Rumours of a brand-new metaverse (an online world where users can interact with each other) started to pick up speed and designer heavyweights began digitalising their marketing like never before. In December, adidas launched an NFT collection called “Into The Metaverse” which exuded exclusivity with hard-to-get pieces released in extremely limited numbers. The first sportswear brand to take the leap into the world of NFTs, we can’t help but wonder, who will be next?

It’s near-impossible to mention 2021 without remembering two events that shook the industry to its core. First, the Astroworld disaster in November led to the breakdown of several Travis Scott partnerships. The long-anticipated Travis Scott x Nike Air Max 1 has been delayed and rumour has it that the Cactus Jack x Dior collaboration has been cancelled. A mere three weeks after the shocking news of the festival, the industry received another blow with the death of Off-White and Louis Vuitton designer, Virgil Abloh. An icon in the sneaker world, Abloh was responsible for some of the most legendary collaborative sneakers to come out of this generation and the Creative Director still made waves with a posthumous Spring/Summer 2022 Louis Vuitton show.

2022 is set to be another interesting year for the Sneaker industry. We have no doubt that some of our favourite brands have some surprises up their sleeves, while we’re certain that archival silhouettes and fresh collaborations will continue to reign supreme.