You don’t have to be a devout sneakerhead to know that many of the scene’s most revered designs are of the high-top variety. Had it not been for the lofty silhouettes offered by early basketball shoes, the current paradigm of sports-casual footwear would probably look a lot different.
It’s impossible to ignore the impact these ankle-grazing kicks have had on mainstream footwear. In fact, it could be argued that it was high tops that birthed the very concept of sneakers as we know them today.
To show our admiration for this highly influential breed of footwear, we’ve rounded up a mix of all-time classics and the coolest contemporary styles out there right now. If you’re thinking of investing in some sky-high sneakers, these are the models to check out.
Nike Air Jordan 1
Air Jordan has arguably done more to shape sneaker culture than any other line of footwear and this is the shoe that started it all.
Prior to his Nike sponsorship deal, Michael Jordan’s match-day footwear of choice was a pair of Converse All Stars. So, when the time came to create his first signature shoe, the Swoosh’s crack team of designers set about making something similarly close to the ground with a sleek, low-profile silhouette. The resulting shoe quickly became a mainstay both on and off the court and remains a favourite of collectors and sneaker aficionados to this day.
Converse Chuck Taylor All Star ’70
The simple canvas and rubber design of Converse’s iconic Chuck Taylor All Star has remained more or less unchanged for over a century. Why? Because it was damn near perfect then and it’s still damn near perfect today.
It may look basic, but this primitive basketball shoe laid the foundation for sports footwear as we know it. It was the first example of a ‘pro model’ and has inspired countless imitations over the years. It’s also about as versatile as a shoe can get, which makes styling a breeze. No wonder it’s the world’s favourite sneaker.
Vans Sk8 Hi
Where most high-top kicks have their roots in basketball, Vans’ Sk8 Hi comes from skateboarding stock instead. Originally launched in 1978, this suede and canvas sneaker was the world’s first high-top skate shoe. It quickly established itself as a staple of the scene and is something of a counterculture icon today.
With its chunky, white outsole and simple side-stripe branding, it manages to be both eye-catching and subtle all at the same time. There are myriad colours and styles around, but as far as we’re concerned, the classic black and white is about as good as it gets.
When it first launched in 1985, the Nike Dunk (featured image, top) was designed as a basketball shoe for college athletes. However, when Nike SB adopted the silhouette in the 1990s, it found a new calling as a skate shoe.
Today the Dunk has been reimagined and reworked over and over again, and many of the resulting limited releases and collaborations are now some of the most sought-after shoes among die-hard sneakerheads. Aside from that, it’s a pretty handsome piece of footwear – simple, stylish and available in a dizzying selection of tantalising colourways.
Common Projects Achilles Mid
Since its launch in 2005, Common Projects’ Achilles has been the high-water mark for all other simple leather sneakers. Granted, the low-top version gets a lot more press, but we think the Achilles Mid is equally deserving of your attention.
This ankle-height version of the iconic Achilles Low is perfect for the colder, wetter months and looks great with a pair of cuffed jeans or trousers. The buttery-smooth leather only improves with age and while they are certainly an investment, the price is reflected in the care and craftsmanship that has so obviously gone into every square millimetre.
Tom Ford Cambridge
Colourful basketball kicks are all well and good, but they’re not exactly the most versatile option in terms of styling. If you’re looking for something slick, indulgent and a little bit more grown up, then Tom Ford’s Cambridge High might be the high-top sneaker for you.
Crafted in Italy from a mixture of suede and leather, these are some seriously smart high tops. They’re easily sharp enough to strut their stuff with tailored trousers but aren’t too high and mighty to slum it with jeans and a T-shirt when it’s time to unwind.
Made in Japan using the absolute finest materials, Visvim’s Skagway sneaker is a luxurious take on a classic canvas basketball shoe.
Visvim’s footwear and apparel is well known for its quality, but also for its high prices. Granted, a pair of Skagways is never going to be the most wallet-friendly option out there, but in terms of materials, style and attention to detail, they’re difficult to beat.
Adidas Nizza Hi
When it comes to high-top sneakers, there’s no denying that Nike rules the roost. Still, while Adidas has nowhere near as many iconic silhouettes, it does have one classic up its sleeve.
The Nizza was released in 1975 and was Adidas’ answer to Converse’s Chuck Taylor All Star. It’s a clean and simple canvas basketball shoe with extra height for ankle support and rubber reinforcements for increased durability. Simple, timeless and a great alternative for anyone looking for something a little different to the Converse classics.
Novesta Star Dribble
Slovakian brand Novesta’s simple, functional footwear has become a fixture in many of the coolest sneaker stores here in the UK and beyond. It’s minimal, easy on the eye, comfortable and affordable – and these canvas high tops are no different.
The Star Dribble is the high-top version of Novesta’s best-selling Star Master sneaker. It features a heavy canvas upper, chunky rubber sole and signature oversized eyelets. A great day-to-day option that’s as timeless as it is wallet-friendly.