Back in the day, muscle-car gearheads didn’t put much thought into footwear. Throw on a pair of Chuck Taylors and get back to turning wrenches. But times have changed, and the world of automotive and sneaker styles have merged into unimaginably cool car-inspired kicks.
While an exotic car might not suit your budget, a pair of auto-inspired sneakers could be your ticket to ride. They can be high forward-thinking fashion or pure nostalgia. For example, seeing the epic Pink Pig and Gulf livery wrapped around a sneaker is a trip back to the future.
Here’s a look at collaborations between cultural icons, sneaker companies, and automobile manufacturers over the decades.
Air Jordan 14
The Air Jordan 14 takes inspiration from Michael Jordan’s Ferrari 550 Maranello. Designer Tinker Hatfield’s clean swooping lines and sleek profile match up with a Jumpman shield logo on the side profile. Jordan broke out the ‘Last Shot’ colorway during the 1997-1998 NBA Finals, winning his sixth championship. The win cemented his GOAT status.
The Air Jordan 14 Retro ‘Ferrari’ amplifies the silhouette’s vehicular inspiration with a luxurious suede upper in a rich Challenge Red hue, carbon fiber details, and a yellow Jumpman badge. In addition, the low-top kicks feature a chrome shank plate and additional pops of yellow atop the tongue and heel panel.
Kobe Bryant x Adidas Kobe 1
Released in 2000, the Kobe 1 was the first sneaker produced during Kobe Bryant’s partnership with Adidas. As legend shows, Kobe’s Audi TT Roadster inspired the boxy model’s rugged, molded look. The sneaker features a double foam collar, half-shell toe, injected EVA midsole, and the Adidas Torsion system. After Bryant left for Nike, the sneaker returned in 2006 as the Adidas Crazy 1, sans Kobe-related branding. The Adidas brand re-released the Crazy 1 several times in various colorways.
DaDa Supreme Spinner
It may sound crazy, but there was a time when spinning rims were a thing. The flashy spinning rim style found its way to sneakers in the early 2000s with the DaDa Supreme Spinner. Best known for his personality and car customization business, Latrell Sprewell, the NBA star turned car customizer, endorsed Davin Wheels for its spinning rims.
Then Spreewell collaborated with the DaDa Supreme sneaker brand to create the Spinner, his signature shoe. In the sneaker world, the kicks are known as “Sprees.” Three 6 Mafia’s “Ridin’ Spinners” was the shoe’s TV commercial theme song.
DC Shoes x Subaru Volcano SRT
Ken Block’s 2006 Subaru Impreza WRX STI stage rally car inspired the DC Shoes Volcano SRT. Subaru Rally Team USA’s trademark blue and yellow color scheme plays well on a suede and leather upper, with a nice contrast provided by the sole and laces. The Volcano SRT is among Ken Block’s most conservatively-styled rally-inspired DC designs.
Nike Kobe Aston Martin Pack
A 2008 viral video showed Kobe Bryant leaping over a speeding Aston Martin DB9 Volante while wearing Nike Hyperdunks. In 2010, following the success of the viral ad, Nike partnered with Aston Martin to launch the limited-edition Nike Kobe Aston Martin Pack.
The pack features two pairs of sneakers: Hyperdunks and the Nike Zoom Kobe V. The sneakers echo the Aston Martin DB9 with leather lining and touches of burgundy lifted from the sports car’s interior. The uppers are finished in metallic Anthracite and shades of gray to reflect the DB9’s color scheme.
LeBron James x Nike x Lamborghini Egoista
The Lamborghini Egoista concept car inspired the Nike LeBron 11 Elite. Unveiled in 2014 by Lamborghini for the company’s 50th anniversary, the single-seat Egoista rolls on a Gallardo platform. Shiny TPU add-ons embellish the LeBron 11 Elite’s Wolf Grey and Laser Crimson color scheme, paying tribute to Egoista designer Walter de Silva’s “hedonism taken to the extreme.”
Concepts x New Balance 998 Grand Tourer
Boston-based lifestyle retailer Concepts drew inspiration from automobile races for its 2015 “Grand Tourer” collaboration with New Balance. The New Balance GT sneakers are packed with function and style and are made in the USA. The tasteful mix of gray, off-white, sea green and red draws inspiration from maps, race flags, and car interiors. A carbon-fiber print appears at the heel, with Concepts branding on the insole.
Nike SB Dunks
The SB Dunk Low’s Pink Pig and Gulf styles pay tribute to iconic Porsche 917/20 and Ford GT40 liveries. The Porsche 917/20 race car was a unique build. Porsche designers compared it to a pig based on its exaggerated shape.
In 1971, chief designer Anatole Lapine brought the comparison to life with the Pink Pig livery at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The SB team cut no corners in developing the Pink Pig design. The pink sneaker is dotted with red contrast stitching and uses genuine pigskin suede, a rarity for Nike’s modern products.
The powder blue and orange Gulf livery dates back to 1967 but is perhaps most associated with the GT40’s win at LeMans in 1969. Over the years, Gulf colors have graced the Porsche 917, the McLaren F1 GTR, and the Audi R8, among others. On the SB Dunks, a “58” emblem nods to Nike SB’s Club 58 outfit of skaters and shop owners.
Related: What Makes a Good Driving Shoe?