With a New Year upon us and Christmas in the rearview mirror, the next big gift-giving occasion is the dedication to love that is Valentine’s Day, and for over 20 years, manufacturers have created some extra special gifts for the fan of rare sneakers in your life.
Whilst initially a one-off in 2001, Nike and other manufacturers have turned Valentine’s Day into a huge sneaker extravaganza, and you do not need to be in a relationship to pick up a perfect pair that will help you feel the love on 14th February.
In 2024, the standout sneaker is the Nike Dunk Low in a special pink, red and white Valentine-themed colourway, one that is set to drop in February in time for romantics to swoop up and pick up a heart-shaped swoosh of their own.
Complete with heart-themed charms, a floral heart design on the heel and on the sole with the swoosh in the centre, the drop is ideal whether your ideal romantic getaway involves traipsing around town in style, walking through a romantic glade together or even a competitive one on one.
This Dunk Low is set to be released alongside a limited edition of the legendary Air Force 1 Low, in a bright two-tone red and white design which has such fluffy panels it could be confused for a pair of soft cuddles on your feet.
Both of these sneakers are not new to the world of themed colourways, with the Dunk Low’s red and pink redesigns having become a biannual tradition every other February.
Naturally, whilst obviously popular with romantics and sneaker fans, Valentine’s Day sneakers also captivate collectors and the secondary market in general, but why is this the case?
A Brief History Of Sneaker Love
The Feast of St Valentine was a religious feast day that celebrated the martyred saint of the same name, the date established after his burial on the Roman road of Via Flaminia.
However, despite claims to the contrary, neither the historic religious figure nor the Roman holiday of Lupercalia is the reason why the day is connected to love, and it would take nearly a thousand years for the Valentine’s Day we know and love to come about.
This was thanks to the writings of Geoffrey Chaucer, with the Parliament of Fowls, in particular, being the earliest connection between Valentine’s Day (although it is debatable whether he meant the same St Valentine people refer to today), and the romantic love that inspires people and shoe companies alike.
Valentine's Day has an interesting place in the history of sneaker collecting, as it’s a somewhat unusual holiday to inspire shoe collections.
Most sneakers are designed with passion, but that is less based on romantic love and is instead more focused on the love of the game. It is also somewhat limiting in terms of colour scheme, with only red, pink and white being suitable for the occasion.
With that said, as sneaker culture blossomed and bloomed by the turn of the millennium and the twilight of Michael Jordan’s career, there finally appeared to be room to let love into the sneaker world.
The very first time that a shoemaker created a romantically themed sneaker would be Nike, and whilst this was not strictly made for Valentine’s Day, the Nike Air Max 95 2001 followed the template that would be repeated by countless manufacturers ever since.
With the Air Max logo contained in a red and white heart, the bright red upper of the colourway and the use of materials that focused more on a comfy, cuddly aesthetic, it managed to do enough to prove that there was an appeal in focusing on the day.
It would, however, take three more years for Nike to repeat the feat with an Air Force 1 Low in 2004, which took the subtle silhouette, added a bright red shimmering patent leather swoosh and a heart design on the heel.
This design proved to be particularly popular, still commands exceptional prices on the reseller market and proved not only to Nike and to its considerable collector culture that there was a lot of value in Valentine’s Day, but also made its competitors notice too.
Puma, Reebok, Adidas, Asics, Vans and even the Nike-owned Converse line have all made Valentine’s Day specials, and a lot of designers and artists have worked on unique collaborations in the two decades since the first proper themed drop.
It is one of the rare examples of a scheduled annual drop, and it will be fascinating what surprises this annual day of love will bring.