During the month of August, I always get nostalgic about how I used to count down the last days of summer as a kid – it was exciting to go back to school and see my friends again, but it was a bummer to have to sit in class instead of playing sports outside all day. This year will look a lot different for most students, with virtual learning and face coverings the big issues in 2020. Back in the ‘90s, we wouldn’t even know what a “Zoom class” meant – we were just starting to “surf the web.” The ‘90s felt a lot simpler in a lot of ways. I was flipping through an old Back to School Eastbay from 1996 the other day and couldn’t believe how many classic sneakers were available to us back then. Of course, for kids like me, we could only have one pair. And they better last us at least 6 months. Here’s a look back at the kicks I used to stare at as a 14-year-old kid: the 10 Greatest Back to School Sneakers of 1996:
10. Air Jordan XI Low
Michael Jordan wore the black/red version in a few games back in the ‘96 Playoffs. He never wore the white/cobalt grey version in a pro game though. Fun fact: for some odd reason, the original boxes of the white/cobalt grey say “IE” on them, but the black/red version doesn’t have that on the label. Nobody truly knows what “IE” stands for, though most assume it stands for “International Exclusive.”
9. Air Griffey Max
Back in ‘96, baseball trainers were becoming as popular as basketball shoes mostly because of Ken Griffey, Jr. “The Kid” was crushing it with the Mariners and had plenty of great ads and commercials thanks to his partnership with Nike. His first official sneaker was also a hit and led to many more classics the next few years. Nike even launched some ads in the fall of ‘96 featuring Junior running for president.
8. Air More Uptempo
The Team USA colorway that Scottie Pippen wore in the summer of ‘96 was a huge hit as Dream Team III easily won gold in Atlanta. I had the Air Much Uptempo, which was basically the same sneaker but with AIR only in the heel as opposed to the whole sneaker. The More Uptempo has retroed countless times, but we’ve yet to see a Much retro.
7. ASICS GEL-Kayano
If you’re a serious runner, chances are you’ve messed with a Kayano. ASICS has been a trusted running company for decades, thanks to their patented GEL cushioning technology, and the Kayano was the top-of-the-line model with GEL in the heel and forefoot.
6. Saucony 3D G.R.I.D Hurricane
I ran in these back in high school. They were my first serious running sneaker and I absolutely loved them. I loved how they looked, how they fit, and the 3D G.R.I.D. technology inside. They were also the first sneaker I wore that had “motion control,” which basically meant they propelled your foot forward as you ran.
5. adidas Response Trail
I remember a lot of kids rocked these in school. I loved the design and I’m surprised adidas hasn’t brought them back yet. They were comfortable, had great traction, and were even water resistant. I would definitely rock a pair today. Over the next few years, adidas would continue to tinker with the Response Trail for successive models and they were all designed very well.
4. Converse All Star 2000
In 1996, Converse brought back the classic All Star model with a modern take. It featured visible REACT cushioning in the heel and tumbled full-grain leather. I remember some pro players wore these, including Chris Webber after he left Nike. A lot of people wish Converse would bring these back.
3. Fila Grant Hill II
Detroit star Grant Hill was super popular his first few seasons in the league, and was even compared to Michael Jordan. He had some nice signature sneakers with Fila, and the Grant Hill II was one of their best sellers. This is a model that has returned recently and is still popular today.
2. Reebok Icepick
Seattle’s high-flying forward Shawn Kemp rocked the all-white Icepick in the league Finals versus the Bulls. Kemp was the kind of player that basically made any sneaker look good, and I will always remember The Reingman giving the Bulls all they could handle in that series rocking these.
1. adidas EDT Top Ten 2000
adidas EQT Top Ten 2000 – This is a sneaker that a young Kobe Bryant wore. Featuring “Feet You Wear” technology, adidas was definitely ahead of the game when it came to designing sneakers with that “low-to-the-ground” feel. Bryant would continue to rock “Feet You Wear” adidas models for his first few seasons.