Nearly every day we see a new sneaker colorway, collaboration or silhouette dropping. But releasing less frequently are those sneakers that connect on a more personal level, celebrating and representing the city that you’re from.
City packs recognize the culture of a specific place, using color, materials and iconic imagery. Ranging from general releases to super limited editions, most city sneakers are released by Nike and adidas, with a few entries from other brands such as ASICS.
Nike drops city-specific sneakers fairly frequently, jumping between the brand’s classic silhouettes and focusing on global hubs such as London and New York.
But adidas was the originator of the City Series we know and covet today. The Brand with the Three Stripes tends to go more local, often forgoing the trend of capital cities and representing second- or even third-tier locations such as Malmo, Liverpool and Dallas.
adidas began the city trend with its first European City Series in the early 1970s, followed by a North American series. Many of these have been re-released since, but those that haven’t are collectors’ gems.
We’ve gathered a few of the most interesting city sneakers; some classic, some new, but all with something special.
A pivotal part of 1980s football and mod cultures, the adidas Hamburg was part of the original City Series. Successfully straddling style and sport, the Hamburg became a frontrunner for adidas, which could not keep up with demand.
Hamburg is a silhouette in its own right, not just a colorway. Look back in the adi archives and you’ll find the Hamburg Vienna, the Hamburg Kopenhagen and the Hamburg Brussels. Most recently, adidas released Hamburg Fish Market, with each of the iconic three stripes and the heel counters showcasing a fishscale effect.
Two of the more playful Nike releases, these AF1s pay homage to the professional sports teams of the major cities on each coast, both with lively colors on mismatching sneakers.
The NYC release represents teams including the Knicks, the Jets and of course, the Yankees. A nice touch is the contrasting heel panels, one paying homage to a basketball with a pebbled orange leather effect, while the other is a Statue-of-Liberty green.
The LA pair takes cues from the City of Angels’ franchises including the Lakers, the Rams, and the Chargers. As with the NYC shoes, the LA ones don’t hold back on materials and finishes, including suede, metallic and even a holographic Swoosh. Both have a speckled midsole, albeit in different colors, finished with ‘Los Angeles’ in cursive on the far back panel.
This one’s a Japan-only release (the best ones usually are) and a collaboration with Fragment Design’s Hiroshi Fujiwara. This Dunk trifecta represents the cities of London, Beijing and NYC, showcasing simple yet distinctive colorways to represent each location.
London is celebrated in a bright pink and yellow, Beijing in black and dark purple, and NYC in red, black and white. All three are made of premium leather, with a mismatch of the panels and Swooshes between each pair, and finished with the Fragment logo at the heel. These are highly sought-after, reselling from anywhere between $1,000 to $2,000.
I may be a biased Londoner, but this adidas x TfL triple collaboration was special for the city. TfL runs the travel network, which primarily covers the Underground (the Tube) and buses.
The first launch was to mark the 15th anniversary of the Oyster card, the contactless payment system used across the TfL network. This was called the Oyster Club Pack and it was made up of three silhouettes: the Continental 80, Temper Run and ZX 500RM. They released only 500 pairs per model, which came with an £80 prepaid Oyster card inside a bespoke leather holder.
The second launch was the least hyped, consisting of four purple silhouettes, the color of the new Elizabeth line, which two years later is still not completed!
The third launch was only the Continental 80 model but with a wider release. This was a six-pack of different colorways, representing all 12 Underground lines, two per pair. The roundels of each line were on the heel panel, clearly signalling exactly which one you represent.
The king of ASICS collaborations and the prince of Queens, Ronnie Fieg brought out two GEL-LYTE IIIs as part of his East Coast Pack: one for his hometown of New York City, the other for his “second home,” Miami.
The NYC shoe reflects the colors of the New York Knicks, with hard-wearing materials fit for an East Coast winter, while the Miami Beach sneaker shows off the Miami Dolphins’ colors.
The release featured pop-ups in each city and were complemented by apparel. Even with the countless Ronnie Fieg x ASICS collabs over the years, these remain one of the most exclusive.
Bringing it right up to date, earlier this year Nike released a five-way city pack with a twist. Instead of featuring sports teams or typical national colors, this series showcases a specific profession in each location: FDNY, Parisian bakers, London’s mailmen and women, Tokyo’s construction workers and Shanghai’s delivery service workers.
Each pair includes bespoke designs on the upper, tongue, lace tip, sockliner and heel tab logo. One that stands out for its understated design is the Paris sneaker. It’s a classic white Air Max 90 with a wheat-colored Air Unit, but the best part is the heel tab, which features the French flag background, embroidered with a gold ‘Nike Air’ and wheat sheaf. A classic look for a classic city.