While the Gregorian calendar is widely accepted today as the international calendar, a large population of the world also utilizes the lunar calendar. Following the cycles of the moon, the lunar calendar is widely used throughout Asian countries like China, Hong Kong, Korea, Taiwan, India, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Nepal and more. Each year, billions of people in these countries and more celebrate Lunar New Year, or Chinese New Year as it has come to be known as, with family gatherings, feasts, exchanging of presents and gifts, and cleaning of homes.
In addition to the festivities and chores, Chinese New Year is also intertwined with 12 zodiac animals which are: rooster, dog, pig, rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat and monkey. As is the case with the Western astrological horoscope, each animal holds different characteristics and personalities associated with the year a person is born and starts over once every 12 years.
Fifteen years ago,
Below are the names of the sneakers, the corresponding zodiac sign, the year they released, and pricing. Which do you think are best? Sound off in the comments below and Happy New Year.
adidas EQT Support 93/16 “CNY” – Year of the Rooster (2017)
Release price: TBA
Resell price: TBD
Although there are numerous models which could’ve taken home the title of “Best Year of the Rooster Sneaker,” the
Nike Air Force 1 Premium Hyperstrike – Year of the Dog (2005)
Release price: Varied
Resell price: $1,000+ USD (eBay)
Few sneakers in existence show off the impressive attention to detail like the 2005 Air Force 1 Premium Hyperstrike “Year of the Dog.” Drawing inspiration from Tibet, these AF1s were an ode to the Tibetan mastiff dog as evidenced by the rear panel, the color and architecture of Tibetan temples, and the monks who overlooked them seen on the toe box and throughout the quarter panel. The Hyperstrike version of the shoe was designed first and released to Nike Tier 0 accounts (the name for exclusive release accounts back in the day) while a cleaner and more stripped down version was released to the public. Engraved on the custom wooden box and embroidered on the heel are the Chinese characters for mastiff dog while the insole features laser-etched leather lining depicting the Himalayan mountains and clouds. The thought and detail that went into the design and execution of this Air Force 1 earns it the honor of “Best Year of the Dog Sneaker” and is why it remains one of the most sought-after pieces for AF1 collectors.
Nike Dunk High – Year of the Pig (2007)
Release price: $95 USD
Resell price: $300+ USD (eBay)
Not to be confused with the 2012 Concepts x Nike SB “When Pigs Fly,” the 2007 Nike Dunk High “Year of the Pig” was a pink masterpiece which echoed its animal counterpart. The suede panels are overlaid with leather in a lighter shade of pink that feature an embossed pattern seen in ancient Chinese architecture. Featuring a stuffed tongue, a pink Swoosh is stitched into the tongue while a red and gold insole echoing the side panel pattern design add subtle detailing to the shoe. On the right shoe is a pig icon and on the left shoe is the simplified Chinese character for pig (“猪”).
Nike ACG Wildwood 90 Free Trail Premium – Year of the Rat (2008)
Release price: Varied
Resell price: $160 USD (eBay)
In 2008, Nike decided to use a rarely seen silhouette to pay homage to the Year of the Rat. The Nike ACG Wildwood 90 Free Trail was a hybrid created by combining elements from the Wildwood, Air Max 90 and Free Trail. Offered in two colorways, grey and white, the schemes were meant to represent the color of a rat’s hair. Although both pairs featured a laser-engraved leather panel upper, the white pair was definitely more unique as it was offered with a white hair upper, while the grey pair had suede. The Nike ACG logo adorns the tongue in gold on a red background and looks like three golden coins which is a symbol of fortune and luck. Painted on the rear heel of the sneakers is the traditional Chinese character for rat and a detailed insole drawing of a menacing rat rounded out this unique pair.
Nike Air Max 1 Premium – Year of the Ox (2009)
Release price: Varied
Resell price: Varies
Released exclusively in China, the Nike Air Max 1 Premium “Year of the Ox” combines a multitude of elements from which it drew its inspiration. The white, bone, red and yellow colorway paid tribute to the Red Guards uniforms worn during the Chinese Cultural Revolution which took place between 1966 to 1976. Encased in perforated leather and suede, the shoes showcase yellow eyelets while a golden ox protrudes prominently on the heel of the sneaker surround by bulging red lines to celebrate the zodiac animal. On the bottom of the sneaker is a partial clear red outsole while the tongue has the Chinese characters for “perseverance” stitched across a red box. For its historical reference and clean execution, this pair was and still is a standout among all Chinese New Year contenders.
Nike Sportswear Classic Cortez – Year of the Tiger (2010)
Release price: Varied
Resell price: Varies
As is the case with many of the Lunar New Year themed sneakers, the Nike Sportswear’s Classic Cortez “Year of the Tiger” was released in both a general release box and a specially packaged 200 run limited edition box. The specially boxed pair was accessed through a five-finger death grip, or paw if you prefer, on a cube-shaped box and featured the Chinese characters for tiger and peace embossed on each side. Instantly noticeable is the added red string around the right shoe, inspired by the lucky red string with gold coins that people usually wear for good luck. The Swoosh and most of the upper on the Cortez is texturized with horsehair while a white nylon upper with screen printed golden tiger stripes adorn the sides. Tiger stripe laces and a sockliner dated “2014.2.14” commemorated the release perfectly.
Nike Air Jordan 7 – Year of the Rabbit (2011)
Release price: $160 USD
Resell price: $375-$500 USD (Flight Club)
In 1991, the Air Jordan 7 released in a “Hare” colorway inspired by Bugs Bunny for a pricey $125 USD. Twenty years later, in celebration of the Year of the Rabbit, Jordan Brand brought back the 7 in a similar-yet-new red and gold colorway — in Chinese culture, red symbolizes good fortune and joy while yellow/gold represents not only wealth and status but is the color associated with being free of worldly cares. A white upper is wrapped with perforated grey side panels while a red and gold outsole, red tongue, gold laces, heel tab and Jumpman round out the silhouette. Released in limited numbers with special edition boxes, the Air Jordan 7 YOTR as it’s come to be known, celebrates the spirit of Chinese New Year with the perfect colorway.
New Balance ML574 – Year of the Dragon (2012)
Release price: $155 USD
Resell price: $150 USD (eBay)
The Year of the Dragon was celebrated in style in 2012 by New Balance with an Asia Pacific (APAC) Project pack. Taking the comfortable and popular 574 model, NB created the ML574 Year of the Dragon, and as such the entire shoe was covered in a 3M reflective gold scale design with a dragon on the inside panel. Red adorns the sockliner, outsole, laces, N logo outlining, and heel support highlighting and contrasting with the gold. The tongue prominently displays the Chinese character 龍, or “dragon.” Also made available in red, yellow and black, those did not have the same flair and personality of these golden ones.
adidas Originals Superstar 80s – Year of the Snake (2013)
Release price: $140 USD
Resell price: $100 USD (eBay)
adidas Originals graced sneakerheads with two colorways of the Superstar 80s for the Year of the Snake. Coming in red and white, both pairs featured a snake print pattern around the entire shoe and sits atop white soles with a white shell toecap. Black accents include the nubuck heel tab, three stripes and laces. An intricate snake insole was designed and the shoe is rounded off with plastic jade-colored lace locks and keychains. Drawing inspiration perfectly from the animal it was meant to celebrate, the adidas Originals Superstar 80s Year of the Snake slithers away with the title for “Best Year of the Snake Sneaker.”
Nike Air Force 1 – Year of the Horse (2002)
Release price: $70 USD
Resell price: $75-$280 USD (eBay)
Without question the most important pair of sneakers in this entire list is the Nike Air Force 1 Year of the Horse. Nike’s first attempt at paying homage to Chinese New Year would not only set the Oregon-based company but all of its competitors in the industry on a race to produce at least one iteration of a sneaker for CNY each year, realizing there was a huge market for it. Keeping the design fairly simple, the Swoosh decked out this pair in all-white patent leather with an icy sole and added red accents in the form of a Swoosh outline, “HORSE” on the lower rear panel, and the Chinese characters for success on a red tongue label. Fifteen years later, this sneaker was, is, and always will be the most important Chinese New Year-themed kicks for sneakerheads.
Nike Air Foamposite One Quickstrike “Tianjin” – Year of the Goat (2015)
Release price: $280 USD
Resell price: $3,500 USD (Stadium Goods), $5,000 USD (Flight Club)
Undoubtedly the most intricate basketball sneaker ever produced, the Nike Air Foamposite One “Tianjin” not only celebrated Chinese New Year but also the city of Tianjin. Located in northeastern China, Tianjin is credited with the birth of basketball in China and thus was honored with one of the most iconic basketball silhouettes during the Year of the Goat. The Asian-exclusive Quickstrike featured an upper decorated with lotus flowers, koi fish and fish scales. A hot pink outsole is complemented with multicolor pull tabs, hot pink outlined Swooshes, and intricately stitched lotus flowers on both the tongue and heel — the lotus flowers on the heel have traditional Chinese characters reading “prosperity through the years.” Still extremely sought-after by Foamposite and sneaker collectors alike, the “Tianjin” Foams are definitely the “Best Year of the Goat Sneakers” even if they don’t actually feature a goat.
adidas Originals Tubular Doom Primeknit “Chinese New Year” – Year of the Monkey (2016)
Release price: $150-$175 USD
Resell price: $150-$225 USD (eBay)
Although adidas hasn’t been making Chinese New Year-themed sneakers for as long as Nike, it has stepped up its game in recent years. In 2016, adidas Originals released the Tubular Doom Primeknit “Chinese New Year” which was part of a pack that included two other Tubular silhouettes. However, this specific model was the highlight because of its engineering as it featured all-red primeknit uppers, sock-like entry system, leather detailing all along the overlay, an all-white Tubular Sole Unit, a robust red elastic strap, and an embossed heel counter. An interpretive design of a monkey was embossed in gold on the heel counter and is the perfect accent in addition to golden eyelets and lace tips. Paying tribute to red and gold, these Tubular Dooms outshine all other Year of the Monkey silhouettes and round out the 12 Best Lunar New Year zodiac-themed sneakers.