If you're a sneakerhead, then you know all the tricks of the trade to keep your shoes uncreased, unmarked, and cleaner than the day you bought them. One common denominator between sneakerheads and people who love thrifting are these valuable vintage sneakers that are still in high demand decades later. If you're lucky, you just might have a gently used pair of one of these shoes from your heyday that you're ready to part with and make some serious cash.
Converse Chuck Taylors
Just like Levi's jeans, Converse is a unique apparel brand that's lasted for nearly a century. The Converse Rubber Corporation created an early version of the shoe we know and love in 1917 to economize on the basketball craze and continue turning a profit. But basketball player turned salesman Chuck Taylor was the man that made these shoes a legend.
The Converse "Chuck Taylor" All Star hi-tops sneakers were born in a 1932 redesign. Although today you won't find many examples of these from the 1930s-1950s, you can find a good number of the mid-century ones for sale. The 1970s in particular are in demand right now, with Chucks selling for around $1,000-$1,500. In fact, one pretty beat up vintage pair recently sold for $1,417.95.
Nike Air Jordan 1
Out of all the sneakers that've been made in the past few decades, Nike's Michael Jordan partnership and subsequent Air Jordan collection are the most popular. Air Jordans jumped onto the scene in 1985 and have remained one of the most coveted sneaker options on the market. Thanks to their rubber soles, they don't degrade over time like many vintage Jordans do. The iconic red, white, and black swish shoe inspired by the Chicago Bulls' uniform is still one of the best loved Jordans available.
Of course, that sentimentality isn't the only thing these shoes have going for them. In good condition, they can be worth thousands of dollars. One well-kept pair from 1985 recently sold for $9,9995 online.
Rebellion has always been in Vans' blood, and the brand that's become synonymous with skate culture started off as a California shoe company with consumers in mind. The Van Doren brothers banded together to launch a shoe line that they could sell directly to their buyers, and the first shoe they released was the #44 - better known as the Authentic.
The Authentic is the Van style in its purest form; super thick bright white sole with a simple black canvas shoe and the always visible white Vans tag popping up out of the seam. Finding high-quality Authentics from the 1970s is a feat, but it's well worth searching for. In good condition, they're worth about $100-$350, like this white pair of Authentics from the 70s that's currently listed on Etsy for $350.
Nike Air Force 1
Of all the vintage shoes, Gen Z has chosen to adopt the Nike Air Force 1s. Air Force 1s came out in 1982, just a few years before Air Jordans took the world by storm. But, they have similar basketball roots as Jordans do; Air Force 1s were the first Nike Air shoe to debut in the NBA. Yet, by 1984, they were set to be retired, but were saved by a few Baltimore sneaker boutiques that sold limited edition exclusives to drum up interest again.
Today, 80s Air Force 1s are still popular among sneaker collectors and teens alike. Like most of these vintage sneakers, they top out the market at around $1,000 in good condition. One classic pair from 1983 sold for around $1,000 on eBay.
Adidas Stan Smith
Because sneakers are built with durability and athleticism in mind, it's not surprising that some of the most popular styles over the years have started in competitive games first. Adidas' Stan Smith sneaker that continues to be reinvented year after year was born out of the tennis world. Named Stan Smiths because they were the sponsored shoe of Stanley Roger Smith, the great American tennis player, these shoes were sleek and stylish. The shoes were all-white leather with comfortable air holes and a pop of color in a bright green tongue.
The Stan Smiths are some of the first shoes to really bridge the gap between sportswear and fashion. Not everyone wants a super chunky sneaker, and these did the job. You can buy a new pair for just over $100, but to own one of the special originals? You'll have to pay much more than that. Depending on how well they've been preserved, these shoes are worth about $300-$1,000. One well-loved pair recently sold for $459.99.
Reebok might be one of the bigger shoe companies to make it into the millennium, but it's still somewhat of an underdog. They don't have the same social clout as brands like Vans, Converse, and Nike, but they're just as alluring to some collectors as the more famous manufacturers are. A classic from their lineup is the Reebok Freestyle that debuted in 1982. Birthed out of the aerobics movement and bearing a particularly puffy and futuristic ankle-design, these shoes couldn't be more 80s if they tried.
Bright white and boasting both a lace-up and Velcro-strap closure, these athletic shoes are making a comeback. Original vintages aren't nearly as valuable as others on this list at around $30-$150 a pop, like this pair that sold for $125, but they might be worth more in the future.
How to Keep Your Vintage Sneakers in Good Condition
Vintage shoes' values are stored in their condition. Deadstock shoes (shoes that haven't ever been worn/opened) are the most valuable of the bunch. But we know you want to wear your shoes with pride. So, there are a few things you can do to keep your favorite sneakers in a great condition.
- Keep them out of the washing machine and dryer - especially if they're canvas shoes.
- Store them in a box (acid free is best) and away from moisture and sunlight.
- Clean your shoes as soon as they get dirty. The longer you wait to clean them, the more those stains will set in.
Vintage Sneakers and the Crumbling Dilemma
The vintage shoe 'crumbling' dilemma has taken TikTok by storm. Videos of people's shoes destroying underneath them as they walk around in them for the first time (despite owning them for years) have sparked an interesting curiosity with even non-sneaker collectors.
Not every vintage shoe will crumble over time, because it all comes down to the materials that were used to make them. If there's polyurethane in the sole, then as they age, the PU will come into contact with vaporized water and create a chemical reaction. This reaction, called hydrolysis, is what makes the PU come apart underneath your feet.
While wearing vintage sneakers will degrade their value as they accumulate wear, in the case of shoes that have PU soles, you might as well get their miles in because they'll get destroyed one way or another.
Get the Most Milage Out of Your Vintage Sneakers
Don't be afraid to wear your vintage sneakers. Some sneakerheads feel like it's taboo to wear their vintage shoes, but we love to see people enjoying their favorite pieces from the past. Buy some new sneakers with the money you make off of selling your old ones or keep your vintage ones safe and stored away. After all, there's no right or wrong way to love vintage sneakers.