Sneakers, Sports Memorabilia & Modern Collectibles

The Off-White Effect: Virgil Abloh and His Impact on Sneaker Culture

By Oliver Vonderahe
Shop Virgil Abloh sneaker designs, including Nike x Off-White ‘The Ten’ editions, at our online Sneaker Shop .

A Brief History of Virgil Abloh’s Groundbreaking Career

From his humble beginnings at a Chicago t-shirt printing shop to his historic appointment as the most powerful Black executive at the world’s most powerful luxury group, Virgil Abloh embodied a singular expression of the American dream. The son of Ghanaian immigrants, Abloh grew up in Rockford, Illinois, and earned degrees in civil engineering and architecture before pursuing his calling in fashion. He cut his teeth as an intern at Fendi in Rome, and went on to turn heads as director for the creative agency Donda.

In 2013, Abloh struck out on his own to found the trailblazing fashion label Off-White, showcasing acclaimed collections that drew equal inspiration from the worlds of architecture, fine art and hip hop. In 2017, with Abloh’s star on the rise, Nike tapped the longtime sneakerhead to design a limited series of Off-White shoes. Known as ‘The Ten,’ the groundbreaking collab deconstructs and reimagines ten iconic Nike silhouettes in Abloh’s signature style. Today, Off-White ‘The Ten’ sneakers remain among the most sought-after Nike shoes among collectors.

In 2018, Abloh was named the artistic director of menswear for Louis Vuitton. At the helm of the venerable French maison, Abloh applied his genre-expanding genius to yet more Nike collabs, and to his greater project of fostering equity and inclusion in the fashion industry. While the designer’s tragic passing, in November of 2021, cut short a brilliant life and career, Abloh’s legacy lives on today through his trailblazing designs. Read on to discover more history behind our favorite Nike x Off-White shoes by Virgil Abloh.

The Best Off-White Shoes to Buy Now

Nike Air Presto Off-White ‘The Ten’ Friends and Family

For his take on the Air Presto, Virgil Abloh turned the classic design “inside out.” Part of Abloh’s groundbreaking 2017 Off-White 'The Ten' series, the shoes feature an added heel strap, stitched on tonal Swoosh on the mesh upper, and signature red zip tie. These rare Off-White sneakers are an especially coveted Friends and Family edition, and come with an Air Presto Off-White Friends & Family gift set containing four pairs of laces, a pencil case, and a notebook.

Nike Air Jordan 1 Retro High Off-White Chicago

The Jordan 1 Off-White Chicago exemplifies Virgil Abloh’s unparalleled creative talent. His reinterpretation of the classic Nike Air Jordan 1 high silhouette—and the colorway that started it all—is at once innovative and unique, yet strikingly familiar. Abloh’s unique design trademarks are present throughout the Jordan 1 Off-White Chicago. Intentional zip-ties, exposed foam and sans-serif branding inside Abloh’s signature quotation marks add a playful touch to the Off-White Air Jordans. Highlighting the intentionality behind each element, visible stitching and a deconstructed floating Swoosh that also convey a carefully handmade quality. They're also the first Jordan release of the 'The Ten'.

Nike x Chrome Hearts Air Jordan 1 Retro High Off-White NRG

These specially commissioned Chrome Hearts shoes upgrade the iconic Virgil Abloh Air Jordan 1 with striking Chrome Hearts hardware. These hard-to-find Off-White shoes are a deconstructed take on the classic AJ1 silhouette. Virgil Abloh’s signature Off-White flourishes—zip-ties, exposed foam, labeled shoelaces, and sans-serif branding in quotation marks—get the Chrome Hearts treatment with branded dubrés, adjustable lace locks and metallic eyelets. Chrome Hearts shoes like this 2017 commission are very rare and highly sought after.

Nike Air Max 97 Serena Williams Queen Off-White Elemental Rose

These Nike Air Max 97s were designed by Virgil Abloh for the 2018 “QUEEN” Collection, celebrating Serena Williams and the 50th anniversary of the US Open. This highly limited pair of Off-White shoes stands out with a vibrant gradient midsole and Volt zip-ties. The upper is light pink and complemented by lines that mimic a bullet train. The integrated lacing system and black accents speak directly to Abloh’s influence on this timeless silhouette.

Nike Off-White Dunk Low ‘University Red’

These limited edition Off-White Dunks, which dropped as part of a 2019 collab between Nike and Off-White, pay homage to the original UNLV Dunk High colorway from 1985. Reimagined as a low top, the Off-White Dunks echo the school’s colors with leather uppers in University Red and Wolf Grey. Abloh puts his signature spin on classic Nike Dunk detailing, with an orange-tabbed Swoosh, bright orange flywire overlacing and Off-White branding on the medial side.

Nike Air Jordan 4 OFF-WHITE Sail

A strikingly elegant pair of Nike Air Jordan 4s, it’s no exaggeration to say that these sneakers belong in a museum. The Off-White shoes debuted at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago’s Virgil Abloh: “Figures of Speech”, which made history as the first museum survey dedicated to the genre-bending artist and designer. A tonal take on the classic silhouette, the Jordan 4 Off-White Sail features a deconstructed leather build, accented with semi-transparent TPU on the eyelets, wings and heel panel. Abloh’s signature flourishes, including a zip tie and “AIR” printed on the lateral side, complete the look.

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