The Definitive Ranking of Obscure and Defunct Sneakers


It’s back-to-school time, and if you’re black and of a certain age, you know you can’t start school without a fresh pair of new shoes. Some of us mowed lawns or babysat our bad-ass cousins to save up some bread for some fresh J’s or a pair of crispy Reeboks.


Others of us weren’t so lucky and wound up sporting kicks that were fly in the moment but didn’t stand the test of time.

Let’s have a toast to the Filas, Elleses, And1s and Sauconys. It’s time to give proper respect to the kicks that made us who we are today. Here's the definitive ranking:

10. Diadora

Years in service: 1988-present

Rocked by: Light-skinned cats named Damien at church retreats.

Defining feature: Italian flag and the distinction of not being K-Swiss.

Diadoras just seemed to show up one summer and took over all the Jack & Jill teen conferences and Kings Dominion trips. They were also the unofficial footwear of black lames who actually wore them for activity-specific “white” sports like soccer, tennis and field hockey.

9. Ewing

Years in service: 1991-1996

Rocked by: Patrick Ewing and dudes who claimed they were from up North.

Defining feature: A basketball ensconced in a big-ass “Ewing” logo.

Patrick Ewing is a man of challenged visage who, at one time, had his own stylish signature sneaker with Adidas. Then, one day, I imagine that Ewing awoke and thought, “I need a shoe that’s all me. It needs to be athletic, bulky, festooned with my name, but above all else, it needs to be ugly.” If that was Ewing’s wish, it came true in 1991.


8. Etonic

Years in service: 1987-present

Rocked by: Chicks with mushroom cuts in Esleep gear who didn’t have Reebok Classics.


Defining feature: They only came in solid colors: black, white, red, blue. That was it.

Swear to God, 70 percent of the girls I knew who wore these shoes got pregnant before ninth grade. If you’re a woman reading this who owned these shoes and you don’t have a 25-year-old son named Trey right now, you dodged a bullet.


7. LA Gear

Years in service: 1988-present

Rocked by: Michael Jackson and them girls at the skating rink you were scared to talk to.


Defining feature: Lights, bruh. Them shoes was lit before lit was a thing.

Real talk, I knew a fat kid who got bullied so hard for wearing LA Gears that he spent a whole summer dieting, working out and learning guitar. To this day, he’s one of the coolest people I know. I’d like to think that, had it not been for that day in the cafeteria when he got roasted close to death, he wouldn’t have made some of the positive changes he needed to make in life.


6. Pro-Keds

Years in service: 1970-present

Rocked by: Your older cousin Scooter, who went to Lorton for six years.

Defining feature: Red-and-blue tab on the side that let you know, from a distance, that these ain’t Chuck Taylors.


Pro-Keds are the official sponsor of Apache lines, skelly and urban blight.

5. Troop

Years in service: 1985-present

Rocked by: LL Cool J and dope-dealin’ Stacey who had a beard in seventh grade.

Defining feature: Excessive and gaudy crowns.

No commentary, really. Just watch this:


4. Champion

Years in service: 1991-present

Rocked by: White Mike in the yellow Ford Mustang with two 15s in a Kicker Box and a Miami Hurricanes starter parka.


Defining feature: A big-ass “C” logo on the back.

If you had a pair of these joints in middle school, you were cool for two reasons: 1) Your parents were willing to spend more than $50 on some sneakers for you; and 2) You wore adult-sized shoes, since, at first, they didn’t make them for kids. Nothing affirmed your bourgeois adolescence like sliding up into school in a pair of 7½  Champions with a Sony Discman. You almost had enough confidence to ask Tomeka in orchestra if she wanted to go together.


3. Jox

Years in service: 1981-1996

Rocked by: Bamas and people whose parents meant well.

Defining feature: They almost looked like Adidas, bruh. But they had an extra stripe.


The Thom McAn in Coliseum Mall is where you wound up after Moms had had it up to here with all your expensive-sneaker foolishness and it was the exclusive domain of Jox sneakers. You might not know Jox as a brand, but they’ve gone by many names: Bo-Bo’s, Butter Cookies, Sucka Sneaks and Don’t-Rob-Me 1s. They even had the temerity and the stones to make some shell-toe Jox just in case you wanted to give your bullies and tormentors extra ammo.

2. KangaROOS

Years in service: 1979-present

Rocked by: Walter Payton and first-graders.

Defining feature: Pockets. But, like, you really couldn’t use them.

It’s like they knew they were making kicks for a generation of latchkey kids by putting a pocket on the side specifically designed for holding the front-door key to the house. I’m guessing that these shoes gave a whole lotta parents a false sense of confidence in their kids’ ability to take care of themselves and, conversely, that a whole lotta missing-kid reports got filed with “wearing KangaROOS” as a descriptor of what the child was wearing when he got lured into the van.


1. British Knights

Years in service: 1985-present

Rocked by: Chris Thomas (the original mayor of Rap City) and Derrick Coleman.

Defining feature: Snakeskin and gold accents. They were like a Cadillac for your feet.


When I was in fourth grade, my moms bought me a pair of BKs, and I was the coolest kid in my school for, like, three hours. Then this white girl named Annie scuffed my right sneaker in the lunch line, effectively ruining my shoes, my swag and any hopes I had of graduating from front of the school bus to a coveted back-of-the-bus spot (sorry, Miss Rosa). I made my poor mother drive all over the city to try to find something to fix that damn scuff, to no avail. I’m pretty sure I can blame part of my brief stint as a Five Percenter on that incident. Annie never apologized.

Corey Richardson, originally from Newport News, Va., is currently living in Chicago with his wife and daughter. Ad guy at work, dad guy in life and whiskey enthusiast, he spends his time crafting words, telling bedtime stories and working hard at becoming the legend he is in his own mind.