Recently, we unveiled the SS4. While the shoe is our first original digital and physical sneaker, it’s our fourth time working with Garrixon Studios on a sneaker project.
In 2020 we produced the SS1 (inspired by the Air Jordan 1 and using authentic outsoles), last year we followed up with the SS2 (inspired by the Air Max 90 and using authentic outsoles), and earlier this year we unveiled the SS3, an original design created by 180 members of our community.
The SS4 was designed by renowned design veterans Gemo Wong and Justin Taylor and is our most ambitious effort to date. That got us thinking about other fourth iterations of sneakers. Join us as we examine the design and impact of some of the most notable fourth editions in sneaker history.
Across the board, the fourth installment of a signature shoe line is amongst the strongest in the line. Not only from a design standpoint but from an on-court perspective as well. Often times, it is at the fourth iteration of a sneaker where a signature player and thus their line makes their everlasting cultural mark. From Michael Jordan’s iconic caged silhouette to Kevin Durant’s strapped sneaker and a myriad of kicks in between. The third time might be the charm but the fourth is magic.
Air Jordan 4
It’s only right to kick it off with the Air Jordan 4. Debuting at the 1989 All-Star Game in Houston, the winged shoe became an immediate hit. The silhouette rocketed to stardom after Jordan’s iconic buzzer-beater shot over Craig Ehlo during Game 5 of the first round of the Eastern Conference Playoffs.
The Air Jordan 4 marked Tinker Hatfield’s second design for His Airness following the immensely popular Air Jordan 3. The follow up to that immediately legendary silhouette took on a similar trajectory with its appearance in Do The Right Thing and the return of Mars Blackmon in the commercials cementing it in popular and sneaker culture forever. The Jordan 4 was so popular and ingrained into the zeitgeist that their return in 1999 kicked off the Air Jordan retro boom.
The Nike KD4 isn’t just one of the freshest sneakers in Durant’s array of silhouettes it is also one of his most storied. Designed by Leo Chang, the KD4 implemented a dynamic midfoot strap and was one of the earliest shoes to use the Adaptive Fit system which has gone on to evolve and have a life of its own with the Adapt series. The KD4 also re-introduced the midfoot strap from the KD2 which called back to the golden age of sneakers in the 90s and became something of a staple in Kevin’s signature line.
The KD 4 came dressed in now-vaunted colorways like Weatherman, NERF, and All-Star Galaxy colorways and would go on to grace Kevin’s feet during his 2012 Finals run with OKC.
Released in 2006, the Nike Zoom LeBron 4 was both a look forward into the future and a homage to the past. The LeBron 4 was the King’s first usage of Foamposite, an ode to LeBron’s childhood hero Penny Hardaway.
The lack of a visible midsole and the caged look made it one of LeBron’s most dynamic sneakers ever with highly coveted colorways like the Graffiti-styled ‘New York’ colorway and the LeBron exclusive ‘Fruity Pebbles’ colorway rumored to release to the public soon.
Though Tracy McGrady’s second and third signatures would go on to be immortalized thanks to T-MAC’s All-Star appearances in them, his fourth signature was much like T-MAC himself, way ahead of its time. The T-MAC 4 featured the laceless “HUG” system that used a lever connected to cables on the back of the shoe that could be adjusted with a dial to adjust the shoe’s tightness.
Though it was a bit on the weighty side it was a true revolution in sneaker technology that went away too soon. Not only was the sneaker a true innovation on the court it is also the sneaker in which Tracy McGrady cemented his legacy with his 13-point onslaught in 35 seconds that led his Houston Rockets to victory against the champion San Antonio Spurs.
Though Kobe had 3 prior models with Nike and several with adidas before, the Nike Zoom Kobe 4 is really where it all began. The low-cut model would go on to see evolutions throughout the rest of the line in efforts to create the lightest and lowest shoe possible for Kobe’s blend of burst and cerebral play.
Designed by Eric Avar and Tom Leudecke, the Kobe 4 was the first in his line to implement the ultralight FlyWire and Lunarlon soles for support. It was the Kobe 4, in which Bryant lit up the Knicks for 61 points at Madison Square Garden on February 2, 2009. The Kobe 4 has gone on to see a renaissance with the Undefeated collaborations and the Protro releases making it one of the most popular in his line.
Allen Iverson’s Reebok signature is one of the Vector Brands most popular lines of all time continuing strong with retros and new colors to this day but of all the vastly popular sneakers in the line, the Answer IV may be the most popular.
A.I. donned the Answer IV during his spectacular 2000-2001 season where he earned the MVP Award and led his Philadelphia 76ers to the NBA Finals. The shrouded upper and unique lacing system made it one of the most eye-catching sneakers in The Answer’s line.
The Kyrie 4 came at a crucial time in Kyrie’s journey, designed by Benjamin Nethongkome, the Kyrie 4 represented Kyrie stepping out on his own as the leader of the Boston Celtics in 2017. Its unique flex groove outsole was built for Kyrie’s speedy banking and exceptional cutting ability.
Not only was this the perfect model for the crafty guard, but its construction also allowed for a plethora of fun colorways for the silhouette including a Halloween-themed green slime colorway with glow-in-the-dark features and the famed Wheaties colorway with the cereal box style packaging as well as the rest of the cereal pack including Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Kix, and Lucky Charms. You could say these kicks are pretty sweet.
adidas Dame 4
adidas and Damian Lillard laid strong groundwork for the Portland guard’s signature line with the D Lillard 1 & 2, and Dame 3. Their fourth effort is where they found their stride for a beautiful mix of style and function.
While his adidas stablemates often opt for adidas BOOST, a man of the people, Dame has always opted for adidas’ Bounce. A decision he’s described in the past as a way to keep the cost of his shoe down (in addition to him actually enjoying Bounce). The signature technology returned for the Dame 4 and was accompanied by an open mesh upper and a traction pattern inspired by the passage of time (because YKWTII ⌚️… Dame Time). Wearers also marveled at the compression collar on the shoe which offers a snug 1:1 fit around the heel and ankle collar.
Speaking of wearers, the biggest seal of approval for signature shoes is when your peers rock the model. Stars from across the NBA often rocked the Dame 4, with the likes of Donovan Mitchell, Jaylen Brown, and Goran Dragic lacing up the shoe nightly.
The biggest hallmark of the Dame 4 is the Bathing Ape collab that debuted at the 2018 NBA All-Star Weekend. A trio of traditional BAPE colorways had the masses going ape.
Under Armour Curry 4
The Under Armour Curry line arrived at the perfect time with the Curry 1 in 2015. Coinciding with Stephen Curry’s run to his first championship and MVP award, the Curry 1 flew off shelves. Curry bet on himself by going to UA (a conscious decision as we recently learned from Curry’s appearance on the Draymond Green podcast) and despite the memes, the move paid dividends. The sides parlayed the success of Curry 1 into the Curry 2 and 3, opting for designs and tooling that closely followed their debut effort.
The Curry 4 is where the sides began to take their biggest leaps in terms of innovation. Unlike its predecessors, the Curry 4 boasts a minimalistic socklike upper, for a snug fit. This also marks the first time the Curry line didn’t feature a herringbone traction pattern, instead opting for a spiral pattern.
Curry and the Golden State Warriors once again hoisted the Larry O’Brien trophy whilst he rocked the Curry 4. To commemorate their dominant run, UA released the limited Curry 4 ‘More Rings’ Championship Pack. Retailing at $400 (honestly not a bad price), each pack featured two pairs of Curry 4’s, one in white/gold and the other in black/white/gold, a matching pair of Stance socks for each sneaker, and a divot tool that doubles as a cigar holder.
While not the most famous fourth sneaker ever, Under Armour and Curry should be applauded for what they’ve built.
The SS1 and SS2 were an homage to the great sneakers that inspired us, the SS3 was built with the combined efforts of our community but the SS4 takes those experiences to the next level.
Partnering once more with Garrixon Studios and recruiting the talents of Gemo Wong and Justin Taylor, two designers with deep resumes, the SS4 blends influences from the 90s golden age of sneakers with the innovative design of the modern era. Learn more about the SS4 here.