If you frequent various sneaker groups on Facebook, then surely you've stumbled across this question:
"Are NMDs dead?"
What will inevitably follow is a 30-way verbal duel between passionate sneakerheads, who will intensely debate this philosophical question as though they were arguing qualms such as "does God exist?". This question will elicit a string of emotions as the loyal keyboard factions begin to emerge.
This got me thinking. Are NMDs really dead?
Heck, I did not even know the answer to this. What is especially shameful is that I'm a co-founder of PUSHAS and it's actually my day job to know these macro-trends.
To correct this wrong, I started to do my own ""research"" (LOL) to hopefully answer this exact question. And so, I started to do some sketchy qualitative analysis on Facebook. I posed the question in a few groups that I frequent. "Are the NMDs dead?" Within minutes, I received at least 20 responses.
On the one hand, an overwhelming amount of sneakerheads have declared the NMDs dead. I figured more than 70% of respondents shared this view.
Recurringly, you will hear the the chant "too many colourways (cws)" or "no longer exclusive, every kid has 'em so they're dead."
On the other hand, you'll get the opinions of a few NMD purists who will make equally passionate points:
"NMDs are an amazing silhouette... just because adidas is coming out with heaps, doesn't make it any less great."
"If your opinion on a sneaker depends on what others think and resell value then you're a (insert offensive remark here)."
"Glad I don't have to pay resell."
If I were to rely on this mode of feedback, then yeah... you would definitely start to believe that the NMDs are dead. But I wasn't convinced.
I continued my quest for truth by examining the analytics that the PUSHAS team compiles.
To date, the search term 'NMD' is still the top search term that visitors on PUSHAS search up. It accounts for just over 17% of all searches. The 2nd most popular search term is 'yeezy' followed by 'ultra boost'. Of course, this may be due to the certain customer personas that PUSHAS attract and the market segments that we are targeting. However, it is undeniable that the NMDs are in high demand by PUSHAS customers.
I must admit though that there is a lack of statistical significance relating to this data point. We only get roughly 5,000-10,000 unique sessions a day, and only a percentage of those sessions result in searches. While may seem as though it is a big number, there are MILLIONS of sneakerheads out there who make TENS OF MILLIONS of searches a day. As you can see, our traffic is barely a fraction of that. Since what is "hot" in sneakers is determined by the collective community of sneakerheads around the world, I'm not going to pretend that our data is representative of this. It does provide us ample evidence that - at least in Australia - NMDs are still in demand.
But this wasn't enough. And so, I decided to consult the biggest player of sneaker big data - Google.
Google Trends Data
As you can see, it is undeniable that the search term NMD is trending downwards. What we can discern is that the apparent peak hype was about 5-6 months ago. What is particularly interesting is that most searches come from the UK and Australia.
Since the US is generally accepted in being the world's Streetwear trend-setter, their lack of searches might really be a signal that NMDs are dying.
However, this data is also incomplete. We do not know if this is just a cyclical downturn which may uptick later on, or whether this is permanent. It is simply too premature to say that NMDs are dead because of this data.
My marketing instincts are telling me that it is crucial to read the data in context, while my short career in law has taught me the importance of comparative analysis to deductive reasoning. I'll show you why.
NMDs vs. Ultraboost
If we look at the search term NMDs compared to Ultraboost, we actually begin to ascertain that Ultraboosts are facing a similar decline in searches.
Does this mean that Ultraboosts are dying as well? I'm sure no-one in their right mind would say that Ultraboosts are dying right now. Yes, there may be a downswing since nothing of hype has been released as of late - but wait til adidas drops their next Ultraboost collab and we'll definitely see an uptick.
I would argue that the "Boost tingz" trend is only just beginning. I'm sure if you're a sneakerhead, you would know that everyone is going crazy over boost right now. It must be noted that if you're reading this, you're also likely to be an early adopter. So what's dying down for you has barely hit the mainstream. I could accept it if you provided a case that it is slowing down, but to say that it is dying is an over-exaggeration.
NMDs vs Vapormax
Another facet that should be considered is that perhaps sneakers on a whole are on the downswing as well. If you look at the above graph, the same downturn is being experienced by one of the most hyped Nike silhouettes.
The other day, I spoke to one of The Age's Fashion Journalists who informed me that a source of hers said that Nike's Vapormax are poised to change the sneaker game. If we look at Google's data. It appears that it too is on a downward trend. If anything, its search rates are decreasing at a much steeper rate than the NMDs.
Does this mean that the Vapormax is dying as well? Any sneakerhead would tell you that the Vapormax is only getting started. And I think I agree. If you remember how the Ultra Boosts started off, the OGs were sitting on shelves for months. People were sleeping on them back in 2015. Fast forward two years and they're going for at least $500AUD for a deadstock pair.
I believe that the Vapormaxes are experiencing the same reception right now.
With this in mind, it becomes more plausible that both the NMDs and the Vapormax are just slowing down - waiting for a next hype release rather than dying. Sure, they're trending downwards, and people's opinions are overwhelmingly negative right now - but opinions change over time.
One of our seasoned sneakerheads Mark has noted that sneaker trends are cyclical. For someone who's been in the sneaker game since the 1990s, and has a sneaker collection worth north of $75,000, he's the man that would know. (If you follow us on Instagram, you should have seem his collection on our stories a few weeks ago.) A few months is not long enough to determine whether a sneaker has died. Upon my research, I actually think that they're poised to stay for a while longer and I'll tell you why.
Adidas Management Team
Another contributing factor that many sneakerheads fail to see the nuance of is the strategy team behind the NMDs. It needs to be acknowledged that adidas Group has just appointed fresh faces to its executive team since Kasper Rorsted become CEO in October 2016. I'm sure that as a fresh team takes the helm, they definitely would have devised a robust strategy in their product lines and where their products fit in their overall strategy.
Of course, the NMD range will see some benefit from the new management team. I'm excited to see what other moves Rorsted makes.
adidas Product Strategy
adidas' competitive advantage in streetwear collaborations and partnerships isn't the only thing that hints they have big things coming for the NMDs.
If we look at adidas' Product Strategy, we can begin to deduce the route that they may take with the NMDs. We know that traditionally, each adidas silhouette is unofficially divided into two categories. For argument sake, I will name them "General Releases (GR)" and the "Limited Releases".
For example, Ultraboosts usually have the ugly GR colourways (Navy etc) that everyone hates and is always sitting, and then there are the HYPE colourways such as the Triple Blacks and Collabs (Kiths, SNS, Havens) that everyone goes crazy over.
The same can be seen with Yeezys. Kanye West has been noted on the record to say that while he wants some Yeezys to be exclusive, he wants to make Yeezys available to everyone. As you might have guessed, as great as the Yeezusis, I'm inclined to believe that this is him echoing adidas' product line strategy and not just what he wants for Yeezys. Effectively, there will be GR Yeezys and more Limited Release Yeezys. Both of which will likely have a disparity in value in the resell market due to how they control supply.
If we are to believe that adidas remains consistent in its product strategy, then what we're starting to see with the NMDs will be here to stay. adidas will continue to mass release the general release sneakers in an abundance of colourways for the general population, while still placating the devout sneakerheads with the more limited releases and collaborations.
What I can't seem to figure out is that Ultraboosts don't seem to cop this much flack when it comes to their GRs being mainstream. Ultraboosts are arguably have proliferated in the mainstream as much as NMDs have yet the sneaker community have not complained as much (or at all to my knowledge). Same with the Pureboosts GRs, which I see a lot of people wearing. My theory is perhaps the key to the Ultraboost success is that adidas releases a lot more collaborations and limited releases than they do with the NMD. The same with the Pureboosts which have the Y3s spearheading their Limited Release (and thus exclusive) line.
If adidas is to ensure that the NMDs are not going to die, they definitely need to release more collaborations and limited releases. But of course they must tread the fine line and not release too many which may diminish the exclusivity of those collaborations.
It's simply too early to tell if the NMDs are dead. While it is true that many sneakerheads are over them given their extensive releases, it really will come down to how adidas plays its hand in the next couple of months.
So I see this panning out in two ways.
- adidas is going to milk the NMDs as an ever-green silhouette, always releasing new collabs and colourways for both GRs (no resale value) and Limited Releases (high resale value); or
- The general sentiment that "NMDs are dead" is going to be so detrimental to the brand that it will force adidas to retire the silhouette.
To be honest, I have no idea which way it is going to go. Definitely leave your thoughts in the comments below, I would love to hear them.
There's no denying that the adidas NMDs have been a game changing silhouette. They are objectively sleek and aesthetically pleasing. It appears that their only issue is whether they are exclusive enough to warrant high value and subsequently grail-status.
Are they dead? The answer to that would have to be a resounding no.
Are they going to die? Only time will tell.