What Does Retro Mean in Shoes? (The Ultimate Guide)

What Does Retro Mean in Shoes? (The Ultimate Guide)

When we are out shopping or talking with a shoe enthusiast, we always hear the word "Retro." It's not a popular term among people, which is why most of them start searching for what it means straight away.

If you're here, it means you also heard or read "Retro" somewhere and now want to know what it is. 

We've got you.

In short:

Retro means those shoes that brands re-release. They were a hit in the past, and companies launched them again for special occasions decades later. So, such shoes feel nostalgic.

However, it's super important to identify the real retro shoes, and we're also discussing this in detail later. Stick to the end and find out all about the retro!

What Does Retro Mean in Shoes? Know the Details

Retro term in the shoe industry means the shoes that were launched decades ago were released again for the new generation. It also means the shoes that old people liked years ago get the chance to try them again.

Simple, right? 

In our opinion, Nike Air Jordan 1 is the perfect example of this. It was released in 1985 and sold out quickly. Those who purchased them used them for years and loved the comfort. But those who couldn’t buy them during that time got the good news from Nike years later. 

The company re-launched them in 2011 and then again in 2017. So, people who were missing Nike Air Jordan 1 got the chance to wear the pair again.

There are many more examples of retro shoes. 

Adidas Superstar is another popular one. It was released in the 1960s (ask your grandpa, and he will have great things to say about the shoes). Adidas Superstar became very famous right after it was launched, and the company earned a lot of profit. Fifty years later, Adidas celebrated the anniversary and re-released the pair in the market.

In addition, Converse Chuck Taylor All-Star can also be called retro shoes. We love them because of their timeless canvas and High-top silhouette. The brand has re-launched them for their customers many times.

Lastly, we think you should also know about the Reebok Classic Leather Retro as well. The shoes were released in the 80s and then again for the younger generation. You should try them if you find them anywhere. You will love their soft leather and low-cut design. 

But wait. Note that there are many things that make Retro shoes special.

Let's have a look.

What Makes Retro Shoes Special? (Top Reasons)

Retro shoes have always been special. In fact, we even call them "Little Time Machines" because you wear what was popular decades ago. 

But that's not the only thing that makes them top-notch. 

Retro shoes feel special for two simple reasons: design and construction.

Reason #01: Design Elements

The retro shoe design is a bit different than the regular one. You may notice rare elements, like high-grade leather (which is also why these shoes are too expensive). Furthermore, the branding, coloring, and other things make these shoes superior to others.

Here are the design elements that brands consider:

Timeless Silhouettes

Retro shoes have classic shapes that you will definitely love. In fact, after talking with shoe enthusiasts, it's safe to say that the shapes have proven their appeal over the years. 


Well, people still admire both the high-top elegance of basketball sneakers and the sleek lines of running shoes. They have also told us that the timeless silhouettes create an immediate sense of nostalgia.

Bold Color Blocking

In our opinion, vibrant and bold color combinations are a hallmark of retro design. After seeing almost every retro shoe, we can now say that they are a mix of both old and new colors. 

What does that mean? 

Well, you will get a glimpse of contrasts of both 80s and today's sneakers. That's why we think the retro shoes are a "visual feast."

Iconic Logos and Branding

Another great thing about Retro shoes is that they are adorned with iconic logos and branding. They all feel like they have become synonymous with particular eras. In fact, the Nike Swoosh, Adidas three stripes, Converse star, or any retro shoe connects you to the past.  

Just make sure the brands that re-release shoes are credible. You won't get a retro pair from a newer or any unknown brand. 

Distinctive Patterns and Prints

Let us also tell you that patterns and prints play a crucial role in setting retro shoes apart. You can see all sorts of them on a retro (from checkerboard patterns to bold animal prints). 

In our experience, these design elements add character and sophistication (the two things that make each pair stunning).

Reason #02: Materials and Construction

Everyone knows that the materials and construction techniques can make any shoes stand out. But with retro shoes, everything is unique. Let's explore more.

Premium Leather

Retro shoes feature high-quality leather, which makes them durable. The reason is that leather can resist any wear and tear, which means you can wear such shoes for years. 

It can also easily mold to the foot over time, which is super important if you want to own a comfortable pair of shoes. Furthermore, leather footwear is also easy to clean because of this manufacturing material. 

But that's not it. 

High-grade leather also adds a touch of luxury. It's understandable, too, because not everyone can afford to buy leather shoes. They usually cost more than $100, and some are even priced above $500. 

Canvas for Versatility

Canvas is now known for its breathability and flexibility in the shoe industry. That's why most brands use it to make retro shoes. But note that canvas is not limited to providing comfort. Companies are using it to express a wide range of colors and patterns.  

Vintage-Inspired Textiles

When researching the manufacturing materials, we were surprised to learn that most Retro shoes also use textiles that evoke a vintage feel. Common ones are:

  • Nylon
  • Corduroy
  • Suede

These materials improve the textures, which is why most retro shoes feel soft to the touch. 

Time-Honored Construction Methods

After interviewing shoe experts, we found out that retro shoes are manufactured using traditional construction methods. Companies don't try to do anything out of the ordinary, as such methods are not proven to maintain quality. 

But if you want us to sum up the construction method of retro, then we will say: "Stitched soles, vulcanized rubber, and meticulous craftsmanship." 

How Do You Know if Shoes Are Retro? (Key Tips)

Most people don't know how they can identify retro shoes. It's simple. Confirming whether a pair of shoes falls into the category of "retro" is all about looking for specific characteristics. 

We suggest you consider these things before you make any purchase:

Tip 01: Double-Check the Design Inspiration

Retro shoes usually adopt classic shapes that were popular in the past. This includes:

  • High-tops
  • Low-cuts
  • Specific sport-inspired designs.

Furthermore, you should look for iconic logos or branding that has historical significance. The reason is that brands may reintroduce older logos or insignias. You can search these things online to get the idea.

Tip #02: Find Out What Are the Color and Pattern Choices?

You can identify Retro shoes with their vibrant and bold color combinations. Remember that they look like the styles from past decades. This includes:

  • Checkerboard patterns
  • Animal prints
  • Other distinctive designs that were popular in specific eras.

Tip #03: Analyze the Materials and Construction

As discussed above, Retro shoes utilize classic materials like leather, canvas, or suede. So, always keep in mind that high-quality leather and canvas are associated with vintage styles.

Tip #04: Check the Brand Releases and Reissues

Many brands make it easier for everyone to identify retro shoes. They officially announce the re-release, often in anniversary editions or special collections. In our experience, the packaging and marketing materials may also highlight the historical significance.

Furthermore, brands also collaborate with designers or artists to create unique retro-inspired collections. 

So, if you see limited-edition releases with a vintage touch, they are most probably retro shoes.

Tip #05: Focus on the Sneaker Culture Context

Lastly, staying informed about trends and releases in the sneaker culture can help you identify retro shoes. How? Well, sneaker enthusiasts often discuss and share information about upcoming retro releases. You can join groups on Facebook, Reddit, or any platform you like.

Similarly, having a general understanding of fashion trends and styles from different decades can also help you recognize retro elements in footwear.

That's all about how you can identify retro shoes!

Final Words

All-inclusive, retro shoes are those that were released in the past, and the brands have launched them again. They are usually those that were popular decades ago. 

People buy them instantly because of two reasons:

  • Such shoes feel nostalgic. 
  • They are also made with top-notch materials and look timeless. 

So, if you're thinking about owning a retro pair, we say go for it! Remember to consider our tips about how you can pick authentic retro shoes!


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