The sneaker market has exploded in popularity over the last two decades. Many new brands have arrived on the scene, some trying to break new ground while others have been sticking to a more classic approach to their designs. Many of the popular brands at the moment keep experimenting with unique twists to their products in order to entice customers.
The Black-owned corner of the market is quite active too. Many Black-owned sneaker companies have sprung up since the early 2000s – in some cases even earlier – and continue to push forward the market for high quality goods created by African American entrepreneurs. Some brands and products are created with Black customers in mind, while others aim for a broader market. See what sparks your interest and fits your style!
If the idea of supporting Black-owned sneaker companies sounds appealing to you, there’s no shortage of brands worth checking out. Some are based in the US, though not all of them started their history in the country. In any case, here are some of our favorite picks to explore if you’re new to the sneaker market and want to get a good start.
Top 10 Black-Owned Sneaker Brands
After gathering many years of experience in the fashion industry, David Raysse decided to leave corporate life behind him and focus on his own venture. His career had taken him through many of the biggest brands on the market, including Fila and Adidas. But his ultimate goal was to bring something unique to the table and commit to work that allows his creativity to shine. That led to the birth of Brandblack.
David’s father was one of Kenzo’s original founders, while his mother had a career as a model. It only made sense that he would continue the family tradition and push it even further. He claims that he faced some initial challenges in trying to convince people that he had the right vision to carry his company further. But ultimately, he prevailed in a market that’s known for cutthroat competition.
Today, he leverages the success of his brand to provide mentoring to other Black entrepreneurs trying to get their foot in the door of the fashion industry. He doesn’t hide the fact that he sees his heritage as an advantage, and advises other entrepreneurs to do the same if they want to maximize their chances.
Born in The Bronx, Tarik Edmonson had a passion for all things related to fashion from a young age. He had always dreamed of starting his own business, and points to Reginald Lewis as a major source of inspiration. Tarik’s daughter played an instrumental role in helping him start Nagast Footwear, explaining the ins and outs of social media and its importance in the success of modern businesses.
When he started his company, there weren’t many Black-owned sneaker brands out there. He saw an opportunity and sprung into action. It didn’t take long for his success to manifest, and the company has been going strong since 2015 when it was officially established.
Nagast Footwear is not just about sneakers. It’s about building a community of empowered entrepreneurs who’re constantly encouraged to push the boundaries of their creativity and explore new niches in an ever-growing global market.
Good Man Brand
Good Man Brand started its journey in 2015 as the project of four entrepreneurs. Tom and Scott Bonomo, Dean Holly, and Russel Wilson of NFL fame decided to pool their resources together and established a brand that would help them share their creativity with the world.
Thanks to industry connections, the company secured a presence in some of the biggest stores across the country, ensuring that it got all the exposure it needed for a solid jumpstart.
Despite its history, Good Man Brand is not an expensive brand aimed at buyers with deep pockets. Rather, it attempts to bridge the gap between budget-level footwear and luxury fashion, specifically targeting millennials as its main audience.
The founders of the company continue to pay close attention to the comfort and utility of the sneakers they design and produce, with strict quality standards that have become a main selling point for their sneakers.
Named after its founder, Armando Cabral is a prominent fashion brand with a special focus on sneakers. Armando started his journey in Guinea-Bissau, moving to Portugal at a young age. He took the opportunity to soak in Europe’s attitude to fashion and art, and decided to channel that into something productive as soon as he had the chance.
He originally started his career as a model, quickly climbing to prominence and eventually becoming one of the best in his class. His modeling career took him through collaborations with Louis Vuitton, Balmain, and other world-famous brands.
He eventually decided to combine his insider knowledge of the fashion industry with his love for footwear and fashion in general, launching his first collection of shoes in 2009. Today, the brand is all about finding a good mix between function and aesthetics, continuing to build strong relationships with companies in the industry and growing in popularity by the day.
When Tilahun Alemu founded soleRebels, her main goal was to combine the creative passion of her Ethiopian heritage with a more traditional approach to footwear. The brand enjoys a lot of popularity among sneaker fans who prioritize function over form, and currently boasts an impressive line of many models aimed at people with a diverse set of preferences.
One of the main pillars of soleRebels is sustainability and ethical production. The company makes a point to employ talented people with less fortunate backgrounds, providing them with all the training and benefits they need to hone their skills and let their creativity shine.
This has made soleRebels one of the top employers in its category, partly due to the fact that the company regularly offers salaries several times higher than the local market average.
Before founding Enda, Navalayo Osembo-Ombati started her career in an area completely unrelated to fashion – she was working at the United Nations when she decided to quit and start a fresh journey in a different area. Strongly motivated by her Kenyan heritage and the country’s history in sports, she wanted to explore the world of sports clothing, and in particular, sneakers.
Borrowing the company’s name from her native language’s word for “Go”, she has spent her following years collaborating with local athletes to create the perfect running shoes. She takes pride in her unique presence on the Kenyan market, and constantly explores new ways to bring her country closer to the world at large.
The company takes a “quality over quantity” approach to its work. Enda hasn’t produced a huge variety of sneakers, but each model is uniquely tailored to a set of specifications and aims to fill a particular gap in the market.
One model, for example, is specifically designed for long, slow-paced runs. Enda constantly evaluates the field of running and attempts to identify new opportunities that have not been realized by competitors yet.
Santia Deck spent several years as a professional football player before deciding to found TRONUS. Working together with designer Jamien Sills, she created a unique pair of sneakers intended to minimize impact to the runner’s feet and provide a lightweight experience on the track.
The brand is still relatively new. Its first line launched in the middle of 2020. Despite the unfortunate timing in the middle of a pandemic, TRONUS still managed to establish its presence on the market and developed an active following of dedicated fans.
Today, TRONUS continues to attract new followers through a combination of innovation and exclusivity. The brand has released several limited-edition models which drew a lot of attention. It’s also one of the few brands on the market that provide an extensive range of customization options to its customers.
Another brand that had its origins in Kenya, ENZI was founded by school friends who saw an unrealized opportunity in the local market and jumped at the chance to make a name for themselves. It took a while for the founders to figure out their identity and define a unique style, but today, ENZI is progressing by leaps and bounds.
The founders of ENZI have not forgotten where their story started though. They continue to tie the company’s identity to their Kenyan origins as much as possible, and regularly take the opportunity to promote their country on the global scene.
ENZI is now a brand recognized around the world and continues to grow every year. The brand has inspired other Black entrepreneurs, starting a movement that is still gaining new followers. The people behind ENZI have maintained an active presence on the social justice scene and have been leveraging their prominence to gain new followers and spread awareness about some of the most pressing issues in today’s society.
Brittney Perry has always been a fan of sneakers. Growing up, she was disappointed by the state of the market, seeing it as dominated by men who made products for other men and ignored everyone else. She got used to buying men’s sneakers, but she was always bothered by the nagging feeling that she could be doing more to change the status quo and help push the market forward.
This led to the creation of PerryCo in 2018. In only four years, the brand has established a global presence and continues to grow and reach new followers.
Brittney never forgot where she started and what motivated her to explore the market though. She values inclusivity and diversity and has made it her goal to create sneakers that everyone can enjoy. The brand’s diverse line caters to many styles and preferences, and Brittney keeps experimenting with new ways to attract even more attention to what she’s doing.
Babajide Ipaye, the founder of KEEXS, was born in Nigeria. He had a difficult childhood, losing his parents at a young age and being raised by his extended family. While he was growing up, Babajide grew increasingly frustrated with the lack of diversity on the shoe market. His feet growing faster than his wallet, he faced an ongoing challenge in finding the right pair of sneakers to wear.
It wasn’t just about size. Babajide has always had a vivid imagination and he wanted his style to reflect that. That eventually prompted him to start KEEXS, seeing a valuable opportunity to unleash his creative side and bring something useful to the world.
Babajide likes to share his success with his community, and has founded the company on this value. KEEXS is currently renowned for its diverse collection of models fit for every taste, and the company continues to expand its line regularly.
Why Should You Support Black-Owned Sneaker Companies?
Something that ties many of these businesses together is the desire to spread inclusivity and other positive messages. Some of the Black entrepreneurs we listed above grew up in poverty and struggle, while others were frustrated by a market dominated by a majority who saw no reason to cater to anyone else.
Supporting Black-owned sneaker companies is about more than finding a style that works for you. It’s about helping promote movements for social justice and diversity through a product that appeals to a wide audience. The success of those companies continues to inspire other entrepreneurs from difficult backgrounds!