At 22 Years Old the Fila Disruptor 2 Hit Its Peak Popularity
First released as a lifestyle sneaker 1996, it’s apparent FILA’s Disruptor II, Footwear News’ 2018 Sneaker Of The Year, is the late bloomer of the sneaker community. The prior three years saw hype and hard-to-purchase shoes take the SNOY title—The Jordan 1 from Virgil Abloh’s “The Ten,” Rihanna’s Creeper with PUMA and Kanye West’s Yeezy Boost. Interestingly, The Disruptor II broke a few trends for award. First, it’s a 22-year old silhouette without a celebrity tied to it. Second, it’s more popular among women (though worn by men), and while you could make the same argument about the Creepers, Rihanna was the first woman to get awarded Sneaker Of The Year ever—so, this is definitely a new concept between both sneakers. Lastly, the Disruptor to is extremely accessible. While you’d have to be an avid sneakerhead or a Rihanna fanatic to land any pair from Abloh’s “The Ten”, Yeezys or Creepers, The Disruptor IIs were not selling out and landing on resale pages at five times the retail price. The basic colorways are available for $60 to $65, and they’re available everywhere from Barney’s to Zumiez, Sears and Urban Outfitters.
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Interestingly, as The Disruptor II gained the enormous popularity it has today, there’s very little info out there on the early days of the sneaker. Originally released as simply The Disruptor in 1996, it seems like FILA allowed it to fall between the cracks. Granted, it was a popular time for FILA to begin with, so perhaps other models overtook its spotlight. In 1995 they released their first basketball sneakers with Grant Hill and Jerry Stackhouse. Notorious B.I.G. was wearing FILA tracksuits and Tupac even wore the FILA Grant Hill IIs in the imagery for his album All Eyez On Me.
On the contrary, there are no existing campaigns from the original Disruptor; not in the depths of the internet—even as deep as Reddit threads and old raver forum boards—and not in FILA’s own archive. It appears as if the original Disruptor was the red-headed stepchild of the FILA family. But this doesn’t come as much of a surprise as the late ‘90s release was popular among an underground subculture. While basketball sector of the brand was seeing success, other shoes didn’t get the same push. Apparently, ravers were not only fond of FILA’s Trailblazers (a chunky bottomed, low, sneaker-boot), they loved the Disruptor. It makes perfect sense as trends drove right down the middle of streetwear and sportswear. Some of the same ‘90s trends that hurled the updated second version into mega popularity in 2018 originated in those spaces. The Disruptor is kind of a cross between the platform-bottomed classic Buffalo London sneakers and the Nike Air Max 95s, two other chunky shoes that were popular in the rave scenes.
Coming in much more muted colorways released in 1996 and 1998, it seems the Disruptor didn’t stand much of a chance. FILA as a brand began to lose steam as their first NBA sponsored FILA athlete, Grant Hill, struggled through injuries. Shares of the brand were being sold off as FILA’s identity struggled through a rotating cast of owners in the early 2000s. This near- dormancy continued for almost 20 years, until its collaboration with the trending designer Gosha Rubchinskiy, for his Spring/Summer 2017 line. The momentum continued in the AW18/19 season when Fendi sent designer garments brandished with a hybrid FILA-meets-FENDI logo down the runway. While the Gosha collab kicked off FILA’s potential return to fashion, the red and blue FILA logo alongside FENDI’s double F’s solidified it.
FILA proved to be re-emerging at the right place and time, as ‘90s era Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein crept back into the wardrobes of cool kids and instagram feeds around the world. FILA’s Marketing manager, Paul Siviter, told Marketing Week, “It was important for us to look back through our archives and instead of designing pieces that were trying to look like they were from a certain era, we took them straight out of that era and have brought them back.”
Also worth noting is the “Ugly” sneaker trend that gained traction in 2014’s days of normcore. Skechers had a record-breaking year in 2014, doubling 2013’s numbers, the dad shoe returned in full-force, and Nike’s Monarch started to bubble, peaking this year with a remake by John Elliott. Soon luxury brands like Louis Vuitton and Balenciaga were creating new silhouettes of chunky, dad-like, “ugly” sneakers, but with pricetagsupwards of $895 per pair. “When you see brands in high, high fashion selling the ugly shoe, the bulky shoe—we have had this in our brand DNA since 1993,” Louis Colon III, director of heritage for FILA North America, told Benzinga.
Design changes from the original FILA Disruptor included new colorways and better materials. A shoe that once came in simple black, white, navy and muted neutrals now has gum bottoms, patent leather and baby pink options, even collabs with ALIFE, Bandier and Barney’s. It finally became the FILA Disruptor II’s time to shine. The brand’s SVP of footwear design and advanced concepts, Mark Eggert told GQ, “There's certainly been a ‘Why are we doing this again?’ to ‘Oh my God, we better be doing this as quickly as we can’ transition.” Teens that aren’t too familiar with the ‘90s era of the brand are being introduced for the first time to FILA via The Disruptor II, an obvious and affordable alternative to the luxury sneakers their idols are wearing, but celebs like Emily Ratajkowski and Dakota Fanning even got in on the OG FILA fun. In August of this year, they became the most searched sneakers in London.
Banking on the popularity of the Disruptor II and resurgence of the brand, FILA held their first fashion show ever in Milan this year. One sneaker may not be the key to long-lasting success, but its undeniable worldwide resurgence is pretty incredible, especially after years of dormancy. As trends come and go, it’s not unlikely that the current FILA Disruptor will be a prototype for the future.