Whether you’re a ‘Sneakerhead’ or you just wear shoes functionally, the many abbreviations in the shoe game can often be confusing – are the letters SE on the shoe box representative of size? Does it refer to a type of shoe? Or is it simply denoting a color or design? What does SE mean when it comes to shoes?
SE refers to Special Edition shoes which are often unique designs and collaborations that celebrate an occasion, commemorate an event, or pay tribute to particular people. SE shoes are generally more expensive and rarer than regular sneakers and are only available for a set time frame.
So, how special are Special Edition shoes? Can you get your hands on them at any mall? Let’s look at what Special Edition, or SE, shoes are and how this designation affects things, for folks who want to buy a pair.
What Does SE Mean In Terms Of Shoes?
The world of fashion doesn’t just stop at what jeans you wear or which dress you’re rocking; what we decide to wear on our feet is equally important. Many invest loads of time and money in collections of shoes – and for many, the variety of sneakers available in the USA is a particular thrill.
So when you find a limited or particular edition sneaker, adding it to your collection is even more exciting. The abbreviation SE is how you’ll know you’ve got something unique on hand, and these two letters appearing on the box and price tag are a sure way to indicate that your expectations can be a little high. That said, Special Edition (SE) shoes are not for everyone and may often cost a pretty penny.
But as SE sneakers and shoes are often produced in limited quantities or over a select period, it may be worth laying out the cash to get your hands on them especially if you’re planning on showing them off or keeping them in mint condition as part of a serious collection.
Let’s delve into the world of Special Edition shoes to understand better what these look like, what characteristics are common, and why Special Edition shoes are so sought after.
Why Is SE An Important Term When It Comes To Sneakers?
The use of abbreviations and lettering on shoes and sneakers helps buyers identify the unique type of shoe they’re buying, which is especially important for those who see themselves as collectors or take shoe and sneaker fashion seriously. So why are SE shoes such a big deal?
Well, shoemakers like car manufacturers or even restaurants like to celebrate certain events, auspicious occasions, or commemorate significant happenings. Whether this is an anniversary of the start of a company, a remembrance of an important person, or to highlight a prominent time in history, shoemakers will design and produce special edition shoes to celebrate these times.
Special edition shoes are thus different from the norm and are usually a one-off thing with a theme that isn’t repeated. Their unique design makes them slightly different from a Limited Edition (LE) shoe because there is an expected value to the place they hold in the lineup.
Defining Characteristics of SE Shoes
So, what sets an SE shoe apart from the rest of the range? Are there specific characteristics that will help you to identify a Special Edition, other than the markings on the box?
- Timing: Special Edition shoes are often released on auspicious dates or at high-profile events. This could be for the festive season, to celebrate a particular sports win, or a celebrity. They are released for a specific time frame and don’t usually feature in the lineup.
- Rarity: Unlike limited editions, Special Edition shoes aren’t permanently restricted in numbers. Still, they are made for a select time frame and don’t remain on sale indefinitely. This means they can often be hard to get a hold of, especially for collectors. Special Editions from years ago are often sought after by true enthusiasts.
- Price: Since these are unique and highly sought after, Special Edition shoes don’t usually come cheap. They may not be quite as pricey as Limited-Edition shoes that are released in only small numbers, but they will generally cost a pretty penny. And, since many are treated as collector’s items, they increase in value as the years pass, with some SE shoes from a decade or two ago requiring a substantial outlay!
- Status: Special Edition shoes are exactly what the name implies – special, unique, and remarkable. Being rare and quite pricey, it speaks to the idea of status. Those who do get lucky enough to get their hands on such unique editions have the added advantage of being held in high esteem, with many enthusiasts reporting their envy on forums.
- Unique traits: SE shoes must stand out from the rest of the range to qualify as unique. And since there is usually a theme, motif, or commemorative nature behind it, Special Editions are often entirely different from anything else available on the market. You won’t find anything similar within the brand lineup, and competitor brands will not likely copy the design.
- Packaging: To make them even more sought after, Special Edition shoes often have bespoke packaging that feeds into the theme. Whether that is a unique box or container depends on the brand. Many examples of unique packaging include hand-painted boxes, lockable cases, see-through items resembling a spaceship, or a pint-of-ice cream design, making them even more desirable.
- Collaborations: Special Edition shoes are known to often feature crossovers with celebrities, athletes, or other companies that are well known. Examples of partnerships include shoemaker Nike developing SEs with Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream, LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Kanye West, and PlayStation.
- Collect-ability: Special Edition shoes are highly collectable due to the combination of all the above factors. You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who actively wears SE shoes outside in the elements without caring about how this affects the product. Most SE shoes will spend their lives in their original packaging and be displayed for their incredible rarity and looks.
Examples of SE Sneakers
Let’s look at some of the coolest SE sneakers in recent years to understand why Special Editions sneakers are so unique. All of these shoes meet the characteristics mentioned above and more:
- Ben & Jerry’s x Nike SB Dunk Low’ Chunky Dunky’: These sneakers came out in 2020 and are exactly as crazy as the name sounds. Nike collaborated with the famous ice cream maker to release this artsy, colorful, and over-the-top sneaker. And, to make it even rarer, some of these sneakers were released with even more special packaging that looked exactly like a pint of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. These SE shoes retailed for approximately $4,000!
- Converse Moonwalk: Released to commemorate the iconic King of Pop, the Chuck Taylor Converse All-Stars boasted a reverse design with the eyelets on the heel and the toe cap now situated on the heel. The ‘Converse All Stars’ wording was also changed to echo Michael Jackson, saying ‘No Good No Stars’ instead.
- CLOT x Nike Air Force 1′ 1 World’: Nike’s collaborations with streetwear label CLOT are almost legendary in the sneaker world, with the Chinese brand’s reputation for quality and attention to detail making any product sporting their name highly sought after.
In 2009, the 1 World sneaker was released featuring Sport Red Air Force 1 sneakers and a hexagonal Chinese candy box, complete with traditional artwork on the outside. The inner tray also depicted six different lacing options, and as they were released in limited numbers, getting your hands on a pair of these nowadays will cost upwards of $5k.
- The Simpsons Vans KAWS Chukka: The famous yellow-skinned cartoon family, The Simpsons, inspired the 2007 special edition Vans shoes. Fourteen artists came together to develop various designs, and only 100 pairs of shoes per design were ever released. The imagery is of Simpsons characters with their eyes struck through on writing paper. These shoes are exceedingly rare.
- Skate Park of Tampa x Nike SB Dunk High’ Cigar City’: In 2011, Nike was teaming up with Todd Bratrud to release smoking-themed sneakers. The Cigar City sneaker featured coloring and materials meant to imitate a cigar. It was even more sought after as it was released with a cigar box for a select number of shoes.
- Nike SB x Travis Scott x PlayStation Dunk Low Pro: Collaborating with rapper Travis Scott has been a repeat affair with Nike. Still, the rarest Special Edition includes this design that came together with PlayStation. The gaming system’s logo and Travis Scott’s style are included, and these unique items sold for around $65k in 2020.
- Nike x Undefeated Zoom Kobe 1 Protro: In 2006, Nike partnered with Kobe Bryant to develop a unique sneaker, and in 2018, a new edition was introduced to the public. To celebrate this, Nike collaborated with Undefeated to create a unique Special Edition, which harks back to the gold and purple shoes the superstar wore at his first Lakers appearance.
Coolest SE Shoes Packaging
Not only are the Special Edition sneakers unique, but to maintain that rare factor and their collectability, shoemakers often add the bonus of unique, trendy, or very out-there packaging. Some of the best Special Edition sneakers are sought after simply for how uniquely they have been presented to the world. Here are some of the funkiest examples:
- Concepts x Nike SB Dunk Low’ Blue Lobster’: A regular collaborator for Special Edition sneakers, Concept is known for how creative their packaging is. For this unique shoe, the Blue Lobster was packaged in a sealed bag with a ‘Danger’ label and fitted into a hazardous materials container made of foam.
- Adidas Adicolor Lo: Way back in 1983, Adidas created a pair of shoes deemed exceptional enough for a re-release in 2006. These plain white sneakers came in a wooden craft box complete with various colors of paint, paint brushes, lacquer finisher, and a proper artist’s palette.
- Nike Air Force 1 ‘Year of the Rabbit’: The Swoosh shoemaker released a special edition shoe from over a decade ago to celebrate the Chinese New Year. ‘Year of the Rabbit’ sneakers had limited numbers released with a special box that resembles the famed White Rabbit candy, including tissue paper that looks like the rice paper the treats are wrapped in.
- Kyrie 2 Ky-Rispy Kreme ID: Not only are these shoes attired in white, green, and red as per the Krispy Kreme design theme, but they came packaged in a classic donut-carrying Krispy Kreme box. Looking for all the world like the sweet treats the brand is famous for, these sneakers are a special edition.
- Nike SB Blazer ‘Milkcrate’: These Special Editions did precisely what the name says, and as the shoes were released to honor Shanghai skate-shop owner Jeff Han, the ‘Milkcrate’ shoe paid homage to his previous job working in a dairy factory. While the sneakers had a ‘missing’ picture of Han on the heel, the packaging of some units included an actual milk carton!
- Nike Mag: In 2011, Nike released the Mag Special Edition, two decades in the making. While the shoes weren’t fully self-lacing, they were ahead of their time for a futuristic look and design. And their packaging played into this theme, too, with a plug-in charger accompanying the shoes. A few units were released with a ‘Plutonium Case’ that felt like it was straight from a movie.
Differences Between SE and LE Shoes
Now that we have a better understanding of what a Special Edition shoe is and what makes it so sought after, there may be some confusion as the what the difference is between these and LE shoes. LE refers to Limited Edition shoes, and much like SEs, these are often seen as the Holy Grail in the sneaker world. But are they the same thing?
Where Special Edition shoes can be seen as an addition to the general sneaker range, Limited Edition shoes are much rarer. Indeed, Special Editions are not kept in the lineup forever but are generally made available for a season throughout various stores. On the other hand, Limited Edition shoes are explicitly designed for one-off events and are not made available on such a grand scale.
The similarity between the two types of shoes is their purpose: commemorative, as an homage, or to mark an auspicious occasion; Special Edition shoes can also have Limited Edition shoes within their lineup. For example, a select number of units from a Special Edition lineup could come with even more unique features and bespoke packaging, making them Limited Edition items.
So, whereas Special Edition shoes are rare, unique, and expensive, Limited-Edition shoes are even more so – launched in much, much fewer numbers and generally only available to the well-heeled on special order; Limited Edition shoes have been known to be auctioned off for hundreds of thousands of dollars by true collectors.
Who Buys SE Shoes?
While anyone can buy Special Edition shoes (provided they have the budget), the idea of Special and Limited-Edition shoes has become entirely different over the last few years. Today, these highly sought-after shoes are the subject of many auctions and searches, with sneaker enthusiasts vying to get their hands on designs they want to add to their collections.
Collecting sneakers is a serious business with Sneakerheads, as they like to call themselves, investing loads of time and effort into expanding their collection. This implies researching shoes they want, tracking them down, and then bargaining for what they think they are worth. Many focus on specific brands or themes, while some do so in support of their favorite celebrities.
In any event, Special Edition shoes are a good investment for those who collect sneakers as they are likely to increase in value proportional to their condition. For this reason, Special Edition shoes are often kept in their original packaging, sealed and untouched. Those who do choose to remove them and wear them without a care in the world are likely doing so to flaunt their wealth and are often looked down on by true Sneakerheads. At least, this is what enthusiast forums suggest.
It’s easy to get confused about shoe sizing and what all the different abbreviations mean on the side of the box. But when it comes to SE, or Special Edition shoes, the acronym is there to notify you that these form part of a limited run of shoes that are rarer, more sought after, and likely more expensive than the standard lineup. While Special Edition shoes can have Limited Edition shoes as part of their lineup, there is a difference.
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Lorna is a footwear geek and the founder of Wearably Weird. She created a YouTube channel in 2021 for fellow footwear fanatics, dedicated to detail-rich footwear reviews and info. She has a fashion media qualification (awarded in 2011).