One of the questions that is constantly asked is the question of where the sneaker culture was in the past and in which direction that it is currently headed. As an individual who has been heavily involved in the sneaker scene since the mid 2000’s, the changes to both the industry and the culture have been quite drastic. Gone are the days of the online forums where everyone seemed to know each other, as well as the days of seeing the same ten to twelve people at every lineup and campout. You used to be able to count the number of sneaker shops in your respective city on one or two hands, but now there seems to be a new sneaker-centric shop popping up every month or two.
I learned at a young age that the sneaker culture had an extremely rich history, and my self-education of the history helped me truly appreciate the sneakers and what they meant. I quickly went from a prototypical consumer who saw sneakers as necessary footwear that needed to be replaced once thoroughly worn through, to the person that spent countless hours doing research on what made the sneakers significant, from a cultural and aesthetics perspective. It helped that my love of basketball and hip-hop had a common ground in that my favourite rappers were trying to be like ball players and my favourite ball players were trying to be like rappers.
I grew up loving basketball, and as a kid on the court, you always wanted to have a fresh pair of basketball shoes that your favourite ball player was wearing at the time. As an immigrant kid who grew up in Toronto, it wasn’t Michael Jordan that inspired me to buy basketball shoes and emulate his moves. It was Vince Carter and Tracy McGrady, each with their own signature lines at Nike and adidas, that opened the doors for me to the world of sneakers. Steve Francis and Baron Davis then introduced me to Reebok and their Above The Rim line, which helped me discover the RBK division that had the likes of Jay-Z and 50 Cent on their roster with their own signature shoes.
Nice Kicks recently posted a very interesting question on Twitter that drew a variety of responses:
With the Air Jordan 1 being arguably one of the most popular sneaker silhouettes of all-time, especially in the original colourways, if those were as readily available as a white-on-white Air Force 1, would the demand for them still be at an extreme? It is truly tough to say, especially with the fact that this past year, I was able to walk into a Foot Locker and buy the Air Jordan 4 White Cement, a highly sought after model and colourway which were relatively limited, six months after the original release date with absolutely no hassle. Although the demand of hyped sneakers will always be present, as long as you are able to buy and wear what you like, you shouldn’t feel the need to conform to the social norms of popular trends.
In 2016, it was the year of adidas and their Boost technology, but I never once felt pressured to buy a pair of Boosts to fit in or be accepted within my own team that fell in love with the Boost technology. I eventually got my hands on a pair of Energy Boosts in order to test the technology out, but I actually saw 2016 as the time to buy shoes that I believed were absolutely amazing that countless people slept on. I was able to get both the Air Jordan 1 OG Metallic Navy in the low and high cuts, both OG iterations that have not been re-released since 1985, for under retail with extreme ease, and I have every one of you to thank for that.
The sneaker culture used to be an extremely tight-knit group of people who shared a passion for sneakers but throughout the years, we have seen many of those same individuals lose their love and passion with the growing popularity of sneakers and the rise of the resell market. I think it’s time that we accept the fact that the culture is evolving, and many of us are still stuck in the past refusing to evolve alongside it. I’m one of those people that was truly torn on the current state of the culture, but I’m learning to live with where it is and where I think it is going.
If you really love sneakers and the culture behind it, you’re going to have to learn to live and grow with it. If you missed out on a sneaker that you really badly wanted, don’t worry, your chance will come around. Be good to those around you and the world has a funny way of paying you back.
Wear your shoes to make yourself happy, not to impress the others around you. I wear white sneakers all year long, including winters, and I have had many people, mostly random people on the street, approach me and ask why I’m wearing white sneakers in the winter. That always brings a smile to my face and I give them the same answer Jerry Seinfeld would, “Because it makes me happy.”