Sneakers

“Passin Me By”: The Rise and Fall of Sneaker Culture

At this point. I’m almost ashamed to say I’m a “Sneakerhead.” Don’t get me wrong, I love sneakers. At least I think I do. It’s the term itself and what it’s come to be.

I was at an event this past weekend. Nothing special, just a bowling alley with family and friends. While exiting, 20 month old baby boy in arms, I see a small group of people. There couldn’t have been more than 10, young boys and girls, Asian, no older than 18 to 19 years old. To a man though were the following. Supreme hoodie, tapered pant, “Bred Toe” 1s. Off White long-sleeved tee, tapered pant, Sean Wotherspoon Airmax. Kith tee, tapered pant, Yeezy 2. Supreme NBA jacket, tapered pant, Supreme NBA Air Force 1. You get the picture, yes? Pretty much a real representation of of a Machonis animated piece. The worst part (yeah I know, but it can get worse), they didn’t even look fresh!

Yes, I’m old school. I have the same story as the rest of the folks reading this in agreement (and opposite of those who don’t). I grew up in the era of 2 pairs of shoes per year, maybe one at Christmas. Wearing shoes until the air bubble was scratched. When a foamposite was damn near alien made. Pre-comfort, Post-one style, where a weapon looked like an Air Force looked like a pro model. Granted, people really been doing this from days when my last sentence pissed folks off because of “obvious” ? distinct design differences. That’s coo, I respect that. They copped shoes to be the freshest on their block. I copped shoes to be the freshest on mine. The reason my body temperature rose 3 degrees this weekend is, the people I saw copped to…look just like everyone else??? Where they do that at?

Having not left a laptop to grab everything purchased and worn that day, has become the new definition of “Sneakerhead.” Whether it’s to collect or stunt, bots, consignment, reselling, has completely changed the game. Similar to the state of hip-hop, depending who you ask will give you a myriad of answers as to whether this is a good thing. Sneakerdom is at (or well past) it’s 808s and Heartbreaks moment in history.

The “Fuck J. Cole” record unfortunately has more legitimacy than you think? Why? Because the young boys have all the money. More than retail money. $1900 on a bot money. $800 on a tee with a logo money. Gucci Gang don’t give a shit about your “Gang Gang” or even more, zero fucks about your real gang! Who are we, those that remember shoes without nicknames, or better yet, remember living through the memories of nicknames (*cough*…I watched the Flu Game from the couch) to dictate the future of the culture. If honest, we didn’t want someone in the same kicks as us either. We just didn’t buy thirty pairs to keep you from getting one.

Flip that coin though and what does your “culture” mean with no historical context. Shoes are comfortable now because they were once uncomfortable. Shoes had original lacing, this changing the way you walked. For good or bad, this was, and is, style. People who once love(d) sneakers are no excluded from the club. Don’t believe me? See a pair of sneakers you like online, then go to your local retail store and buy them. Or hit your dope boutiques in your town. Go ahead, I’ll wait…

Yeah, “naw B, fuck outta here” is right! You thought they was $220 right? Yeah, “what you mean Foot Locker, Footaction, Champs, Niketown, Dr. Jays, Villa, Suplex didn’t have them?” is right! Yeah, “I was online at 7:01 all ready and clicked” is right! I thought you should have got a pair too! Welcome to the game. I toss people info about SNKRS the app knowing it’s the same as passing a rumor about Detox.

What do you do when so pure…so…”yours” evolves? To look for answers, you must look at comparative phenomenon. What do Brooklyn and Harlem natives do when they can’t afford to live at “home?” How do Crazy Legs and Bobbito feel when they visit Tokyo? How does Rakim feel about A-Boogie, or Beanie Sigel about Lil’ Uzi Vert? Those questions haven’t fully sorted themselves out as of yet. If trends are viewed, the past is phased out without regard for history. Murals are painted over as defamation. Uprock and backspins are removed for the shoot or the folks or whatever the YouTube of the week. Remember the dab?!? Not that long ago.

The game has changed and without help from brands, it may not come back. Nike was the number one selling sneaker brand, and by a far margin. With the recent…dare I say…hype surrounding Adidas, the steadiness of Skechers, the recent desire for luxury brands like Gucci and Balenciaga? The number two brand? Resellers! Consignment shops are replacing boutiques. Shoes that drop in December are marketed in February. Until one can walk in a store and discover something both new and coveted, the game will continue dying a slow death. Sure, money is flowing at larger numbers than ever before. And sure hype seems at higher levels than in days pre-internet, Instagram and YouTube. But the feel of the game is a hollow shell. Influencers are scripted, paid and frankly, corny. We’re far removed from the days where cats on the corner ruled fresh. Complexcon was people running to you saying “ooooohhh” with their fist balled over their lips? Now manufactured and canned “culture” is sniffed out a mile away, and called out by those who abhor it. The longing for something authentic in this game still brings the real out to the fake though, as people who show up late to the same said Complexcon leave disappointed with that same distaste in their mouths as a visual of the Paid in Full picture reimagined flooded with Supreme and Yeezys. What was once dope is now uniform.

So what do you do? When you can’t understand bots and the boutique experience is gone? When you can’t afford resell and you can’t borrow another dollar from your label? Can’t get a pair in the stores? You light a match…you blow the joint. A wise man once said “The dynasty continues, y’all die.” The question is, who is y’all…