Written by Samantha Adams
While watching Sneakerheadz???? the other night, I was listening and watching the featured sneakerheads express their passion, excitement, and appreciation for sneakers. I realized they were undoubtedly expressing how I feel about sneakers. Sneakerheads’ showed off their collections (some numbering in the thousands), which most people probably would not understand. They went on to speak about the culture and lifestyle, which is what really caught my attention. I’ve had individuals ask me “How many pairs of sneakers do you have to own to be considered a sneakerhead?” To me, this question is quite telling, as it informs me the culture of being a sneakerhead is getting lost somewhere along the way. It is not about the number of sneakers one has, it is about the appreciation and passion for the product, how it makes you feel when you wear it. For example, someone could own five pairs of sneakers and be considered a sneakerhead. Why? First of all, that person has passion for those five pairs of sneakers; one or two pairs may be a limited edition shoe; another pair they may have purchased due to the design, which encompasses more than what catches your eye, but the smallest details such as the color or art of the stitching; the remaining pair may have been purchased due to being in its original colorway, not to mention its premium quality. Sneakers are far more meaningful than a number, as well as more than just a pair of shoes I wear on my feet. For me, sneakers are not only a definition of my own expressive style, but are a representation of my personal brand. They represent self-expression that is individualized by your personal style. Unlike many people, I dress from toe-to-head, rather than head-to-toe. My sneakers define the clothing I select, as they mean considerably more to me than just a fashion accessory.
Unfortunately, there is a growing subgroup, resellers, which are negatively impacting sneaker culture by creating a stereotype that all sneakerheads, and therefore the sneaker culture, are not people passionate about sneakers, but rather are people passionate about making a profit. The reseller even makes its way into Forbes definition of a sneakerhead: “A sneakerhead is a person who collects trades and/or admires sneakers as a form of hobby.” So, as a fellow sneakerhead, I ask you the same questions I think about: Will resellers destroy the sneakerhead culture? How can sneakerheads reclaim the true sneakerhead culture? Are resellers or traders invited as part of your definition, or do you wholeheartedly stand behind the original definition of a sneakerhead?
What exactly a sneakerhead is can be subjective however, a common definition of a sneakerhead is a person who is passionate, knowledgeable, and has an overall appreciation for sneakers. Sneakers are so much more than what they appear to be to the layperson. I cannot emphasize enough the passion and emotions they can invoke; within me, within sneakerheads. These are why a sneakerhead culture easily developed, and why I could completely relate to the documentary.
Sneakers have the power to connect me to a moment in time. When I put on my Retro Jordan’s I just purchased, I’m transported back to the day I opened my first pair of Concord 11’s on Christmas morning, my excitement making my heart race. Every time I wear my Reebok Classics, I’m back at my 8th birthday experiencing feelings of pure joy. Do you ever find purchasing sneakers because they conjure pleasant feelings from your past? Do you take the time to really “look” at the sneakers: taking time to smell their freshness; looking them over for a few minutes to admire the stitching and placement of pieces; does your confidence (maybe exuding confidence you didn’t realize you had) go up when you are wearing a pair; maybe you walk taller and even carry yourself differently.
If you can relate to most, or all of the above, you understand sneakerhead culture and your personal brand. Sneakers may be seen as just materialist objects to an outsider, yet there is a culture out there, a culture I’m a part of, where a sneaker can take you back to a wonderful moment or time in your life. They may have even taught you the meaning of hard work and how much more meaningful something can be when you’ve worked so earnestly to obtain them. Ultimately, sneakers and the subculture they have created, sneakerhead, is actually not so out of the ordinary, and is yet another way for people to express their passion, personal branding, and a reminder of wonderful times from the past.
So, what does it mean to you to be a sneakerhead?