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They walk among us. Wearing bright colors, outlandish designs, and logos emblazoned across the sides and back. If you’re observant, you can catch a glimpse of them among the sea of black, gray, and white—sneakerheads
Coined to describe fanatic sneaker collectors, the name is synonymous with lines that wrap around blocks and an almost fanatic reverence of sneakers. There is a sense of community among people who collect and trade sneakers. Senior Harkaran Kumar says, “It’s not like every other person you meet is a sneakerhead so it’s nice to meet a fellow sneakerhead because there’s an instant connection with a person.” This passion for buying sneakers unites a group of people; eccentric lingo developed and exchanged between fellow sneakerheads. This solidarity is the product of their search for the rarest, most unique and most elusive sneakers.
With the advent of social media sites, selling and purchasing sneakers is easier than ever, with much of the advertising being done on a social platform. It allows for the sneaker industry to appeal directly to those who are interested, and for the individuals within the community, to connect with one another. However, for all the benefits that social media has given sneakerheads, there are many drawbacks. It’s easy to be scammed, like junior Alvin Hsu, who thought he found a pair of sneakers for a low price from a seller. “They seemed real and the meetup was in Brooklyn. I went to the meetup which was over an hour train ride and the guy showed up with fake db 4s,” he says. If Alvin hadn’t gone with his friend, he would have bought the shoes and gotten scammed. “[With] these kind of big shoes, you need someone with experience because if you don’t know your sneakers, you can get scammed so easily.” This subculture involves a cycle of buying, selling, and reselling. Alvin is an active participant, describing, “I got a pair of beats when I was little and I decided to trade that for military blues and after that the game begun and I just continued the cycle. Copped and resold.” This process allows sneakerheads to fund their hobby, which is incredibly costly.
Many students will go to great lengths and spend large amounts of money in an effort to attain these sneakers. Senior Mason Rivero is willing to spend up to 400 dollars on a pair of sneakers. Alvin sometimes spends 2,500 dollars on a pair of sneakers. However most students are only willing to spend from 200 to 250 dollars with a few exceptions like junior Louis Colosi who spends 2,700 on sneakers and Aman who spends 750 dollars. Why are people so willing to spend so much money on a pair of sneakers? Sneakers are an important symbol of socioeconomic status and are a way for teens to emulate rap stars and athletes. Alvin says, “They look cool, and you think it gets you girls.”
But it’s more than that—the love for sneakers became a nationwide craze in the 80’s and 90s. After “My Adidas” by Run DMC came out, sneakers began being integrawted into pop culture. Wearing sneakers was seen as a way to emulate idols. When Adidas’ Yeezys came out, Harkaran was immediately enraptured. “I really like Kanye as a rapper, so when I saw them I was immediately interested. He hyped them up so much by wearing them and other celebrities wore them, which made me want them more,” he said. Junior Joshua Singavarpu comments, “Since Kanye West made the [Yeezy Boosts], the sneakers sold out instantly, and the prices surrounding the sneakers skyrocketed.”
There are other categories that sneaker fanatics look for when deciding to invest in a pair of sneakers. A lot of work is put into the design, texture, size, shape, and color all while remaining rooted in the athletic world. When shopping for sneakers Harkaran looks for different things, “If I like the colorway and the shape of it. Or if I know I can resell it for a good profit.”
For many people, wearing sneakers is a form of expression. A lot can be gathered from a quick glance at someone’s feet, many sneakers being associated with movements and ideas, representative of entire generations. Wearing brand names was a way for people to label themselves. Converses are associated with a movement against the conventional and societal rules, gearing toward authenticity, while Nike represents the future and an alliance with athletes. A person’s choice to wear either of these shoes could have several implications, it acts as a medium in which people can convey certain ideas to the public.
Sneaker culture represents a sneakers connection to art, sports and society. It acts as a status symbol, a result of some sneakers’ exclusivity and price. They are a quintessential part of American culture.