I remember watching those videos COMPLEX used to post up where they would go to the SUPREME drops on Lafayette and troll the people in the lines, often catching them off guard with questions regarding the history of the product they were buying. I vividly remember their video on the SUPREME x Jordan Brand drop, and laughing at the face of this “Scottie Pippen look-alike” when asked “How many rings did Michael Jordan win?”; and with the utmost confidence replied “10!”. Now, for those familiar, Jordan won 6 rings during his career, specifically during his time with the Chicago Bulls.
Now some might think, “well, what if he just likes the product? Can’t that person just enjoy the product and not have to know the complete history of the brand?”; that is a fair point, but when we’re in conversation about arguably the Greatest Basketball Player of All-Time, you’d like to think that before buying into a brand such as Jordan that maybe it would be good to look into it first...right?
This then poses the ever present question, "Is Sneaker Culture still Important?". When I think of "Sneaker Culture", I think of not just the shoe itself, but the impact it had at the time (past and present), the context in which it was designed, the storytelling elements, and why it's still relevant today.
In today's world, if you spoke to the older guys at the sneaker shop you'd hear stories of "back in the good ol' days", you'd have to know someone to get sneakers, or you'd have to travel to get a pair no one in your area (or even country) could get their hands on. Back when regional exclusives where a thing, and collaborations where a rarity, the climate over the last decade and a half has changed almost completely.
We’ve entered a time in sneakers and streetwear where there’s very little exclusivity left. Brands are continuously pumping out sneakers, colour-ways, collaborations, and everything in between. Where you would use to see a Jordan release every other month, now you’ll see 3 Jordan releases every weekend. It’s almost as if the brands heard our call for more, yet once we got what we asked for, it almost seems like we no longer want it; and with the rise of consignment stores, resellers and the internet, we’re almost bombarded with product after product after product. Where we used to spend time hunting for “something”, now we’re going through “everything” just to find something “decent”.
It’s frustrating, but also a blessing in disguise that things are now so much easier to access since we could walk into stores now and back track sneakers from 10-15+ years ago, and have it in our homes within an hour. It’s almost given life to those kids who used to browse the shelves of Footlocker and Athlete's Foot back in the day when the hottest new NIKE’s were on shelves and they could only ever imagine owning them. It’s allowed them the chance to be a shop-front away from nostalgia.
With the advent of social media, and people using it as a platform for business, how often can you say that 15 years ago, you could have complete access to Jordan 1’s from 1985 and 1994? Instagrams such as Gusto Da Ninja, Dogsfoot and Liukangs Closet are all examples of people who have used social media to give people a look into their archives, and offer them a chance to purchase and own a piece of sneaker history.
It's also allowed the OG's of the game to express to a wider audience their love and knowledge for the product. Pulling pieces from the archives, recounting stories of their youth when lining up for sneakers was still a new things, sharing their stories of buying gems on SALE that now go for a pretty penny, and even showing you how buying sneakers could lead to opportunities they couldn't ever imagined.
But with all the glory that we give social media in helping to learn about product and have access to product, it’s created a new age of Hypebeasts and has fed into the culture that’s replaced knowledge for owning the product solely to flex on Instagram. It’s a sad reality to face, where the rich history and design context of a shoe now lost in the mix of teens and adolescents who only really care for the mass appeal.
When sneaker culture used to be a small niche in the grand scheme of product development and marketing, it bred a strong community with a passion unrivaled by any other. Before the whole "sneaker collecting" thing became popular, people would recount times in their lives when their parents could only afford 1 pair of sneakers for the school year. The joy that they'd get from owning a new pair for the school year, where owning it meant loving it, caring for it, picking off small rocks from the grooves, wearing it till it had holes, and even then you'd still wear em like you did the first time you got them.
You'd take your sneakers on an adventure, your first time playing a sport, travelling the world in your favourite sneakers, getting opportunities because of your love for sneakers, it was a completely different world to what it is now. Back then, it represented different chapters in the lives of many growing up in the 90's and into the 2000's.
Surely history is still alive and well in today’s world of sneaker culture. One can say that whilst we focus too much on trying to revive the life of things before our time, it could mean we’re completely missing out on the history that's right before our eyes. But I guess it’s all a mix of subconscious nostalgia and the need to fit in with the current world we're in today.