While the history of footwear has been long and storied, it’s only in recent years that a collector’s mentality has crept into what had long been a market of need and necessity.
Today, the sneakerhead culture, as it’s come to be known, includes hundreds of thousands of people from all around the world. It is worth billions.
While sneakers have long been a cultural icon, many don’t seem to understand the sneakerhead culture of where it originated from. If you’re not from this world, it can be hard to track.
How did the rise of sneakerhead culture come about, and what should you understand about where it stands today? Keep reading, and we’ll walk you through all the details you should know about.
Early Sneakerhead Culture
There’s no doubt that there are many shoe-obsessed shoppers out there, but when did this whole craze begin? The first sneaker, as we’ve come to classify it, was created just after the turn of the century. It came into being thanks to Marquis Converse, whose last name is likely to ring a few bells.
That shoe? The Chuck Taylor, created in 1917, was the original sneaker and the granddaddy of all that has now been created. The shoe was created for basketball players, but no one at the time could have predicted what the arc of history would do with this kind of creation.
That being said, it would be many decades before the sneaker, and the culture would come together in the way we understand today. It was in the 1980s, when Michael Jordan released his iconic Air Jordan’s, that sneakerhead culture as we know it was really born.
The Air Jordan line of shoes was released in 1985, and the world was never the same. Following the massive success of this product, sports retailers and shoe manufacturers began to craft a wide variety of sneakers for an eager audience.
All of this was taking place at the same time as the initial explosion of hip hop. This new genre of music was taking over the public consciousness for the first time, and these sneakers became a big part of the initial culture.
Hip-hop culture helped cement the sneaker as part of an enviable look. They turned the sneaker into a status symbol, which meant those with Air Jordans could feel above those without.
These factors combined to create a culture of mass demand, and a collector’s mentality soon followed. The more sneakers you had, the cooler you would be seen in the eyes of the culture. That’s the basis of sneakerhead history.
Sneakerhead Culture Continues
What was initially kickstarted in the 1980s has only escalated upwards in the years that have followed. The position of Michael Jordan and Air Jordans still has retained importance in the sneakerhead conversation, but now the breadth of shoes available is simply awe-inspiring.
What does it mean to be a sneakerhead in the 21st century?
Most of those who would call themselves part of this specific subculture has a large focus on collecting many pairs of sneakers. They own collections at home and might have entire closets filled up with dozens of pairs of different sneakers, often from different eras.
The demand for new sneakers has created scarcity when new products drop, which means those in the sneakerhead community have to work extra hard to get their hands on new releases when they come.
That’s why you’ll often find a long line of hungry young folk outside of various stores the day new sneakers are released. They queue up early to try to get their hands on a limited quantity, much in the same way people might queue up for a long-awaited film release.
The goal is to have the greatest and coolest collection, mixing the old and new. While sneaker collecting is about wearing the shoes sometimes, for many, it’s simply about keeping an enviable collection stocked up.
Selling, Trading, and Inter-Community Communications
Another big part of modern sneaker culture is the kind of transactions that take place outside of the major sneaker stores. Sneakerheads have a rich and vibrant culture and have found numerous ways of connecting with one another.
There are web forums, phone apps, and in-person meet-ups where the sneaker obsessed can go. Here, they can argue about everything from Nike vs Adidas to the design of the new Yeezys.
It’s within these vibrant communities that another key element of modern sneaker culture exists. Just as important as collecting is trading or reselling. There are many sneakerheads that get a buzz off of buying shoes and selling them for a profit – some people even do it as a job.
Others treat it more like trading cars, sharing their collections with others, and making a swap when a mutually beneficial arrangement can be found.
When you look inside sneakerhead culture, you’ll find it’s a true subculture in every sense of the word, with like-minded individuals coming together in pursuit of the same goals and principles.
It’s also a global community. While different countries found sneakerhead culture exploding at different times since the 80s, today, the obsession is just about everywhere.
The popularization of new shoe brands like Kanye West’s Yeezy brand has only fanned the flame. Today, to be a sneakerhead is to be a part of a worldwide group.
Understand Sneakerhead Culture
If you’re new to the world of shoe collecting, sneakerhead culture might feel somewhat alien to you. Taking the time to understand the history and details above can give you a better grasp of the popular subculture.
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