The sneaker culture we see present is not a recent trend. In fact, it’s not a trend at all - it’s a lifestyle.
I remember my first encounter with sneakers. I didn’t realise their significance and how much I'd grow to love them. As I entered the passcode to my apartment, I was excited to finally relax after a long day in the busy streets of Hong Kong. The keypad clicked and I began to push open the door, only for it to stop and hit something barricading its way.
Looking down, I could see that Ravine’s shipments had arrived and the apartment was filled to the brim with beige rectangular boxes, reading “500” on them. “The New Yeezys just dropped! I need to get them to my stores before 5pm,” Ravine (co-founder of Sneaker Surge) shouted. I think every Sneakerhead wifey can relate to this.
I decided to google “Why the hype around Yeezy’s?” and realised that it wasn’t just Yeezy’s that people were selling their kidneys for. There was a whole streetwear subculture fascinated with the art of sneakers - a lifestyle that I would soon fall in love with.
The “Hype” (sorry Virgil) is a marketing technique created years ago that involves a couple of layers in its formation. To start off, brands/companies are limiting availability of their inventory and incrementally rolling out products through raffles and competitions, as well as local and “only in store” releases, for the launch of certain sneaker collections. This results in around the block lines, over night campouts, sellouts, a resale market, and a second hand market as buyers are itching to get their hands on these rare products. It’s human nature to want to emulate your idols; thus, brands give celebrities, entertainers and athletes access and these shoes act as a pre-release to create speculation to make consumers or “hypebeasts” want them even more.
It seems that the Hype around sneakers has exponentially increased in recent years, with conventions such as Sneaker Con going global with a mission to do more than just sell sneakers. Brands are doing collaborations with celebrities, athletes, entertainers and even big sneaker store owners to make this an all-inclusive lifestyle. These collaborations incorporate food, culture and music to reshape sneakers to be a form of wearable art. For example, the Yeezy wave is a collaboration between rapper Kanye West and Adidas. The Kyrie Irving cereal pack includes three variations of shoes that are designed after Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Lucky Charms and Kix, three of the players favourite meal. The Off-White, Nike and Converse alliance took collaborations to a new level, with Virgil Abloh redesigning the Jordans, the converse, the Air Force 1’s and several other retro kicks. These sneakers are in such high demand that people are going to the lengths of counterfeiting them, and risk legal mitigations. According to Sneaker Con Legit authenticators for Sneaker Con 2018, which took place on August 4/5th 2018, they counted twice as many counterfeited sneakers this year than any other Sneaker Con before.
So where are we in the sneaker subculture cycle? Is the sneaker culture at its peak, or are we just getting started? We had the opportunity to discuss this with Jaysse, owner of the infamous Urban Necessities who has been in the Sneaker business for years. Jaysse believes we are in a new cycle in itself as the way people buy and sell sneakers is changing: the trade is becoming more streamlined, efficient and customers are becoming more knowledgable about the products they are buying. In the past, consumers only had an emotional attachment to the sneakers they were buying, because they couldn't get their hands on them. Now, companies like Stock X and Goat are disrupting the industry, by creating new digital platforms for people to buy sneakers. Josh Luber, CEO of Stock X was the first to introduce data analysis to the sneaker industry by creating algorithms that monitor how sneaker prices fluctuate and in turn making prices more competitive than ever. In addition, we all know news travels and hype multiplies, so with all the information being published and being withheld, consumers have a better in-depth understanding of what they are purchasing and are equally speculating about celebrity collaborations and when and where sneakers are being released.
We are entering a new cycle in the sneaker sub-culture, triggered by old marketing methods, yet modified by new technological advances and industry disruptors. The hype around sneakers has penetrated age, race and gender worldwide, making information and product more accessible than ever. The hype has only just begun.