Growing Sneaker Culture Extends Far Beyond Athletes
When you walk into a sneaker convention, you’re bound to hear someone say, “two for five [hundred] right here”, or “four-fifty dead animals”, and “I have the exclusive here of the last drops”.
Does this jargon sound unfamiliar to you? Nope?
For a multitude of enthusiasts who identify as sneakerheads, it’s the everyday lingo that binds them together as a community. Many attended this year’s New York Got Sole Convention, one of the biggest sneaker conventions in the country. It took place August 27 and 28 at the Meadowlands Exposition Center in Secaucus, New Jersey.
“I love coming here,” said Alfred Sumjmer, a vendor at the convention. “I brought my son here to learn the ins and outs of reselling sneakers. We both love sneakers, and being here has given us a chance to bond around something we care about. both,” Alfred said.
This year, thousands of like-minded people descended on Secaucus. “I always come to auto shows and conventions like this because it gives me a chance to see what ordinary people are buying,” salesman Omar Brown said.
Sneaker culture is a lifestyle, which is why major apparel brands have evolved over the past six decades from narrowly creating athletic performance-oriented footwear to designing shoes for fashion. All-time great athletes such as Micheal Jordan popularized sneakers representing Nike around the world and became wealthy in the process. At the start of last NBA season, 22 players had their own signature shoes.
But now, artists including Kanye West have also made their fortunes in the industry. West has teamed up with Adidas to create the Yeezy brand that includes increasingly trending sneakers and slides.
Countless people remember buying their favorite pair of sneakers and saving money in their youth to buy a pair of sneakers they so badly wanted. These are memories shared by everyday working sneaker enthusiasts and famous athletes such as former NFL All-Pro Antonio Brown, a New York Got Sole participant.
“I love the energy here, thousands of people are here showing their love for sneakers and fashion,” said Brown, 34, who won a Super Bowl with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this season. 2020 and is currently free-agent.
“You get a good experience with everyone, you have the veteran sneakerhead of the season and the person who just bought their first pair of sneakers,” Brown observed. “I still remember the first pair of sneakers I bought, I bought a pair of Forces [Air-Force Ones] in fifth grade.
Some sneakerheads are loyal to a specific brand. Others buy a shoe because it is worn by their favorite NBA or NFL player. Many are technicians. Similar to a skilled mechanic who knows exactly what’s under the hood of a car, an experienced sneakerhead knows how to spot a genuine shoe and spot counterfeit shoes.
“You’ll never catch me out here,” Brown said with a laugh.
Bots, short for robots, a computer program that simulates human activity, have changed the way sneakers are bought and sold. “Over the past 15 years or so, the rise of bots has obviously made it harder for the average Joe to find those elusive pairs of shoes and get them,” said Joe LA Puma, senior vice president of strategy at content at Complex.
No matter what the future holds for sneaker culture, the Got Sole convention showed that the essence is still strong and should be for the foreseeable future.