Getting some questions fired my way by my friend Mr David Hellqvist aka. The Baron, who’s running the online element of the mighty ‘Port’ magazine on the subject of sports footwear, I was left pondering what my problem is with the term “sneakerhead” and the notion of “sneaker culture” (other than the use of the term “sneaker” if you’re a Brit, which sounds as awkward as when white people say “riddim” or “swag”) — they sum up a certain mindset that I find difficult to fathom. I don’t understand how a “sneaker culture” could ever exist alone?
To me, “sneaker culture” is a form of in-breeding that feeds off itself rather than outside forces to become a big game of soggy biscuit (probably the fifth time I’ve used exactly the same circle jerk analogy on here – it hints at some kind of psychological problem). It turns something that was once affiliated with a certain level of style into moody polybagged pedantry worthy of the comic book guy from ‘The Simpsons.’ Kids get clowned for getting some fruity nickname wrong. Wore becomes “UNds’d” and bought becomes “copped.” People take a strange obsession with whether other people wear what they buy. If they can’t afford it, people weep over social media instead of finding something cheaper, different and just as good (which, if memory serves me, was the backbone of shoe hoarding back in the day). People who queue overnight for a colourway berate “Hypebeasts” for getting into stuff for some supposed wrong reason.
The minute you can be shoehorned into a top ten list of things you “sneakerheads” do, it’s probably time to get out that beige box. Shorn of sub-cultural affiliations and reasons for wearing something beyond the prestige of limited edition it’s just men staring at each other’s feet solemnly and sportswear turned into an unrelenting wish list hindered by an anxiety over what drops the following weekend. If your emotional attachments are with the shoes rather than the cultures they’re attached to, something’s gone wrong. Without the shoeboxes clogging up my everyday existence, I’d be liberated — without the music, skate and pop cultural ephemera that trips me up every morning, I’d be miserable.
Each to their own, but while I’m still disturbingly enthusiastic about trainers and the cultures they fit into, the world of the “sneakerholic” and whatever godawful exhibition, t-shirt brand or — worst of all — mainstream feature that begins with something insipid like “Watch out Imelda Marcos!” is a baffling mystery to me. There aren’t many things that begin with “Sneaker” that don’t make me want to self-harm (shouts to my buddies at Sneaker Freaker and Sneaker News though — definitely exempt from this rant), but the po-faced world it seems to have spawned in the last 24 months is something I want to keep a distance from. Salutes to everyone who just amasses boxes and appreciates shoes without having to buy the matching hat.