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What makes Sneaker collecting a subculture?

i) Subcultural Resistance
There are many ways to argue whether or not something is a subculture. Writer and sociologist of culture Sarah Thornton creates a list of essentials that the average subcultures need to be deemed a subculture, the first being Subcultural Resistance. Subcultural Resistance can come in many forms. There can be resistance within the subculture or disagreement with members of another subculture.
Moral Panic was the initial act of subcultural resistance. In the mid 1980s, Sneakers were the most sought after fashion accessory for most inner-city kids. In the 80s and 90s they were so sought after that kid rob other kids for their sneakers. It became a serious issue, that made it to the cover an Issue of Sports Illustrated in 1990 and made headlines several times. So with all these kids robing each other for their sneakers, the earliest sneaker collectors were thieves and criminals who obtained their sneakers in bad ways. 1985, Amateur hip hop artist Gerald Deas, best known as Dr. Deas wrote a song entitled “Felon Shoes” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3wBE7gYbe6I) that described the people who wore sneakers as felons.

Popular Hip Hop Trio Run Dmc, who were big fans and collectors of Adidas Superstars Saw this attack and contested this song with a song of their own entitled “My Adidas” where challenged Dr. Deas song by saying things like “They are not used as Felon Shoes”, “I wore my sneakers but I’m not a sneak” and “No shoe string in ’em, I did not win ’em / I bought em off the Ave with the tags still in ’em”.



Later on in 2003, Moral panic ensues after Sneaker Riot in Manhattan’s lower east side. In 2003 Nike released a ultra rare Nike Pigeon SB Dunk with 150 pairs available and were only made available in select New York boutiques. The very last 35 pairs of the shoe were being released at Jeff’s Staple Boutique “Reed Space” in Manhattan’s lower east side. Jeff Staple was the owner and designer of the shoe and was releasing a even rarer version of his show with his insignia laser etched into the shoe. People who knew about this shoe being released camped out outside of Staple’s store for several days to get an opportunity to buy the shoe. Police arrived on the morning of the day of the release and saw a large crowd of 200 people waiting to get this shoe and asked everyone to leave since they “assembling illegally”. The crowd refuses since many of the members had been camping out for more than two days and a riot results. 35 people got shoes that day but at great danger from rioting mobs and near by thieves that heard about the event. For the first time ever moral panic comes from the lifestyle of a sneaker collector and dangers of hunting for shoes.

The Second form of subcultural resistance comes from notion of insiders vs outsiders and “…the distinctions between authentic and In authentic ” (Thorton 4), in other words Hypebeast versus Sneaker heads. Sneaker heads tend to collect all the highly saught after and rare shoes from all manufactures: Adidas, Nike, Jordan, Reebok, Vans, and Puma. But lately Sneaker culture has been hit with mainstream media, specifically in music, that has “hyped up” certain styles of sneaker. Nike SBs and some Jordans have been hyped up the most and have become the most sought after since 2005. Prior to 2005 the average Sneaker head was able to a pair of Nike SBs at his or her most private underground boutique with very little issues, no need to camp out, or without breaking his or her bank. Now with popular culture shedding light on sneaker culture, making it mainstream, it has become increasingly difficult to find those same sneakers without resorting to old measures. Not only had the hype destroyed the sneaker world for true Sneaker heads, it made sneakers too desirable that countless fakes are being made making it even harder for Sneaker head to find authentic shoes.
Hypebeasts made have made collecting sneakers into a fad lifestyle and the mainstream media are always looking for the next fad. The Hypebeast fad has already begun to die making sneaker collecting a fad on it own. The mainstream has shifted gears from collecting Jordans and Nike SBs to Haute Couture and high end clothing making sneaker collecting a fad from the 2000s that is totally outdated.

Kanye and Stripper Friend Amber Rose wearing Jordan 3s

Kanye Present Day

ii) Micromedia: How do Sneaker heads communicate with other Sneaker heads?
Thorton discusses two ways in which members of a subculture communicate. The first one is flyers. Flyers are very popular for local events relating to sneakers such as sneaker markets and auctions where sneaker heads go to sell and trade their shoes and sneaker parties where sneaker heads gather to get drunk. One of the more popular events is “Sneaker Pimps” which is held nationally. “Sneaker Pimps” is a large sneaker event with live music from artist(s) that somewhat up to date with sneaker culture and sneakerheads come to trade and sell sneakers.

Sole Collector Magazine

Rostin with his pigeons in 2005


Sneaker Pimps Chicago


The second form of communication that Thorton discusses is fanzines. Fanzines do exist in sneaker culture but are very rare since sneaker culture is mostly Internet based now. “Sneaker Freaker” was a considered a zine at one time but has picked up steam and become a full-blown publication now. Sole Collector magazine is another magazine that derived from sneaker culture. For the most part sneaker culture has been internet based with forum like ISS, Sole Collector forum, and Niketalk. Websites that sold rare sneakers have become a place for appraisal and information on rare shoes. Vintage Kicks (now known as FlightclubLa and Flightclubny) has been the source for finding how much certain shoes were worth, what an authentic (rather than fake) looks like, what the market looks like for certain brands, and to see new shoes. Vintage Kicks early on in 2005 was considered too expensive for most collectors but a useful tool and now Vintage kicks updated so much on the information aspect of their site that you can see graphs and tables on trends in sales and prices or certain shoes. (see: http://www.flightclub.com/g.php?fc=la&c=sb&i=080146)Vintage kicks prices are still overpriced today. Most collectors go to pickyourshoes.com and napsize.com for their sneaker needs if they decide not to camp out.

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