Sneaker Culture

The evolution of footwear revolutionizes the world and McLean


COOL COLLECTION — Junior Brigham Devore poses with some of his Air Jordan sneaker collection. “[I] Worked hard to get these, it was a good drop for me,” Devore said.

For decades, brands like Nike, Adidas, Reebok and Converse have dominated shoewear and made big waves in the fashion industry. Their versatility and comfort have made them staples for all types of outfits, from high fashion to everyday attire. As classic styles have made a comeback in recent digital-borne trends, sneaker culture—the sub-culture revolving around the collection and trading of sneakers—has become popular among teenagers.
“Sneaker culture has blown up. When I think back to being in high school, it seems like no one cared about sneakers specifically. Depending on the season, people wore a lot of boots, sandals, or slip-on shoes,” math teacher Margo Nye said. “There was not nearly as much of an emphasis on sneakers, especially for women’s fashion. For men, I feel like sneaker culture has remained more consistent and only feels like it has blown up more due to social media.”
The growth of e-commerce and social media have changed how trends work and made sneaker collecting more accessible to teenagers as a hobby.
“I have noticed a growth in social media’s ability to determine trends in the past few years. It now seems like there is a new ‘it’ sneaker every year, whereas I feel like sneakers stayed trendy for a few years when I was younger,” social studies teacher Amanda Williams said.
Celebrity brand deals have long supercharged the demand for sneakers, but manufacturers have begun to take greater advantage of these agreements in an age of obsessive trading and reselling.
“I think the main pioneers [of brand endorsements] have been athletes. However, over the years, more and more celebrities have started to step into this space and drive the sneaker trends we see becoming popular,” Nye said.
Nike has long dominated the athletic footwear industry. Their brand deal with Michael Jordan in 1984 has had a huge impact on sneaker culture, and shoes laced with the iconic “Jordan” emblem are still popular today.
“Nike and the Jordans would be the first big shoe company pushing [sneaker culture] forward. Since then, I would say the athletes are the people that have really delved in and tried to encourage more change in [the sneaker] industry,” Physics teacher William Thomas said.
With the development of the sneaker market and online retail came the reselling concept, where people buy limited-edition sneakers and resell them for a profit.
“I would say the sneaker market has improved because you have all these online retailers that you didn’t have 10-15 years ago actually selling you very special edition [shoes], where normally you’d have to go to the store and actually be on site to pick it up,” Thomas said. “ The idea and premise of being able to access certain shoes is becoming a greater industry, and you’re seeing more fashion trends evolve that way.”
In the burgeoning sneaking resale market, there have been multiple pioneer platforms like GOAT, Stockx, and Grailed. These websites allow all types of people to sell sneakers and other limited-edition athletic wear. Developers have also begun selling bots, which automatically purchase shoes without a physical user having to watch a retail website when limited-edition products release.
“There are a lot of platforms I have used for shoes,” junior Tommy Lam said. “Usually, you check where shoes are dropping on and at what time and plan ahead accordingly. As I got more interested in the hobby, I have used some sneaker bots.”
Specialty platforms like GOAT leverage the high price of products on their site to extract a generous share of the seller’s revenue. As a result, some traders like Lam have shifted away from these platforms to keep a larger portion of the sale price.
“To start, I would just sell sneakers on Stockx and GOAT, but I realized that they take a very large cut of your profits in exchange for the ease of use,” Lam said. “I slowly transferred to sites like eBay and selling on Instagram because you can control the price better, which results in a larger profit margin.”
Some people argue that buying limited-edition sneakers in mass quantities and reselling them makes the products less accessible, but others disagree.
“It’s basic supply and demand. People want the shoes, so they are [going to] sell for a lot. I don’t think botting is unfair. It is a lot harder and a lot more expensive than people think,” junior Brigham Devore said.
Still, sneakers remain popular for all types of consumers.
“[I love sneakers because of their] comfort and diversity. There are a lot of different options available, and generally, they’re more comfortable than dress shoes, so I would prefer to wear sneakers,” Thomas said. “I’m wearing sneakers right now as opposed to my dress shoes because, you know, I’m going to have to work after school, so I want to feel fresh.”