Mubi Ali writes exclusively for the 2017 Sole Magazine, which you can see here
Images from the Crooked Tongues 10th Anniversary BBQ held at London's Shoreditch Studio - Sept 2010
A question I’m usually asked is “Does Sneaker Culture exist?” or “What is Sneaker Culture to you?” for both these questions I’m not sure what to say, as there is so much going on in the Sneaker World today. With the combination of social media, and the sheer volume of sneakers being released on a weekly basis that has significance, that you MUST HAVE “for the toe”, or for resell, everything seems a little forced and has lost authenticity.
I come from an era where it was weird to have more than 5+ pairs of sneakers in your possession and you were a weirdo if you had over 50 pairs and knew the whole story of each shoe from designer to what the shoe was used for or the story behind it. Today it’s the absolute norm to have 50+ shoes in your home but not know anything about them, you are automatically so cool, trendy and have the finger on the pulse, if you openly talk about and share it on social media. That’s another thing – Knowledge – where has all the sneaker knowledge gone? Who is the next GWARIZM aka Gary Warnett aka the true Sneakerpedia! I’m amazed every day the amount of new people who randomly hit me up for a hook up for the latest ‘hype’ release that never spoke to me about shoes previously, I mean a decade ago I was a mad man for being into sneakers and having over 1000 pairs...LOL... look at me now 4000+ and still going strong!
Sneaker culture used to be nice and pleasant back in the early ‘00s when Crooked Tongues, Nike Talk etc were in their prime. There was a true sense of community and proper interest from a relatively small group of people globally, that were into the weird and wonderful world of Sportswear. Lots of love and appreciation was shown to one another, not saying there was no hate – there are always haters, but it was cool to have monthly meets and have civilised events, and parties all based around sneakers and the culture around it all including hip hop, actual sport, and fashion. I’m not saying that does not happen today, it’s just natural for everything to explode and become mainstream, just the sheer volume of people that are into it today. There are always opportunities and this is where I see the main problem, which is that dirty word re-sell.
Sneaker culture has manifested into many more so called “sub-cultures”, what this means IMHO (forum users should chuckle at this abbreviation) include the following: 1.Instagram “influencers” can be defined as people who buy to gram and gain likes and a following to be a part of the “culture” and whatever comes with it today. 2. Resell culture - reselling is crazy today. Every “hype” queue starts with multiple resellers as individuals or groups that buy to resell anything worth reselling. 3. Actual collectors who still collect and buy multiple pairs weekly and try to stay in touch with the sneaker world. Either embracing social media or turning their noses up at it and still reminiscing (sounds a bit like me). 4. Followers of influencers - this includes music personalities, sports stars, movie stars etc and insta famous influencers and purchase according to what their heroes are into.
There are probably many more to mention but you get the idea, these are just some of the sub-cultures I’ve been exposed to over the past 5 social media years. The Sneaker culture has become a huge commercial opportunity for all the big brands and individuals. With 10-15 significant launches on a weekly basis and brands not slowing down - how does any fan boy/girl keep up with it all? It is impossible.
Today I personally feel Sneaker culture is less about sharing love and more about the self-opportunity. There is so much trolling and everything feels so selfish and 'me, me, me'. When people share, or what I call show off, it comes with a lot of ‘fake love’ and ‘very authentic hate’. Then there’s the so-called influencers of the sneaker world with purchased followers and likes on social media to gain sneaker fame, I mean seriously what is that all about? I get the whole thing about taking nice images and sharing with the world, but the part I don’t get is the wanting to be an influencer and rub shoulders with the so-called sneaker elite, or sneaker royalty. All brands want to engage with the youth today and one way of doing this is thru the influencers. I just don’t see too many authentic influencers, it’s very hard to see who is influencing and who is purely engagement and likes. That GullyGuyLeo - that’s an influencer, he has the youth on his side and good luck to him.
As someone that works in the industry I totally get the frustration of not being able to cop the latest YEEZY or limited release then seeing next man with 20+ pairs available for resell, a word of advise don’t be salty or hate on retailers in particular as honestly their hands are tied. Demand vs actual numbers do not add up, and if the demand was met would the YEEZY be as appealing? I doubt it. This is why the hype releases are so limited, so that the thirst for the release is real and people make sure they go out of their way to cop. Personally, I don’t like where we are at today and I feel like the love and fun has been squeezed out by some of the things above.
As all humans become more accustomed to modern day comfort, economies growing etc - there is no way back now, there is absolutely nothing I can see on the horizon or distant future that will infiltrate the Sneaker juggernaut...and long may it continue! Amongst all the rubbish that is released there are always some gems that come thru and brands are occasionally doing some fun things, which still excites me today. I know the above sounds like an old man ranting about how things used to be and totally disregarding what’s currently happening today - honestly, I just want things to be nice again, Crooked Tongues moto was - ‘show love and drop knowledge’ - that’s all I want everyone to embrace.
More Sneaker Related Articles.