Written by Tommie Battle (@BoneyStarks)
Allow me to preface with an anecdote.
Around 2006 my wife, then girlfriend, comes back into my apartment and tells me, "Some guy just asked if I was MyTsharp's girlfriend." Now, in any other circumstance, if someone I didn't know recognized my chick, I'm going to be a bit concerned that I'm being stalked. However, this is a bit different, MyTsharp was my Niketalk screen name, and I posted way too much.
What differentiated 'NT' as it’s affectionately called, from other sites was that it was the origin for a lot of what we see today in music, clothing and online culture.
As they say, "It’s just the internet."
I've had a love/hate relationship with message boards. While some are engaging, intuitive, and informative, others are filled with bland junk, arguing users, and stale content. I was a senior in high school in late 2000 when the 'net as we know it was fairly new. A classmate, Kendall, was spying the Air Jordan XI on a website with a black and red background. I noticed, but wasn't paying attention.
You see, I was a fan of Neoprodigy.com. It was a site where the webmaster (remember those?) was was a kid from nearby University of Maryland who had access to sample shoes, and was taking pics of said samples for all to see. Hyperflights, Foamposites, Flightposites, when it came to the new stuff, (er, back then) he was the man.
Through this site I discovered Niketalk.com. I then realized that this was the same site that I had seen some months earlier in class. I lurked for a few months, and then I joined, using the name "MyTsharp." I would be an active contributor for the next 10 years.
What differentiated "NT," as it’s affectionately called, from other sites was that it was the origin for a lot of what we see today in music, clothing, and online culture. Bobby Hundreds would post there, Ben Baller and DJ AM would post there, Jeff Staple posted there, future musicians like Dom Kennedy, J.Cole, and Wale tested the waters with their music. Writers like Complex’s own Russ Bengtson all posted within the realms of that black and red message board.
This was the first time I had ever heard of web summits, and while I'm positive other sites would have meetups, I'm sure none had meetups like this. Looking back, they were always a bit "sword fightish," or testosterone heavy. You didn't come to a summit without your best gear. That's where you learned that there were other weirdos like you in real life. People came to Niketalk for the sneaker information and stayed for the conversation. The General and Music forums were where sneakerheads were able to discuss their daily lives, interests, and connect with sneakerheads on things that weren't just sneakers.
While other sneaker forums and sites existed, none were quite like this. You received honest and immediate feedback with everything you posted.
While other sneaker forums and sites existed, none were quite like this. You received honest and immediate feedback with everything you posted. Guys inspected their sneakers, knew their shit, and could help you with anything from workouts to soccer cleats. It really was, and still is, an organic community.
The craziest thing about NT to me was the dynamic between the users and what seemed to be a constant ability to be ahead of trends. Users took cues from other fashion sites like Superfuture and incorporated their own style.
Niketalk was and still is also used as a way for brands to do free research. I've seen Nike reproduce niche shoes because members were begging for a retro (see: Air Pillar). I’ve also seen the hype machine that can be created by the forum. One being a fake story that had the Yuengling Beer Factory flooded with calls about a non-existent Dunk SB in 2005. There were also situations like samples being leaked months in advance by users like Ekin and Snuggles McDougall. I personally know of employees of shoe retailers who lost their jobs for sharing minute details on the site, way before getting fired over social media was a thing.
The line "just the Internet" doesn't necessarily hold the same weight that it did a few years ago. Bonds and friendships are being formed. People are meeting and getting married off of technology that was originally intended to provide information to the masses.
Niketalk, like ISS and Solecollector forums, was a place where many of the people who formed the footwear and streetwear culture as we know it today first met. Whether that is a good or bad thing remains to be seen. But with the vast amount of sneaker resources we have in 2014, it’s worth remembering where a lot of them got their start.
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