Written by Tommie Battle (@boneystarks)
I turned 30 years old this past year, and with that comes an entirely new set of social rules. Rules that you sometimes feel are stereotypical, and often constraining. Thirty is a defining age. This is the age at which you're supposed to have your shit together. The age at which you're already supposed to have a house and 2.5 kids. The year in your life where you begin the slow, but inevitable, decline into middle age.
There was a point when I purchased sneakers once every pay period. Sometimes even more than once a month if I could manage, but with a family and a home to maintain, I haven’t been able to do so with such liberty. There are plenty of older sneaker dudes that manage to cop heavy, and still maintain a great lifestyle. I can’t deny that I’d love to be sent a gift box every so often, but who wouldn’t?
I've often asked myself, how much longer will I wear sneakers? Or will I have some new sense of style? Will I have the wherewithal to retire some old styles, in favor of new ones, and still put it together without being that old guy in Jordans?
These days, I have fallen heavy into the runner trend, and places like Crooked Tongues and their now dormant “What One’s Wearing” section has served as a muse to what I purchase. I have a personal rule as a father: dress like a dad, not as an older sibling to my kids.
The way we buy sneakers is different. Hell, the way we show them off has changed.
The landscape has also changed. The way we buy sneakers is different. Hell, the way we show them off has changed. The fact is, social media has impacted damn near everything. In 2014 people look up to faceless Instagram pages, message board users and collectors who floss their Niketown order confirmation screens on Twitter. There are haves and have-nots in every culture. When I grew up, you just didn’t want to be the one caught in bo-bo’s, no matter how fine they made your feet feel. But now it’s different.
Ten years ago, being a sneakerhead was still a considerably niche culture. There were certainly online communities, and people always knew who was holding a pair of general release Jordans versus a hyperstrike pair of Air Maxes. But, it was something that wasn't commercialized, hyped, or...overdone. I feel like the term organic has been run into the ground at this point, but, I don't have a better word to use right now.
There was and will always be a sense of competition in this subculture of sneakers, but it seems like the motivation is different now from what it was, almost as if people are trying to get put on. The quest for internet fame is a bitch, isn't it?
For those that have seen Life, a film in which Martin Lawrence and Eddie Murphy play falsely imprisoned convicts serving a life sentence in prison, there is a scene where Martin is chauffeuring the warden to a bus station to pick up a colleague. In that moment, Martin's character, by then an elderly man, realizes that time has passed him by. He sees younger people dressed and behaving differently, and he looks in the mirror noticing grey hairs and wrinkles. This is not to say that I've ever been imprisoned or am elderly. But at 30, in terms of social media and menswear, in particular sneakers, I sometimes feel like a dinosaur. And in some ways, I am.
I tried to put myself in the mind of a teenager in 2014, which wasn’t hard to do since the wife says I act like one half of the time anyway. It made me wonder who today’s sneakerheads look to. I’ve seen people put loaves of bread next to their black and red Air Jordan XIs, grapes next to their white and purple Air Jordan Vs, and pair their "Oreo" Air Jordan IVs with actual milk. The first question that comes to my mind is: why?
I sometimes feel like a dinosaur. And in some ways, I am.
There’s a yin to every yang. A photo of someone's Red Octobers gets thousands of likes on Instagram, so perhaps the visibility is exactly what is needed to create hype around sneakers today. There are people like Adrian Carter, Marcus Troy, and countless others who have fully turned their love of shoes and clothing into making a living. That, I can respect.
My heavy involvement in social media has lead me to meet some very interesting people, those people share a passion of shoes like I do, it’s another way of connecting and networking with my peers.
In the "golden age," one could say that we looked up to the hustlers on the corner, who rocked the best clothes. The one kid that could always get a pair of Jordans because their mom stood in line for them. The athlete that took the time to create a unique and well-crafted Walt Frazier/Jordan-esque style to add their own flair to their signature shoe. The story has been told numerous times, how “back in the day” (God how I hate saying that) you could visit the mall, walk in, and walk out with whatever you came for. It wasn’t always that simple, often you would have to order from Eastbay, and then wait two to four weeks to receive your items. Air Jordans sat and Air Maxes were collecting dust in mom and pop shops. Plus, it seems like everyone can afford $200 sneakers today. I remember my first pair of $100 shoes: They were Jerome Bettis’ signature shoe, the Air Total Bus, and it was three months worth of allowance.
I’m really trying to understand things, and I want to remain as open minded as possible. But the paradigm shift in sneaker collecting has already started. It’s gone from forums and Sole Collector to full-on sneaker shows, TV programs and an ever-growing publication count. With more social networks, you will see more people trying to get the attention of their peers. Maybe this is my Life moment, and maybe things are just starting to pass me by.