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It’s the most basic question, but possibly the most difficult to answer: Of all the things you could be into, why sneakers? This used to be a pretty simple thing—you were into sneakers because you were into the sport they were made for. Now? Not so much.
THE SNEAKER COMMUNITY IS HUGE NOWADAYS, AND THERE’S PLENTY OF ROOM FOR EVERYONE. TURNING ON SOMEONE ELSE FOR BUYING SNEAKERS FOR THE “WRONG” REASON IMPLIES THAT THERE’S A RIGHT ONE.
Keep in mind that there is no wrong answer. Not within the confines of this column, anyway. Any reason is valid as long as it’s honest. In it for the Instagram likes? Cool. View sneakers as the ultimate short-term investment and cop just to make a couple hundred bucks a weekend? Legit. You’re genuinely into the designs? Great. Just want to break necks? Perfect.
Again, there is no wrong answer. Much like The Hundreds, the sneaker community is huge nowadays, and there’s plenty of room for everyone. Turning on someone else for buying sneakers for the “wrong” reason implies that there’s a right one. Which, generally speaking, just coincidentally happens to be the reason the person pointing out the “wrong” reason claims.
The sneaker companies themselves certainly don’t care why you buy their products, as long as you keep doing it. Nike released their quarterly report yesterday, and there’s no way they’d be making anywhere near as much as they are if they were just selling basketball shoes to basketball players and running shoes to runners. If people want to treat Nikestore as a wholesale hub, that’s fine with them—as long as the sellouts continue.
The easiest thing to do? Stop wondering why the other guy is into sneakers, and figure out why you’re into it. And be honest with yourself. There’s no need to try and claim some kind of O.G. status when you were born after Michael Jordan won his last championship, just as there’s no need to claim anything other than a desire for Instagram fame when your VSCO Cam pictures have higher production values than a Michael Bay flick. Acceptance is easier than trying to maintain some kind of facade.
In turn, accept other people’s reasoning as well. And don’t hold other people to unreasonable standards. Believe it or not, it’s possible to appreciate a sneaker like the Air Jordan III without knowing who designed it or how many points per game Michael Jordan averaged while wearing it. There is no entrance exam for becoming a sneakerhead or whatever the fashionable new term is. Just like sneakers. That’s it.
Here’s my hope: That people who get into sneakers through any avenue eventually become curious enough to dig deeper. That the person who sees an Air Jordan III on the shelf and buys it uses it as an entry point to discover (or re-discover) Spike and Mike commercials, Mike in the ‘88 Dunk Contest, and the work of Tinker Hatfield. Not everyone will. Which is fine, too. Everyone who wears a pair of jeans can’t wax eloquent about Levi Strauss.
And that’s really the crux of it, where we are. Back in the day, sneakers—especially old sneakers—were a niche thing. There were expectations, even assurances, that anyone into old kicks to the point where they’d dig for them probably knew something about what they were wearing beyond what was embroidered on the tongue. That’s not the case anymore. Vintage footwear is a product, a commodity, and the only investment anyone needs to make to get into sneakers is a monetary one. Anything more is a bonus.
Russ Bengtson is a senior staff writer at Complex who is into sneakers for all the right reasons. You can follow him on Twitter here.