I've been buying sneakers for over a decade now. My first pair of Air Jordans were had when I was 15 or 16 years old, when I was still some herb in high school trying to fit in. It was between 2002-2003 when my affinity for sneakers grew into something larger than just a simple flex. I would spend hours browsing Nike Talk reading up on the latest SB drops and retro Jordan rumors, hours cramming years worth of sneaker history and lore into my nascent, teenage brain so I wouldn't get sonned in class or, god forbid, the internet. Liking sneakers then was akin to being a dedicated sports fanatic; knowing every statistic and fact about a player was crucial to your rep. It was an important time for sneaker culture because this was when dropping knowledge on your peers was considered a badge of honor and when 'hype' gained mainstream attention. It was when the modern sneakerhead was born.
I've come to a point where I'm simply getting too old to care about the general minutiae of sneaker knowledge.
Most 'heads of yore would balk at being labeled a hypebeast. But the truth is it's how many of us, myself included, got caught up in this crazy world of kicks. I entered the game buying the newest Air Jordan retro I could get my hands on, not because I grew up in reverence to them, but because this was what you were supposed to do if you were a sneakerhead. I knew that the Air Jordan VIII "Playoff" low wasn't an OG iteration when they dropped in August 2003 because I'd researched its history, but I bought them anyway because they were cool at the time and I was impressionable. Older 'heads saw them as an abomination, but us younger folks didn't give a shit. We knew it was a classic, sort of.
And it's for this reason that I'll never be the sneakerhead I thought I was. I'm never going to memorize every significant moment of Michael Jordan's career and which signature shoe was the most pivotal. I won't be able to tell you exactly which years the OG Air Max 1 dropped or how many pairs were produced. I've come to a point where I'm simply getting too old to care about the general minutiae of sneaker knowledge. I no longer stress about what's dropping and when, I'll just accept it for what it is. Do these people who care deeply about the game still exist and play a major part of the culture? Of course. And maybe they are the true 'heads here and I'm just fronting, but these days I tend to like what I like without getting wrapped up in the details.
I know practically nothing about Kobe Bryant aside from him being a lifelong Laker, but did I recently cop the Kobe 9 Elite Low "Beethovens" because they're a beautifully designed sneaker? You're damn right I did. Back then sneakers used to be the sole focus of an outfit, but now the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The simple flex of having the flyest kicks is no longer the case and today sneakers are as much a part of your style as the kind of jeans or t-shirt you're wearing. I went from buying kicks as a sneakerhead to a style-conscious guy who just really loves sneakers, and I wouldn't have it any other way.
Is that so bad? Does this make me any less of a sneakerhead? Am I even considered a sneakerhead at this point? Maybe what matters most now is that there is no real distinction anymore. As sneaker culture grows it'll only permeate and upend other industries as it did with fashion. Sneakers have become so intertwined with fashion that you don't need to be adept at either to have an appreciation for them and to recognize its cultural significance. After some self-reflection, perhaps I'm really not the sneakerhead I thought I was and I'm okay with that, so long as I've got some nice sneakers on my feet and a dope kit on my back.
Daniel So is an associate editor at Complex and a recovering #menswear bro. You can follow him on Twitter here.