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Sneaker culture, no matter how big it gets, is an insider thing. Either you get it or you don't. Year after year and release after release there are more people who will profess their love for sneakers. Like any other subculture, these new participants need to pick up on a series of slang terms and norms, so they don't stick out like a sore thumb and get labeled as a lame or, worse yet, a hypebeast. In an attempt to explain this mystifying world to the newcomer, the Phoenix New Times tried its best to relay this secretive world to the average person in an article titled "10 Sneaker Terms You Need to Know When Getting Into Kicks." The results are hilarious.
The terms that the article selects are as follows: Colorways, beaters, retro, PP/inv, Yeezy, GR/limited, grails, bred, DS, and unauthorized/replica.
From the beginning the author asks the question: "Does anyone really get into the sneaker world and go straight to Kith or Nike SB?"
For many people, their first introduction to sneakers was through Nike SB Dunks or trying to chase down a pair of Ronnie Fieg x ASICS, but we'll look past that and get into the meat of how strange things in sneaker culture sound when spoke about in plain terms.
Beaters, as the name suggests, are sneakers that aren't in pristine condition and the owner could care less that they're not kept crispy. As the author says, "A 'beater box' is exactly what it sounds like, it’s a box full of beaters, and they can generally provide a good budget starting point if you’re just looking to pick up some decent old kicks on the cheap."
The term "beater box" itself is laughable in its own right, but trying to tell someone about this concept leads to a risky proposition: Imagine someone walking into the local Foot Locker and inquiring, "Do you have any beaters?"
When trying to unpack that some sneakers are worth more than others, the article states: "A colorway with a well-known nickname is almost definitely going to be worth more than one without, and that goes double for collaborations with other designers."
This is a slippery slope, but a sneaker's worth is deeper than well-known nicknames and artist collaborations. Expensive sneakers don't have high price tags because of what they're called, it's because of the sneaker's cultural connotation and how good the colorway looks.
Then there's the talk of the "Yeezy" and limited-edition sneakers, which might actually be helpful. My dad likes to talk to me about my work from time to time and realizes that I write a lot about Kanye West and his sneakers. That's because I work at Complex and you folks eat that stuff up like one wouldn't believe. He pronounces it as "Yezzy."
As the author writes when explaining Yeezys and "grails," "Speaking of limited kicks (and Yeezys), a 'grail' 'is a pair of sneakers that someone wants more than any other pair. People are generally willing to spend well over the retail price, sometimes even over the market value, for their personal grails. While grail status is generally reserved for more limited shoes, there doesn’t have to be any rhyme or reason for why someone chose a specific pair to be their grails."
And that's just it: There's no rhyme and reason to a lot of this, at least to the passerby. Trying to sum it up in a 10-part list makes it even worse, because that's like trying to immerse someone into a foreign culture by telling them 10 key phrases. They'd have an idea of what you're talking about, or maybe they wouldn't, and miss the point all together.
However, it's a start.