Do You Have to Know Everything About Sneakers to Be a Real Sneakerhead?

There's a constant war between O.G. and newjack sneakerheads, but can you blame someone for not knowing everything about every shoe ever made?

DJ Khaled AIr Jordan IIIs
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DJ Khaled AIr Jordan IIIs

Sneaker nerds can talk about shoes, and argue with each other until they’re blue in the face. It’s not just enough to go out and buy the latest and coolest Nikes, Adidas, or Jordans, you have to know every single historical nugget about them, too. Who designed the shoe? When was it first released? How many pairs were made? Which celebrity wore them in an advertisement that was printed before you were born? All of that is viewed as requisite knowledge for anyone who wants to consider themselves a sneaker connoisseur or, better yet, label themself with the dubious title of being a “sneakerhead.” But what if none of that matters, or at least to the extent we think it does? That case might be more true than ever.

Alright, let’s cut through the bullshit and fanciful intros. Here’s where the story gets started. We had renowned Sneaker YouTuber Qias Omar on Full Size Run a few weeks ago, and he got a lot of shit for it. Some saying he got exposed and that his career was over. Here’s the long and short of it: He came on the show, I asked him a bunch of tough questions, and he didn’t have the right answers for the right people. He didn’t know which year a certain Air Jordan retro was released, the Wu-Tang Dunk (or the Wu-Tang Clan), or about commonplace outerwear brands like Canada Goose and Moncler. He got dragged through the coals over all of that in the comments. Here’s why: He has over one million subscribers on YouTube and is viewed as one of the biggest voices in the space. He makes his living off of sneakers, and people think he should know more than a thing or two about shoes outside of the latest Yeezy colorway or Off-White x Nike collaboration. To keep it simple, he doesn’t. Qias can defend himself all that he wants, but he doesn’t know what sneaker was the first to have a computer in it, the first brand to collaborate with Nike SB was, or what off-the-wall brands gave Glen Rice signature sneakers. Does that make him any less of a sneaker connoisseur? A trillion percent.

What I’m saying, though, is that all of that doesn’t hold as much weight as we put on it. I’m not here to slander Qias, but rather to prove a point. There’s a time and place for the nerdiest of sneaker nerds. And I’m here for it. But what we do, to a certain degree, is more about entertainment than being an encyclopedia about shoes. We are here to inform our audiences, and, yes, that takes preparation, loads of research, and genuine care for the subject you’re reporting on. If someone who does sneaker stuff for a living doesn’t know every facet of a shoe, don’t call them out for not being a real sneakerhead, there are plenty of them who don’t know that stuff, but what they’re bad at is doing their job.

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I don’t know everything about everyone I interview before I talk to them, but I look them up on the Internet, read past interviews, and watch old videos to find out who they are. People who call themselves Sneaker YouTubers should do the same with the shoes they’re talking about. One thing you can’t teach is how to make people care about your content. Of course there are techniques you can implement into a video or a story that make it more comical or give it a deeper meaning, but there’s something you can’t teach about being a natural entertainer. There are plenty of people I know who know more about sneakers than a lot of people, but I don’t want to see them get their own YouTube show.

DJ Khaled, apparently, knows next to nothing about sneakers. But he has his own Air Jordans, is entertaining, and is proof that there's something behind having a personality behind a pair of shoes that makes them more interesting.

We’re not gonna let people off the hook for not knowing everything about shoes, but we can’t expect that everyone knows even morsel of footwear knowledge out there. There are plenty of things I don’t know about shoes, and that’s OK. There is, however, a base knowledge of shoe stats you should know if you want to be taken seriously in this industry. If you can’t answer the year Nike was founded, when The Air Jordan 1 or Air Force 1 first came out, or what was Kanye West’s first sneaker with Adidas, I don’t care what you have to say about shoes. You can learn about those things, though. Put yourself on timeout, come back better, and prove that you are equal parts likeable and knowledgeable. The best part about anything in this world is that you can always learn more about it. Not all of us were there in 1988 when Michael Jordan dunked from the free-throw line. As the years go on, less and less of us will know about it. Rather we need to teach the younger kids about this stuff or learn it ourselves.

There are some people out there who aren’t footwear historians who know and love sneakers. Think Nas or Jay-Z know everything about every shoe? Doubt it. I don’t think anyone would question that they love shoes, though.

So should we be O.G. purists who tells everyone else to fuck off if they don’t know something about our favorite shoes? No. Can we give them shit for it? Absolutely, but we should also teach them along the way. Should we also hate people who make good content that’s not 100 percent sneaker nerdom? Not into that, either. If you think someone is corny, it should be about more than them not being the world’s biggest expert. But if you find yourself clicking their videos, they’re doing one thing right.

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