Celeb Sneakerheads Bring the Community Closer Together During Isolation

While everyone is in isolation avoiding COVID-19, celebrities like Fat Joe and LeBron James have used Instagram Live to bring the sneaker community together.

IG Sneakers Quarantine
Complex Original

Image via Complex Original

IG Sneakers Quarantine

"Do you want me to stop, or do you want me to keep going?" yells Fat Joe through his spotty wifi connection as viewers flood the chat with fire emojis. The rapper and sneaker OG is reporting live from his Miami basement, joining childhood friend and noted collector Mayor on an Instagram Live broadcast this past Tuesday night.

Joe continues to flip through clear case after clear case, showing off his impressive assortment—which somehow is only a fraction of his collection (he says he can't access his "garage that looks like Foot Locker" at the moment). Some pairs, like "Space Jam" Air Jordan XIs and "Carmine" Air Jordan VIs, are neither rare nor particularly expensive, but that doesn't matter. Limited or not, Joe just loves sneakers. 

"I don't know if y'all worthy. Let me see the fucking fire [emojis]," shouts Joe to the thousands tuned in to the Instagram Live session. "Are you not entertained?"

Few can rival Fat Joe's sneaker collection. During the stream, he flaunted multiple colorways of sample "Terror Squad" Air Force 1s, one-of-one "Grape" Air Jordan Vs, "Eminem" Air Jordan IVs with Terror Squad lasering, countless Air Jordan PEs, and even a pair of the black and gold "Fukijama" Undefeated x Nike Air Force 1s of Entourage fame. Mayor had to do some flexing of his own, breaking out LeBron VII and LeBron VIII PEs you may have never seen before, and holy grails like the Undefeated x Air Jordan IV. 

It is the latest notable instance of a big name flexing their footwear during the seemingly endless period of self-isolation we are all collectively experiencing due to COVID-19.

The global pandemic has impacted everyone in some form, with many individuals now entering a full month in quarantine. Stores have been forced to close, music festivals have been canceled, Zoom meetings rule the workplace, and everyone is trying to dance in their living room on TikTok. The music world has adapted in its own way to provide entertainment to the masses in the form of live DJ sets from guys like D-Nice, song battles with industry heavyweights like Swizz Beatz and Timbaland, and Tory Lanez breaking Instagram Live viewer records taking shots of Patron with Drake. For sneaker lovers, the time indoors has allowed us to come together, congregating digitally in closets and secret shoe stashes.

One thing that makes these gatherings so unique is that celebrities are engaging with the sneaker community in a way that lets followers into their circle. Seeing rappers and athletes showing off rare pairs is nothing new, but more often than not there is little actual interaction. These live sessions are different. We are in their closets right beside them, able to react in real time and have them respond. This legitimately social aspect of social media is usually missing from the more transactional exchange of simply liking a celeb sneaker photo. Everyone is in the same situation right now, stuck inside, and these types of things make it that much more evident. Rappers and athletes sometimes brag about really being a part of sneaker culture. These Instagram Live sessions have given them a chance to really prove it by talking with people instead of just at them.

LeBron James, arguably the biggest athlete on the planet, even got in on the fun. He hopped on IG Live for Air Max Day to show off some of his favorite pairs of Air Maxes. "The Air Max 95 was one of my favorite years that they did," said James over a grainy broadcast in his closet. This was a basketball superstar talking sneakers to his massive audience like they were all hanging out at a weekend drop together, without the filter of brand messaging or PR teams.

Jim Jones showed off an impressive collection, while chopping it up with Fabolous and Mayor about New York City style and reminiscing on how he used to get fly growing up. Before Joe and company grabbed everyone's attention Tuesday night, battle rapper Conceited did some flexing on Instagram by showing off everything from "What The Dunk" Nike SB Dunk Lows and "ESPO" Air Force 2s, to "Chambray" Air Jordan XIV samples and "Sacramento" Xs from 1995.

Complex has been responsible for its own quarantine sneaker content, with LifeAtComplex's Tony Mui facilitating battles between Complex staffers and pro athletes that give them a chance to show off special pairs in their stash. 

These sneaker showcases might not have Michelle Obama and Ellen DeGeneres tuning in like D-Nice’s “Club Quarantine,” or rack up hundreds of thousands of viewers, but they act as moments of togetherness for sneaker culture. Nick Tershay (a.k.a. Nicky Diamonds), DJ Clark Kent, and DJ Envy have popped up in the chat rooms to show love. The circumstances surrounding the coronavirus have put more physical distance between us, but these livestreams are yet another example of how sneakers can bring a community together.

Hopefully, we'll be out of quarantine soon, so we can all do what we are supposed to do with our favorite sneakers: wear them.