Kicks Over Character: A Subculture’s Obsession with Sneakers

Our parents always taught us never to judge a book by its cover.

But in hip-hop culture, it’s often completely acceptable to judge someone based on his outward appearance–specifically, based on his sneakers.

“You can tell so much about a person by what they have on their feet,” said Andre Speed, 36, in an interview at Lifted, a specialty sneaker store located in Portland.

Sneakers used to be just any other type of shoe we could wear on our feet–at its most functional, it was a shoe we would wear when we played a sport or exercised.

Sure, sneakers are obviously still worn for these simple purposes. But there’s an undeniably huge subculture out there that specifically worships a select few styles of sneakers, and the individuals lucky enough to own and wear them.

When Kanye West launched his own original sneaker style last month, the shoes sold out in record time. As for those who hadn’t purchased them quickly enough, they were left to face the ridiculous online prices on sites like eBay.


These exorbitant prices don’t scare everyone, though. If they want the shoe, they’re going to purchase it, no matter what the cost.

A new documentary is even set to discuss the history of sneaker culture, and explore why “sneakerheads” are so into their shoe styles in the first place.

“It’s the kids trying to emulate the heroes,” says sneaker designer Dave Ortiz in a preview for the film, as images of Jay-Z and NBA players flash across the screen.

Ortiz may have just hit the nail on the head. But who are these “heroes” he speaks of?

Apparently, they’re the ones who blow obscene amounts of money on sneakers, on other forms of clothing, on unnecessarily large mansions, on crazy sports cars. They’re spending unfathomable amounts of money on objects that will likely be discarded in a couple of months anyway because a new style or trend will arrive, and introduce a new standard of living for everyone to abide by–as it always does.

When you really think about it, it’s pretty unfortunate that we worship certain celebrities purely based upon the way they dress. And it’s even more unfortunate that these celebrities perpetuate their fame and their stature by continuing to flaunt their money through expensive, unnecessary, materialistic purchases.

Most of us don’t really stop to consider this, but these celebrities have unbelievable, and virtually untouchable power and influence in our world. But so many of them don’t put that power to any meaningful, significant, or long-term use. They live for the moment, for the style, for the trend, for what’s “cool” right now.

It’s a shallow way to live. For the celebrities, and for us mere mortals who retweet them, and like their Instagram pictures, and wish our lives were anything like theirs. It’s shallow for them to engage in these lifestyles, and it’s shallow for us to accept it, and to continue to idolize them. Our materialistic values reveal a fundamental lack of healthy self-esteem–in all of us, celebrities and citizens alike.

Let’s demand more from our so-called “heroes.” Because right now, I’m personally pretty disappointed, and you should be, too.

Featured Image Credit:

article by Allie Strickler


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