Sneaker collecting

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A sneakerhead is a person who collects, trades, or admires sneakers as a hobby. A sneakerhead may also be highly experienced in distinguishing between real and replica sneakers. Sneaker collecting is a hobby often manifested by the use and collection of shoes made for particular sports, particularly basketball and skateboarding.

The birth of sneakerhead culture in the United States came in the 1980s and can be attributed to two major sources: basketball, specifically the emergence of Michael Jordan and his eponymous Air Jordan line of shoes released in 1985, and the growth of hip hop music. The boom of signature basketball shoes during this era provided the sheer variety necessary for a collecting subculture, while the hip-hop movement gave the sneakers their street credibility as status symbols.[1] The sneakerhead culture has emerged in the United Kingdom[citation needed] and the Czech Republic in the last decade.[when?][2]

Styles and marketing[edit]

Store display of new release Nike sneakers.

Several popular brands and styles of sneakers have emerged as collectors items in the sneakerhead subculture. Popular collections include Air Jordans, Air Force Ones, Nike Dunks, Nike Skateboarding (SB), Nike Foamposites, Nike Air Max, and more recently, the Nike Air Yeezy and Adidas Yeezy. Shoes that have the most value are usually exclusive or limited editions. Also certain color schemes may be rarer relative to others in the same sneaker, inflating desirability and value. More recently, sneaker customs, or one-of-a-kind sneakers that have been hand-painted, have become popular as well.

Nike, Adidas, New Balance, and Reebok also have custom shops where people can choose from the color, lettering, and materials that they want.

Nike continues to use basketball stars to market new sneakers. In 2011, the Zoom Hyperdunk was introduced through Blake Griffin (a Los Angeles Clippers player and NBA 2010–11 NBA Rookie of the Year). Nike has also employed celebrities from outside of the sports world to design and market new shoe lines. One example is the Nike Air Yeezy, designed by rapper Kanye West and released in 2009, as well as the Nike Air Yeezy II, released in 2012.[3]

Skateboarding, since about 2005, has been a major player in the shoe collecting industry especially with the variety introduced with the Nike SB and Supra product lines. Jordan brands most popular models include the Jordan 1, 3, 4,11, and 13.

Sneakerhead subculture[edit]

The sneakerhead subculture originated in the United States during the late 1980s and had gone global by the end of the 1990s. Hardcore sneaker collectors in Britain, Europe,[4] and the US[5] buy online and go to outlets, sneaker events, swapmeets, parties, and gatherings in search of rare, deadstock, vintage, and limited edition shoes to invest in.[6] Originally popular among urban black youth and white skateboarders, by the 21st century, it had also gained a sizeable Asian following especially in the Philippines, Malaysia,[7] India, and China.[8]

Common contemporary sneakerhead apparel includes Nike Air Jordans, Air Yeezys, Nike SBs, DC Spartans, Supra Sky-Tops, Vans,[9] designer sportswear, Converse Modern sneakers,[10] True Religion slim fit jeans, backwards baseball caps, red high-tops with fluorescent or reflective white stars,[11] Skullcandy headphones, leggings, slouched crew socks, and Keds (for girls), Aviator sunglasses, waffle plaid shirts, throwback basketball singlets, tracksuits, Nike Elite socks, cosmic print T-shirts, hoodies, and Nixon watches.[12]

As of 2016, the most desirable[13] colors for sneakers and apparel were black,[14] red,[15] and white[16] due to their longstanding association with late 1980s new wave music, the Michael Jordan era of basketball,[17] and old-school hip hop.[18]

Sneakerhead slang[edit]

A pair of grey "tonal" Nike low top sneakers

During the 2010s, sneakerheads influenced by hip hop fashion and skater subculture began to develop their own jargon. Commonly used words include:[19]

  • "A.C.G" – All Conditions Gear, a brand of sneakers produced by Nike[19]
  • "Beaters" – sneakers worn despite creases, scuffs, stains, and smell[19]
  • "Bred" – black and red sneakers[19]
  • "B Grade" – shop-worn seconds sold at a discount[20]
  • "Coke whites" – pristine white sneakers[19]
  • "Crispy" – clean[19]
  • "Colorway" – The combination of colors or symbols on a pair of sneakers
  • "Cop" (used as a verb) – as in to purchase or acquire
  • "Cozy boy" – fashionable but also comfortable[19]
  • "Deadstock" – pair of sneakers that has never been worn[19]
  • "Deubre – also called lace tags are popular on shoes like Air Force Ones
  • "Dope" – fashionable
  • "Double up" – Buying two identical pairs of sneakers[19]
  • "Drop" – Release of a new sneaker[21]
  • "Feezy" – fake Yeezys
  • "Fire" – very good[19]
  • "Fresh" – new and cool[19]
  • "Fugazi" – fake
  • "Goat" – greatest of all time[19]
  • "Garms" – clothes[19]
  • "Grail" – very rare sneakers, as in Holy Grail
  • "GR" – general release, or common
  • "Gum sole" – sneakers with solid rubber soles[19]
  • "Gutties" – Scottish Slang term for trainers/ sneakers.
  • "Heat" – rare sneakers that draw looks
  • "Hypebeast" – trendies who only buy the latest release. Hypebeasts buy whatever the celebrities are wearing and tend to copy people like hip-hop artist Kanye West.
  • "High Top(s)" – a shoe that rises above or on the ankle mainly used for ankle support during sports.[19]
  • "J's" – Another name for Jordan brand shoes
  • "JB" – the Jordan Brand logo (see below)[19]
  • "Jumpman" – basketball player Michael Jordan, also can refer to the Jordan logo depicting Michael often seen on the shoes.[19]
  • "Ice" – sneakers with transparent soles
  • "Instacop" – impulse buying[19]
  • "Kicks" – shoes
  • "L" – loss/unable to purchase
  • "Lit up" – great[19]
  • "Lows" – also called low tops are shoes that sit below the ankle [19]
  • "Nib" – unworn, new in the box
  • "OG" – original, derived from the term "original gangster"
  • "Quickstrikes" – limited edition sneakers and prototypes with a regional early release, especially Nikes,[22] and are highly desirable[23] status symbols for American sneaker collectors.[24]
  • "Reseller" – a person who buys large quantities of unworn popular sneakers to sell at a profit[25]
  • "Red October" – Very rare red sneakers by Nike and rapper Kanye West[19]
  • "Silhouette" - Design of a sneaker
  • "Sitting" – referring to sneakers produced in large quantities that go unsold
  • "Steezy" – stylish[19]
  • "Tonal" – Sneakers in a single color, as in monotone.[19]
  • "Unauthorised" – counterfeit[26]
  • "VNDS" – Very Near Deadstock, sneakers of a dubious quality[19]
  • "W" – win/successful purchase
  • "Wild" – amazing[19]
  • "Yeezy" – sneakers designed by rapper Kanye West[27]

Industry growth[edit]

The sneakerhead market has begun to manifest itself in different venues. The growth of online retailing and auction sites has provided sneaker collectors with new methods to find the rarest shoes. Shops ,websites and events offer rare and exclusive sneakers.[citation needed] Jordan Geller opened the Shoezeum in San Diego, a 9,000-square-foot (840 m2) gallery of collector sneakers.[28][29] Foot Locker launched, a wiki based online community for shoe collectors.[30]

A large counterfeit supply chain has developed.[citation needed]

In response to the large counterfeit challenges, new companies have taken off.[31]

As a part of their Student College program, Carnegie Mellon University has offered an official course in the history of sneaker collecting called Sneakerology 101.[32]

People have begun reselling sneakers on sites like StockX and GOAT and this new category has taken off.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Skidmore, Sarah (15 January 2007). "Sneakerheads love to show off shoes". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2008-01-19.
  2. ^ "Czech 'sneakerheads' flaunt their best trainers". Czech Position. Archived from the original on 20 June 2011. Retrieved 24 June 2011.
  3. ^ Kim, John. "Nike Air Yeezy 2 – Officially Unveiled". Retrieved 1 May 2014.
  4. ^ Charles, James (January 24, 2015). "Sellers pay the price as eBay fails to deliver on its promises" – via
  5. ^ "Finance & Footwear: Investing In Sneakers Could Pay Off Big In The End". May 5, 2016.
  6. ^ Taylor, Ian. "The Best Sneakers To Invest In: Converse Chuck Taylor". AskMen.
  7. ^ "Malaysian sneakerheads". Archived from the original on 2016-05-08. Retrieved 2016-04-20.
  8. ^ "Nike fan buys his first flat by pawning collection of 283 pairs of Air Jordan trainers".
  9. ^ Cross, Andrew. "No Matter How Cool Your Kicks, It's How You Wear Them That Counts". AskMen.
  10. ^ "Converse Chuck Modern Colors Collection |". March 2, 2017.
  11. ^ Staff, Print AskMen India (March 9, 2016). "Converse Introduces Chuck II Reflective Print Collection". Askmen India.
  12. ^ Kwon, Amos. "Your 101 Guide To All The Best Nixon Watches For Men". AskMen.
  13. ^ "Why a Sneakerhead Destroyed His Rare Air Jordans". Washington City Paper.
  14. ^ Chandran, Nyshka (September 28, 2016). "Why sneakers such as Yeezys are a solid investment: StockX".
  15. ^ "New Exhibit Laces Together Sneakers And History".
  16. ^ "A Sneakerhead Turned His "Laser" 1s Into fragments and Breds". Complex.
  17. ^ "Jordan low bred". Archived from the original on 2016-04-15. Retrieved 2016-04-20.
  18. ^ Kurie, Brendan. "Sole sensation: High-end sneaker culture thrives in New Bedford".
  19. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y "Your Definitive Guide to Sneaker Slang". Coveteur. April 18, 2017.
  20. ^ Sneaker glossary
  21. ^ "Grundbegriffe des Resellings • Sneaker-Reseller". September 11, 2018.
  22. ^ Nast, Condé. "Five Easy Steps to Re-Selling Your Sneakers on the Internet". GQ.
  23. ^ "Here's Our Favorite Sneakers Worn at Nike's Air Max Con in New York". Highsnobiety. March 25, 2016.
  24. ^ "VladTV // Sneakers".
  25. ^ "Reselling Sneakers Might Be a Better Investment Than Buying Stock in Apple". Complex.
  26. ^ Chesler, Josh (July 22, 2015). "10 Sneaker Terms You Need to Know When Getting Into Kicks". Phoenix New Times.
  27. ^ Sneaker guide
  28. ^ "Sneakerhead's 2,000 Nikes make a ShoeZeum". Matthew T. Hall, The San Diego Union-Tribune, 11 April 2011. Accessed 10 August 2017
  29. ^ "Nike collector creates his ShoeZeum". Doug Williams, ESPN, 13 June 2011. Accessed 10 August 2017
  30. ^ Sigel, Tago. "Sneaking Into The Big Apple". RWD Magazine. Archived from the original on 21 June 2011. Retrieved 1 July 2011.
  31. ^ "GOAT raises $25M more to expand its mobile sneaker marketplace".
  32. ^ Houck, Abby. "It's a Shoe-In". Carnegie Mellon University. Retrieved 1 July 2011.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]