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 fake replica sneakers. Sneaker collecting is a hobby often manifested by the use and collection of shoes made for particular sports, particularly but not limited to 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. The sneakerhead culture has emerged in European nations such as the Great Britain and the Czech Republic in the last decade.
Styles and marketing
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 in the past few years, the Nike Air 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. Recently, sneaker customs, or one-of-a-kind sneakers that have been hand-painted, have become popular as well.
Companies such as Nike and Reebok also have custom shops now where the user can choose from the color, custom lettering, and materials that they want, and they can be custom manufactured. Nike continues to use basketball stars to market new sneakers. In 2011 the Zoom Hyperdunk was introduced through Los Angeles Clippers sensation and 2010–11 NBA Rookie of the Year Blake Griffin. 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. Skateboarding is since about 2005 a major player in the shoe collecting industry especially with the variety introduced with the Nike SB and Supra product lines.
The sneakerhead market has begun to manifest itself in different venues. The growth of online retailing and auction sites has armed sneaker collectors with better methods to hunt down the rarest shoes. Stores such as Suplex in Philadelphia, the online site HG Kicks found on HG Kicks.com, and Flight Club in New York City offer rare and exclusive sneakers, and take inventory in from the general public, selling sneakers on consignment. University of San Diego School of Law alumnus Jordan Geller opened the Shoezeum in the Old Town neighborhood of San Diego, a 9,000-square-foot (840 m2) gallery of collector sneakers. Foot Locker recently launched Sneakerpedia.com, a wiki based online community for shoe collectors. NSB developed an online sneaker marketplace devoted to this niche.
Online sneakerhead trade has grown to such an extent that a large counterfeit supply chain has developed. 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.
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