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 America 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 teenage white skateboarders, by the 21st century, it had also gained a sizeable Asian following especially in 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 rare and highly desirable pair of "bred" (black and red) fila high top sneakers

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

  • "Beaters" - sneakers worn despite creases, scuffs, stains, and smell
"Bred" – black and red sneakers
  • "B Grade" – shop-worn seconds sold at a discount[19]
  • "Coke whites" – pristine white sneakers
  • "Crispy" – clean
"Colorway" - The combination of colors or symbols on a pair of sneakers
  • "Cop" (used as a verb) – as in to purchase or acquire
  • "Deadstock" – pair of sneakers that has never been worn
"Deubre - also called lace tags are popular on shoes like Air Force Ones
  • "Dope" – fashionable
  • "Feezy" - fake Yeezys
  • "Fire" – very good
  • "Fresh" – new and cool
  • "Fugazi" – fake
  • "Goat" – greatest of all time
  • "Garms" – clothes
  • "Grail" – very rare sneakers, as in Holy Grail
  • "GR" – general release, or common
  • "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 Kanye West.
"High Top(s)" - a shoe that rises above or on the ankle mainly used for ankle support during sports 
  • "Jumpman" – basketball player Michael Jordan
  • "Ice" – sneakers with transparent soles
  • "Instacop" – impulse buying
  • "Kicks" – shoes
  • "L" – loss/unable to purchase
  • "Lit up" – great
"Lows" - also called low tops are shoes that sit below the ankle 
  • "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,[20] and are highly desirable[21] status symbols for American sneaker collectors.[22]
  • "Reseller" – a person who buys large quantities of unworn popular sneakers to sell at a profit[23]
  • "Sitting" – referring to sneakers produced in large quantities that go unsold
  • "Steezy" – stylish
  • "Unauthorised" – counterfeit[24]
  • "W" – win/successful purchase
  • "Wild" – amazing
  • "Yeezy" – sneakers designed by rapper Kanye West[25]

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.[26][27] Foot Locker launched, a wiki based online community for shoe collectors.[28]

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

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.[29]

See also[edit]


Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]