There's nothing new about the Sneakerheadz phenomena, only that it keeps growing and growing. Far from peaking out it's now spawned a movie that's premiering at SXSW. Directed and produced by David T. Friendly (Little Miss Sunshine), Sneakerheadz explores this teen dominated subculture that grapples with the big question: To Rock or Stock? Why do young males hide in trash cans to score a pair of Retro Jordan 11s? Or camp for days in sub zero temperatures for the latest Nike Foamposites? These and other burning questions are addressed as Sneakerheadz examines the cultural influence of sneaker collecting around the world and delves into a subculture whose proud members don't just want to admire art, they want to wear it.
I know because I have a 13-year-old son who is expert enough to identify a sneaker at a thousand paces. Being the enabler that I am, I went with him to Sneakercon, a trade show where the enormity of the subculture first sank in. Armed with a press pass, we walked past a line stretching into infinity, with teen after teen looking to make a deal, loaded down with boxes, backpacks and duffel bags stuffed with sneakers. Once inside, we were confronted by a kind of Arab bazaar gone wild, every kid for himself buying, trading, authenticating, customizing in a world of sneaker sharks. Most recently I dropped him and a friend off at Manhattan Center for "The Solexchange Sneaker Show." Press passes secured with a promise to write a blog about his experiences, my presence was no longer necessary so I wandered off while they perused the scene looking for the perfect deal. What follows is a brief account on his experience and an interview conducted by yours truly.
But first a word of explanation of how Nike keeps these young fans coming back for more. Sneakerheadz intently follow release dates of a new color, reissue of a classic or new shoe online. Since the pros have gamed the system with bots that rush out to order the sneakers the second they're available, the headz rush down to queue up at Supreme or their local Foot Locker in the hope of snagging one of the shoes at the retail price, knowing that the limited editions are coveted by others who will pay more. A simple game of supply and demand, played over and over until there are now hundreds of models coveted by these young collectors, $5000 for a pair of Kanye's rare Air Yeezys, sneakers that were taken off the market following a beef the rapper had with the brand, which lead him to team up with Adidas where his new Yeezy 750 Boost retailing at $350 only a few weeks ago is reselling for around $1000.
Thoughts on the recent SolXChange Sneaker Show by Nissim Hershkovits
Sneakers for me and many kids my age play a big role in our lives now. When you meet or see someone you glance first at their feet, and then at them. The sneakers you choose to wear give off different vibes and say different things. Something as simple as whether the person's shoe is shiny and has patent leather on it or if it's mostly dark and leather. Patent leather says something about the person's personality, that they're more outgoing. A nice, discrete shoe means they're more humble, but sometimes the humble shoes get the most attention.
Jordan's, SB's [skateboarding], Player shoes such as Kobes or LeBrons all say different things. For example, people who don't play basketball don't rock player shoes as much because they don't really look up to the player.
Arriving at The SoleXChange Sneaker Show, we got out of our cab to see a line going around the entire block filled with kids rocking expensive shoes, t-shirts, hoodies, and even pants from the likes of Bape, Supreme, Billionaire Boys Club, Diamond Supply Co. and much more. We walked past this line as these people wondered who the heck these kids with press passes were. Once we got inside we saw a small room and thought is that it? We then turned the corner to see much, much more. Tables decked with high price tag shoes along with a stage blasting the latest in hip-hop music. There were all sorts of sneakers from the new Yeezy Boost to the classic and affordable Nike Free Run.
The SoleXChange sneaker show is often compared with SneakerCon and to be totally honest after writing about SneakerCon as well I thoroughly enjoyed SoleXChange more. The thing that separates the two is that frankly SneakerCon is bigger. But with what you lose in size you gain in the fact that the vendors are nice, talkative, and for the most part don't try to rip you off with over-the-top prices.
David Hershkovits: Where do you get information about new sneakers?
Nissim Hershkovits: Instagram accounts like Kicksonfire and Sneaker News for new releases.
DH: Where do you buy them?
NH: I buy the majority of my shoes at sneakers shows like SoleXchange or Sneakercon.
DH:How would you describe these shows?
NH: Thousands of square feet full of people selling sneakers. Sometimes, t-shirts and socks but really based around sneakers. They have vendor tables or you could walk around with a box trying to resell.
DH: How do you know what's a good deal and whether a pair is authentic?
NH: You just have to know what you're doing. The sneaker community is big on knowing what's authentic or what's not. You can't really walk into a show like that with fakes and not have someone tell you about it. If they see someone trying to sell something that's fake, they'll stop and tell the buyer. Someone will say something.
DH: Is it possible for kids to get ripped off doing this?
DH: What did you get at SoleXchange? And how did you buy/trade for?
NH: I bought a pair of Retro 88 Threes. A pair of custom Kobe 9 Nike ID and an Air Jordan 11 Retro "legend blue."
DH: What are your future sneaker plans?
NH: I'm starting an Instagram web page with a friend called Insidethehype featuring what I like in terms of fashion and clothes and shoes.