Sneaker Culture Ain’t Dead — You’re Just Getting Old 👴🏽
Remember when you were young, and you looked at your old man — a guy who was probably wearing OG New Balance 574s or PUMA Clydes, donning a Kangol hat and jamming out to James Brown — and thought to yourself ‘I’ll never be that guy, stuck in his era.’
I said it too. I’ll never get stuck in the past.
But as I’m going older, I’m witnessing something unbelievable. Something we all thought would never happen. We’re all becoming ‘that guy.’
My bet is, if you’re reading this, you also think that sneaker culture is ‘dead.’ But perhaps it’s just evolving — and you, like your father before you, are stuck in the past. That may be painful to hear, but the truth sure hurts.
Don’t believe me? If you think rap was better a decade ago, you say that 90s hoops were the best in the league’s history, or if you haven’t pulled the trigger on a newly-built model like the React Element, YEEZY 500 or Air Max 270 yet, then yeah, you’re that guy. And there’s nothing wrong with that at all. But because you’ve been a part of the culture for years, it doesn’t mean it belongs to you. Sneaker companies need to move with the times to stay relevant and profitable. And while some designs remain timeless, like the Air Jordan 1, Air Max 97 or the Superstar, a new wave of sneakers is taking off with future classics being born today.
“Times may be changing, but there will always be options available for you. My dad still cops New Balance classics. I still bite the bullet on Jordan retros, and new kids on the block go crazy for the latest silhouettes and hyped-up collaboration.”
It’s no lie that each generation thinks theirs is the best. Ask your father, and I’ll bet he’ll say the 70s or 80s, depending on when he hit his 20s. Each generation evolves into its own unique experience. It’s a cycle that’s as old as time itself. I’m lucky enough to be old enough to have seen MJ play, to live through the SB Dunk boom, Jordan revival and YEEZY craze, but young enough to appreciate the new wave of sneaker culture. What I’ve come to learn is that the new generation, the guys who weren’t around during Mike’s hey-day, don’t resonate with Jordan Brand’s previously effective-as-hell story-telling marketing. Their attention span is short, and they magnetize to what’s hot in the culture right now — hence the rise of the short-lived collaboration.
adidas proved how successful that strategy was in 2015/16, and Nike with Virgil Abloh and Travis Scott more recently (adidas, for some reason, have gone backward, though, reverting to vintage/modern hybrids, which hold no relevance in today’s culture.) PUMA have revolutionized themselves, through the use of social media, influencers, the signing of future NBA stars and radical designs and even K-Swiss are getting with it. Brands need to do what’s best for the future of sneakers, both in the short and long term. be it through developing and introducing new tech like React or hooking kids — those who will be the source of their future profits — in through hype and chunky sneaker trends. And I’ll be honest, I don’t buy as many sneakers as I used to in our early 20s. Priorities change as you get older — I’m sure you can relate.
Times are changing, that’s for sure. And while I’m not sure what the future will bring, I am certain that — for my generation — the ‘good old days’ are over.
It’s O.K. though, no matter what decade you’re stuck in, there will always be options available for you. My dad still cops New Balance classics. I still bite the bullet on Jordan retros, and new kids on the block go crazy for the latest silhouettes and hyped-up collaborations. But please, even though it’s evolving away from what you know to be familiar, respect the culture that was once everything to you, because even if you can’t see it, it’s still giving back to you.
Cover image by @jaadiee.