I have to admit that sneaker collecting ain’t what it used to be when I started. Of course, it will never be like it used to be, but I’m not sure that it’s evolved into what anyone would have expected. Gone are the days of actually wearing rad sneakers out on the street. And gone are the days of scavenging the markets and mom&pop shops to find Dead Stock (yes, it actually meant something back then!). It seems these days are all about the internet. You could say that the World Wide Web has been a blessing in disguise. It has made the world a smaller place and it has definitely helped to educate all of us in the latest and greatest as it comes to hand. It has bridged the continents in ways that you could only imagine a decade ago and it has given today’s consumer the ability to do business in a universal departmental store.
But… Could it be that the internet has caused a phase-shift in sneaker freaking? Has it matured our culture too quick, too soon? The average sneaker freaker today does not really have any idea of what it was like to be a sneaker collector 10 years ago. I am not disrespecting anyone out there but in saying that, I think that today’s collector is a million times more informed than any of us old farts. The consequences were inevitable. When you open the floodgates, you really have to expect some sort of tidal wave.
For a while there I thought that there was an explosion of so-called collectors in the world of sneakers. But more and more I realised that it wasn’t so much sneaker collecting, but more a cool way to make a quick buck. Now, why didn’t I think of this 15 years ago? The demand for some of the elite product that has come out lately has meant that the stockmarket for sneakers has become global in a matter of years.
The more I think about it, the more I see this is a good time for sneaker collecting. You learn how to hustle and avoid being hustled. In today’s game, you need business skills, otherwise make sure you come from rich parents or save lotsa money (cos you’ll need it!!!). Even if you have enuff love to queue up overnight for your pair, there are many more that are willing to outwait you for the love of money. How many times have you heard, ‘I don’t really like the shoes, I just need to sell them to buy something I like…’? Why queue and buy something you didn’t like in the first place? Why didn’t you just buy what you wanted? Maybe it’s because the profit will get them what they want with change - who knows? And, quite frankly, who gives a shit.
So, if that sort of person isn’t a bona fide collector, who is? Well, I guess as the definition above states, a collector is one who gathers. But the differentiation is that one has a gathering of product he or she loves and utilizes, whereas the other has a collection of stock to sell (similar to the stockroom of a retail store). Now, that can’t really be called ‘collecting’, can it? Another thing that has changed is how one receives ‘props’. Now, everyone needs to feed his or her ego every now and then, and what better way than compliments on how you look or what you’re wearing. I know I got into sneakers cos I loved the look of them, and I loved it when people praised my sneakers. Today, the average sneaker freaker gets his big-ups over the internet on pickup posts and ‘what did you wear today?’ threads in the ever-growing sneaker forums.
So, back to my rant. Well, being a sneaker geek from the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, I don’t see rad kicks on the street anymore these days. All I see is the cultivation of sneakers for photography. I know many sneakers are worth too much to be worn but, for God’s sake, live a little. There are much more cost (and space) effective ways to invest and make profit than this. For a while there, this new activity of queuing up with other freakers seemed fun. But when it’s a 24-hour wait in line with most of the liner-upperers not really into the sneakers themselves, then I think I’d rather miss out. Hype is cool, but only if it relates directly to the object that it is hyped about.
I find it harder and harder to walk into a store and buy something cool cos all the good stuff is sold before I even know about it. Why is this? It’s because there is so much inside info leaked out that the freakers themselves know what and when the shops are getting deliveries even before the stores themselves know. Whatever happened to the thrill of going into a store to see what’s new? It’s more like going to the store to show off your knowledge and tell them when they can expect their next shipment. Maybe the storekeepers need to get their shit together. Or maybe we just need to chill the fuck out.
I have noticed in the last year or so that the person actually buying all the stock isn’t your common reseller anymore. The new breed of juniors is booming!!! Made up mainly of university students, these kids actually risk their spending money to invest in sneakers for sale at a future date. But too many times I have seen them end up stuck with what they thought must have been a quick buck.
Sneaker freakers are socially inept cos most of them are too busy chained to their computers. To them, the underground is what certain websites dictate it to be. I guess you could call it the propaganda of the 21st century. It would be nice to see kids with their cool kicks more often… and being social. Little communities and gangs have formed via the millions of forums on the web but now acceptance of one’s self rests on the shoulders of their IBM. I would much rather be dissed by someone on the street about how gay my sneakers look rather than settle for all the props I could get from my e-mate. But that’s just me.
Behind the formation of all this I see a long and bright road for sneakering. The average sneaker freaker today is much more educated in the background and history of whatever they are into. The internet makes this possible with its endless supply of information from the past, present and the future. Today’s sneaker freaker knows how to hustle, something that was only previously learnt for real on the streets. Best of all there ARE sneaker freakers today, even more than ever!!! And I think it’s a good sign, for it will mean that our hobby is not just a passing phase… As long as there are always two good eggs to a bad.
This article appeared in Issue 7 of Sneaker Freaker. Buy it here