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Here’s How ‘Anti-Sneakers’ Ruled 2022

What does it mean to be a sneakerhead these days?

It’s an existential time to be a sneakerhead, and navigating sneaker culture has never been more challenging. NFT sneakers are on the rise, the market is more saturated with collaborations than ever, new technologies are emerging, Crocs are somehow popular, and all the while, the world is burning.

To wrap up the year, we address four key themes to answer the question: What does it mean to be a sneakerhead these days?

For part two, let’s look at Birkenstocks, loafers, and the trend of the ‘anti-sneaker.’

Every sneakerhead has slightly different tastebuds. Some of us love Air Max, some rock Spezial, and others swear by Vans. But recently, it’s been hard to overlook the trend of ‘anti-sneaker’ styles that have found their way into sneaker boutiques, social media algorithms, and our closets.

There are a few ways to look at it.

In one sense, a generation of sneakerheads is now in their mid-30s, and some are looking to mature what’s on their feet, swapping out Dunks for Bass Weejuns. At the same time, conspicuous consumption of sneakers (picking up a new pair every weekend) is on the decline as our habits shift towards investing rather than jumping on every microtrend. Lastly, the global pandemic has definitely made some of us think differently about our sneaker rotation, and slip-on styles like Crocs and Birkenstocks have seen a big uptick.

Anyone who amasses boxes and boxes of kicks must eventually face the question of when to sell – or the daunting uncertainty of questions like ‘How old is too old to wear sneakers?’ While some of us evolve into sneakerhead dads, others take a different path, side-stepping collaborations and turning instead to Red Wings.

In either case, the ‘anti-sneaker’ has been hugely prevalent in 2022.

The idea of the anti-sneaker presents a welcome respite from the tiresome cycle of sneaker releases. Some of us have been around to see shoes like the Air Max 97 ‘Silver Bullet’ treated to a retro release not once, not twice, but three times. For some, a chance to pick up this grail is a pretty exciting moment, but for others, repeated hype cycles of the same shoe will make a pair of Clarks look awfully appetising.

The pandemic has also given us good reason to invest in easy slip-on, work-from-home footwear. Enter Birkenstocks and Crocs, which have arguably never been cooler. Sure, the innate appeal of these brands lies in the fact you don’t need to tie your laces, but this new aesthetic is also a breath of fresh air for those that may be lamenting high tops.

To gain some insights into how this trend has been playing out in the industry, we tapped our friend and stylist Taylor Okata, who agreed he’s seen an uptick in non-sneaker styles like loafers and boots. ‘Since everything is cyclical, people are reverting to non-sneaker styles. Especially ones you can slip on easily. We have brands that are popular among sneakerheads like Aimé Leon Dore making loafers, and Supreme’s collaboration with Dr. Martens, so those brands are encouraging non-sneaker options for their audiences.’ In the fashion space, Okata mentions rubber-boot styles from Bottega and Balenciaga, as well as slip-ons from Birkenstock. ‘Lyst’s shoe of the year is the Birkenstock Boston, so the facts are there,’ he says.

Celebrity style also plays a role, as Okata observes, ‘I’ve seen a lot of guys channeling Tyler, the Creator’s style with shorts and loafers, which I’m here for.’

Here at Sneaker Freaker, we love a pair of retro Jordans just as much as some Birkenstock Bostons or Clarks Wallabees.

While some of us may have turned our attention to anti-sneakers, the sneaker culture ecosystem remains integral to music, fashion, and subcultures like graffiti and skateboarding.

So is it a wrap for sneaker culture? Not if we have anything to say about it.

Now, check out part one of our 2022 end-of-year series – an op-ed covering how Teddy Santis, Kiko Kostadinov, and Salehe Bembury are changing the state of sneaker collaborations.

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