Why did the boom in sneakers happen right now?
I believe that several factors coincided. Many talk about the growing popularity of the athleisure style, but I don’t think that is the point. Fashionable sneakers and training sneakers are most often different shoes. More importantly, the modern buyer craves authenticity – something that would be associated with originality, authenticity and toughness. And he finds her in styles related to underground, subcultures or protest music like hip-hop. Even those who have never stood next to the board try to wear skateboard brands, because it is clear: skaters are a priori cool guys. A person tries on a pinch of this steepness on himself, adds it to his suit like a spice in food.
Sports brands realized the potential of fashion as a selling force, then fell in love with sneakers and traditional style: first, designers copied existing silhouettes, and then put on the pedestal the same massive ugly shoes that cause so many conflicting emotions. A significant role was played by the dissemination of information from collectors who taught the world to look at sneakers not as a practical object, but as a design subject. With which a lot of interesting facts are also associated. As a result, we got comfortable shoes of mass production, to which, like sauces, many engaging stories are attached to the buyer. And the modern consumer, as you know, pays not so much for things, but feelings and impressions.
When did Sports Shoes break out of the Gym?
Sports shoes have not been used for their intended purpose for a very long time. The British newspapers of the 1890s wrote that in London, men suddenly began to wear tennis shoes: the summer was scorching, and they were lighter than casual shoes of the time. Between the two world wars, athletic shoes, which we used to call sneakers, were already actively promoted not as training shoes, but only for active leisure. The first street style photographer Bill Cunningham in the early 1980s shot a resonant report in New York about women in luxurious fur coats and sneakers. In 1985, actress Sybill Shepherd came to the Emmy Awards ceremony in sneakers and an evening gown. Sneakers appeared on the podium in the late 1970s with the filing of Karl Lagerfeld, and in the 1980s, designers, such as Jean-Paul Gaultier, experimented with sports shoes with might and main. Over time, people for whom such a choice of shoes was a definite shock became less and less. Today, sneakers with a formal star costume are easily put on the red carpet.
“Collectors taught to look at sneakers not as a utilitarian object, but as an interesting design subject”
What is Happening with Sneaker Culture right now?
The collection system is changing, and as a cultural researcher, I am very interested in observing this. The situation repeats the story of painting: at first, incomprehensible impressionists and post-impressionists were bought by friends and connoisseurs. Then it became fashion – and now Picasso became too expensive for the representatives of the first wave of collectors, but those for whom this investment in their status began to buy it. This is precisely what is happening with sneakers.
Indian Sneakerheads – How do they Differ from Foreign ones?
With the explosion of fashion for sneakers, the very essence of the term has changed. Today a sneakerhead can be called a fashionista who buys the most expensive hype releases, a collector of sneakers who has been collecting rare vintage for about fifteen years, and just a visitor to an online store who bought the first pair in his life. All these are different people who are unlikely to understand each other.
In our country, there are several directions with their canons and a markedly different philosophy: there are collectors of the American type, there are British. The American principle is built around Nike and rare releases or collaborations. The British system is based on Adidas and a love of vintage. Also in India, there are collectors of one brand not from the Big Two: Saucony, New Balance, Puma, Asics. Serious collectors and enthusiasts, that is, those who gather more knowledge about sneakers than the shoes themselves (this can also be), are about two to three hundred people. They all know each other, communicate and, in my opinion, despite their disagreements, respect each other.
For economic reasons, it is challenging to develop an ecosystem of sneerkhedness in India: for this, it is necessary to hold large conventions like Snickerkon, publish books and magazines with beautiful printing, and organize exhibitions of rare models. The American Snickercon is held several times a month in various cities across the country. Only the Faces & Laces festival has become an annual event, but it is already, in general, not about sneakers. Unfortunately, we did not have a single thematic paper magazine. As a result, the role of niche media for those interested in us is played by social networks: Telegram channels, groups and public pages of FB.
What is the Difference between the Younger Generation of Sneakerheads and those who Grew up during the Soviet era?
Those who have experience in Soviet or early post-Soviet consumption still divide sports shoes into sneakers and sneakers – and for them, these are fundamentally different things. There were no problems with simple sneakers in the USSR, but import sneakers were much more challenging to get. And if someone succeeded, as a rule, they didn’t do sports in them – they cherished them. The younger generation, up to twenty-five, I do not see this: for them, sneakers can be even more refreshing.
There is a myth that Adidas is in particular nostalgic demand because of its popularity and significance in Soviet times. It turned out that this is not entirely true. On the one hand, photographer Katya Turkina has a beautiful project, Me & Them. Back home with Alice. In it, she creatively works with the peculiarities of her native region – the North Caucasus – in terms of taste and brand preferences, which are rooted in Soviet history, and Adidas things are an important artistic element of this story.
On the other hand, when I collected the memories of adults about sneakers that they had in childhood, I wondered if that experience influenced current preferences. Most replied, no. Many Indian Adidas sneakers collectors collect them because they belonged to the near-football community, which adopted a lot from British fans, including tastes in clothes. That is, it is instead a tribute to the British subcultural style than Soviet sports history. Well, one can note the difference in accessibility – young people have all the possible options for models more or less at hand. For the older generation, it took ten, or even twenty years, between the passion for sneakers and the beginning of collecting.