I have recently been introduced to the elaborate and in depth world of sneaker culture. Due to the word of mouth growth and unspoken rules, little is known or can be found publicly about the underground world of Sneakerheads. I am fortunate enough to have friends who are active members in the New York City sneaker community and they have been gracious enough to give me an inside scoop.
Very similar to Colabination, hardcore sneaker culture relies heavily on collaboration. From the designs on a shoe to building a trusted community of collectors and sellers, everyone is working together. Every step of the process involves people contributing their strengths and talents.
Sneaker aficionados, or self-proclaimed “Sneakerheads” live their life around the love of their kicks. Often times the hottest and most sought after shoes are not even available for the general public to purchase. In order to get your hands on those coveted kick you have to be connected. Premium and rare sneakers can set you back several thousands of dollars, assuming you can even find them.
So, what does it mean to be a Sneakerhead? One common answer from everyone I spoke with was that not everyone does it the same way. The way a sneakerhead wears (or doesn’t wear) their kicks can set them apart from others. Some collectors keep their kicks in mint condition. They store their shoes in boxes and the rubber soles rarely, if ever, touch the ground. Some sneakerheads keep a well-rounded collection, buying a variety of colorways from a diverse group of designers. Others specialize in a particular brand, becoming experts and collecting all the colorways. There are sneakerheads who wear all of their shoes in rotation and build their wardrobe around it.
I followed three New Yorkers and each shared what being a sneakerhead meant to them. While each embraces the sneaker world in a different way, everyone seemed to agree that a true sneakerhead builds their love of sneakers into many aspects of their life. They plan their wardrobe, relationships, income and housing around it. I was told that some guys have storage units and extra bedrooms just for sneakers. Like true collectors of living art, the dedication runs deep.
Eulis “Jay” Jarratt – Bronx, New York
Jay gave me a rare glimpse into his collection as we discussed his personal philosophy of sneaker style. While his collection is full of rare and sought after kicks, he believes the key is in the styling of the shoe. It should be a head to toe look with all aspects considered. He takes into account his sneakers with all his apparel and cap purchases, even down to the cut of his denim. He likes G -Star denim because they are cut with a tapered leg to fit inside a sneaker which highlights the shoe.
“I’ve seen guys wearing the most dope sneakers but then they wear them with raggedy old clothes. It kills me to see that, they are not taking pride in the shoes or their appearance. You gotta look fly all the way to make it work.”
Jay has been in the sneaker game for many years and see it change over time.
“When I was at an influential age, we did it first on the street and then the brands and designers copied us. Now it is flipped, people are getting their look from music videos and celebrity. I prefer it when people develop their own personal style, their own swag. Anyone can copycat something from a music video but it takes skills to stand out on your own. It always comes down to your swag style.”
“There are styles that I like right off the bat and others have to grow on me. Sometimes a new sneaker will drop and at first I’m not feeling it. But then I may see someone wearing it on the street and if they rock it right, it will change my perspective of how I see the shoe. When I see a guy, I can tell if he takes pride in his style. I can size him up and I can see his swag. That’s the real sneakerhead world.”
“When sneakerheads go out, we will immediately notice other people’s kicks. There’s certain type of guys that will openly appreciate another guys sneakers, some guys will just sneak a look, and some like to sit back and observe how other people style. This is why I like to wear my shoes out in the streets, I want to lay out my style. This is the true meaning of streetstyle.”
Jay’s Top 5 Kicks:
1. Jordan 1's
2. Jordan 5's
5. Raf Simons
Jay’s Dream Collaborations:
-G-Star Denim x Balmain
-Nike x Margiela
Josheed “Josh” Crawford – Harlem, New York
Josh and I sat down to discuss what being a sneakerhead meant to him in Harlem, NY. He builds his collection based on style aesthetic and rarity. He seeks out styles particularly hard to find because he wants to be one of the only ones sporting them out in the streets. He will have a few shoes on display in his home but for the most part he wears the majority of his 300+ pairs. His collection consists of Jordans, Yeezy and Margielas among many others. He feels that high style kicks are works of art that you wear as freedom of expression. Josh agrees that the kicks you chose say a lot about you and your personal style. Josh is also in the selling game with clients that reach all the way to Japan, China and Yemen. As an active member of the community, he makes introductions and brings deals together.
Keep an eye out for his featured spot on Kicks on Fire.
Josh’s Top 5 Kicks:
1. Nike Air Mag AKA “Marty McFly”
2. Nike Air Yeezy 1
3. Jordan 5 Tokyo T23
4. Jordan DB6
5. Air Jordan 1 Retro ’99 (Last Shot) in patent leather black and gold
Josh’s Dream Collaborations:
-Jordan x Margiela
-Ksubi x Jordan
Lance “Diggs” Walters – Brooklyn, New York
Diggs is what Jay refers to as a “Fly Guy.” He has an appreciation for high style with “head to toe swag”. Diggs incorporates style into all aspects of his life from his Porsche ride to his Brooklyn abode (which I have heard is off the hook). Although Diggs is living the dream, I will say that he is the most humble guy around.
Diggs doesn’t consider himself a true sneakerhead because he is not a collector, although he does have a pretty impressive sneaker closet. His style is classic with a focus on quality and simplicity. He looks for well-crafted and minimal silhouettes in a sneaker to accompany his refined understated aesthetic.
“You can tell a guy by the way he dresses and the sneakers he wears. When you see someone in good kicks you have an instant connection. It’s not about the dollars or the labels, but it must be quality.”
Digg’s Top 5 Kicks:
1. Balenciaga Arena
2. St Laurent Court Classic in black/cobalt
3. Jordans True Blue
4. Gucci (excluding monogrammed styles)
5. Margiela Replicas
Digg’s Dream Collaboration:
- Porche x Gucci
Drop dates: when a retailer is releasing a new style, the date and location of the release is posted
Colorways: the color combinations for a sneaker. Often the same shoe style will come out year after year with updated colorways.
Resellers: control the supply and demand. They have hookups to buy out the limited amount dropped by the original retailer with plans of reselling within their network. “We all have to play a certain game to get the exact ones we want.”
Grails: these are my joints. These are the favorite go-to kicks
Put them on ice: when you buy more than one pair of the same shoe and store some for the future
Kicks to put on your wishlist:
Ronnie Fieg collaborations
Adidas Y-3 by Yohji Yamamoto
Jordans Don C
Givenchy Tyson High Top
Flight Club - New York and Los Angeles
NikeLab 21M – Soho, NYC. The latest drops from Nike will always hit this location first
Stadium Goods - Soho, NYC and online at www.stadiumgoods.com
Kith – Manhattan and Brooklyn, online at www.kithnyc.com
Fordham Road – Bronx, NY
eBay – several people mentioned eBay as a go to destination for hard to get kicks. It broadens your reach giving you more opportunities to find that one style you’re after
Keep up to date on drop dates and all things sneaker with these resources:
Kicks on Fire
Sneaker Crush App
23 Is Back
SneakerCon - attend conventions in every major city to see the rarest of the rare in person
Sneaker Shouts - also check out Sneaker Shouts collection on Colabination
Always take photos to keep an archive of your kicks. Helps to have a reference when you are shopping and want to refer back to the details and colors.
Nike Air Force 1 “UPTOWNS” are recommended as a good first time sneaker. They are urban with modern style features, lots of color options and fit easily into any wardrobe.
Retailers limit one purchase per customer in both online and in stores. Bring along a loyal friend who is willing to wait hours in line with you to pick up multiple pairs of newly dropped sneakers.