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Destefano St. Germain
Professor Deby Dagher
English 1102
22 June 2015
Sneaker Culture: From the Lab to the Streets
The day that I bought my first ever pair of Jordan will forever change my life. It was the
summer of 2003 on a nice crisp New York day. Like every weekend my mother will entertain my
brother and me with spectacular window shopping. On this day, we stopped at one sneaker store
and in the window display was the most phenomenal sneaker that my eyes have ever seen. It was
the Air Jordan 17 “Baby Blue” and was on sale for $100. Every weekend my brother and I plead
and beg for our mom to stop and actually buy us something. I made every wish in the book so
my mom will buy me these amazing sneakers. I promised to clean my room, the bathroom,
kitchen, and even her room. With the grace of luck my mom finally gave in and bought the
sneakers for me. I do not know where or what happened to those shoes but I do know that day
opened my eyes to what sneakers mean and represent. With age came the greater respect and
love for sneakers that consumed my daily activities with the only goal to buy more shoes.
Sneakers mean that I have to ability to express the way I feel every day. I have over 20
pairs of sneakers and each shoe has a meaning of purchase for sentimental reasons or just for
coolness. I wanted this inquiry project to show that buying shoes is not a dull and simple process.
Buyers gather information about the sneakers they are going to purchase and obtaining a certain
sneaker can be a life-long achievement. Sneakers represent art and the meaning of this culture is
to explore one’s self-expression and to have the ability to be creative.

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A counter culture is the breakaway from the norm of the existing culture. The sneaker
industry evolved from being dull and a necessity to a fashion statement. Sneakers have played a
vital role in shaping the American youth and maintaining a cultural standard. The sneaker culture
is a young subculture that many do not understand but recognize its presence in today’s society.
“Sneakers have become more like fashion items or personal technology products than shoes”
(Vanderbilt 116). This culture’s roots can be traced back to the mid-80s and early 90s where the
idea for paying for sneakers that were over $100 was foreign.
The rap group Run-DMC can easily be credited as the pioneers of the sneaker culture.
They were the first to make sneakers cool and fashionable. Run-DMC “spoke for a whole
generation” of sneaker lovers who bought Adidas for the sole purpose to look cool (Cunningham
2). The hip-hop culture was formed and it latched itself to an already established business. I feel
the importance of this culture demonstrates the mindset of the youth. Many young kids are the
ones who buy sneakers and this culture allows people from various walks of life to connect to
this particular love.
To really understand the sneaker culture; you will have to look at the millions of people
across the globe who have sacrificed their time and money for a pair of shoes. People make look
at it as crazy or unintelligent but these “sneakerheads” like me view it as a passion. In the movie,
Just for Kicks, the interviewees explain how the culture emerged but truly expressed what a
sneaker meant to them. Grandmaster Caz stated “I love some sneakers more than I love some
people” (Just for Kicks, 2005). Throughout my research, I discovered multiple accounts of
people who shared the same passion as I do about sneakers. A culture supplies a foundation and
background that allow for the growth of individuals.

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One main thing that I love about sneakers is the ability to create something new. New
CAD development will allow for sneakers designers to produce shoes at a faster rate (Smock 2).
The aspect of creating allows for the growth of inspiration and make anyone a sneaker designer.
Sneakers companies like Nike, Converse, and Adidas all supply the ability for someone to design
their own unique personal shoe. The ability to take a simple idea and create something new is a
goal that we all want to achieve. My main fundamental reason to do research on the sneaker
world was to provide an inside look of the mindset of millions of people. Some buy sneakers for
sentimental reasons and others buy them to look cool. No matter what the reason is; sneakers
provides individuality. You can un-tie the laces, draw on your shoes, or create something new.
The culture exists for people to be individuals. The reason why I stand in line for hours or spend
over $200 on a pair of sneaker is for the ability to turn that sneaker into my own passion.
I really like the documentary Just for Kicks because it expands on the notion that
sneakers provide a great outlet for apprising youth to be creative (Just for Kicks, 2005). The
entertainers that were interviewed expressed how sneakers changed their lives. This movie shows
how with the growth of popularity of sneakers came with more innovation for the consumers to
be different. Every person wanted their outfit and shoes to demonstrate a little aspect of their
Also, I consider myself as a student/collector of sneakers. I do not always have the
financial means to buy certain shoes but I love to learn the history behind them. Each of my
shoes are a personal reminder of story of why I bought that particular shoe. I would keep on
buying sneakers because there will always be a sneaker that will either peak my interest or have
an emotional impact. It’s not about the number of pairs of shoes I have it’s the story behind each
shoe that makes them priceless.

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While conducting this research I was able to reconfirm what sneakers truly meant to me. I
have entered a culture that is purely based on being different. Many people do not understand
this culture because it is totally out of the norm of today’s society. Footwear should exclusively
be looked at as an object while this culture gives sneakers their own personality. “Sneakers are
about defining yourself, becoming yourself through slogan, logo, and look” (Vanderbilt 122).
Every aspect of this culture examines the idea to be different. Even though some sneaker prices
can be ridiculously high, but the opportunity to have something that is totally yours and able to
be creative with it is worth more than any money in the world.

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Works Citied
Cunningham, Caroline. "You Are What’s On Your Feet: Men and the Sneaker Subculture." You
Are What’s On Your Feet: Men and the Sneaker Subculture (2008): n. pag. Drexel
Library. 2008. Web. 1 June 2015.
Just for Kicks. Dir. Thibaut De Longeville. Perf. Bill Adler and Grandmaster Caz and Damon
Dash. YouTube. YouTube, 29 Oct. 2014. Web. 28 May 2015.
Vanderbilt, Tom. "The Cheerleaders: Advertising and Marketing." The Sneaker Book: Anatomy
of an Industry and an Icon. New York: New, 1998. 115-38. Print.
Smock, D. "Make Your Own Shoes: Advanced Product Engineering at Companies, Such As New
Balance Athletic Shoe Co. in Boston, Show How Computer-Aided Design, Digital
Manufacturing and Materials Technology May Soon Lead to Personalized Sneakers."
Design News Highlands Ranch Co. 64.5 (2009): 42-48. Print.
Neasman, Brandon. "Can I Kick It?: Hip-hop's Intimate Relationship with the Sneaker Industry."
TheGrio., 05 Dec. 2013. Web. 04 June 2015.