Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Anatomy of a Sneakerhead

It’s always an interesting experience to browse sneakers with Tank.  For those of you who don’t know me well, Tank is my little brother.  I’ve been a mentor through Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Indiana for 7 years now and Tank is my Little.  I met him when he was 7 and he’ll be 14 in a couple weeks.  He is always pointing out these new shoes to me to which I’m enamored and must explain how I owned them when I was his age.  The term retro refers to new old I suppose, so when he says new he means they just came out, in his eyes and experience, but to me they’re old because they’ve been released before, it’s an old design. 

“I don’t watch the NBA anymore, not since the glory days of Jordan and Bulls passed.  Those were the good ol’ days”  This is the same rhetoric you hear from many people, interestingly enough, people who were only kids in those days.  I’m talking the late 90s here, where the rise of the NBA superstar became very much apparent with marketing and especially sneaker deals.  Larry Johnson, Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman, Gary Payton, Shawn Kemp, Shaq, Penny Hardaway, Tim Hardaway, Chris Webber, Latrell Sprewell.  These are just a few names I can rattle off the top of my head that had sneaker deals.  Nostalgia is an interesting phenomenon and is cause for much of this big retro sneaker hype that we are experiencing today.  Nostalgia is why walking into Finishline or Champs or Footlocker often feels like you stepped into a time machine and visited your childhood fantasy regarding sneakers.
I always ask the question of why and am not satisfied until I have answered it in some way, which leads me to ponder the psychology of a retro sneaker.  Why is it that the 90s sneakers have made this huge emergence and not only sold well, but done so at an ungodly price hike compared to the original price? 
I grew up during this basketball “golden era.”  Just to clarify, I think the NBA is at its peak in terms of talent and marketability right now, so I don’t really buy into the golden era of basketball, nostalgia also makes everything look better in retrospect.  While we are here let’s define retrospect.  According to the great World Wide Web a basic definition is this: a survey or review of a past course of events or period of time.  A retro sneaker is just that, a review of a period of time expressed through a sneaker being re-released to the general population.  Nike is a very very smart company.  I’m not sure if you knew this but Nike now has the contract for all NFL apparel.  Nike has taken innovating sports to another level with technology like the fuel band and NikePlus as well.  Nike also owns Jordan Brand.  Nike used to own ColeHaan, but in order to focus on the sports side of things sold it off to a holding company.  All that to demonstrate Nike knows what they are doing.  I grew up in the inner city with not very much.  Like most kids in that environment I idolized these basketball players who came from similar circumstances to make it in the NBA and become millionaires.  I wanted to walk like them, talk like them, smell like them (yep, remember when Jordan released that awful cologne?), and most of all I wanted to wear what they wore.
There’s an entire generation of us, we grew up wanting to be Jordan.  Macklemore’s song about sneakers hits home for many like me (if you haven’t heard it, check it out).  Again, most of us who idolized these figures and wanted to wear their shoes also grew up poor and were not able to afford these luxuries.  Let’s fast forward a bit.  While fast forwarding keep in mind none of us wanted to be poor and some of us grew up and found a way to not repeat socio-economic habits and break the cycle of poverty and make our ways to success.  We now have money.  We now have means to that end, to grab that sneaker we so coveted growing up, we can now touch what seemed unattainable.  Again, Nike is smart, Nike knows and has probably been studying this generation for quite some time.  Knowing that we have cash they began unloading all the sneakers we yearned for as kids.  Nike is extremely innovative so it makes zero sense that they would release retros because they’ve run out of good designs.  Retro sneakers are a cash cow aimed at taking advantage of the opportunity a bunch of previously unfortunate kids all grown up with cash now apportion them.  I’m not trying to demonize Nike or the idea of retros in any way, I have been eating them up, even though my style doesn’t really support casually wearing sneakers. 
I wanted to be like Mike, but couldn’t afford it back then, now I can, you can call me a sneakerhead.  That’s how it goes.  Kudos to Nike for noticing opportunity and kudos to all of us who can finally get The Glove, Kamikaze II, Elevens, and Air Max Ones. 

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