Right before I started writing about sneakers, I had two pair of proper Air Jordans to my name (the Air Jordan XX and some “Pure” Air Jordan 3s I found at a Nike Factory Store). My Kobes and LeBrons outnumbered my Jumpmans by a wide margin. I had multiple all-white Reebok Question Lows but zero Asics and New Balance. I didn’t know (or care) Under Armour made kicks and if you had mentioned the words “Saucony” or “Diadora” to me I would think you were speaking a foreign language.
It was a time of peace and quiet. I could walk into a local Foot Locker or Champs Sports and stare at the kicks on the wall and be on my way if I didn’t find anything of interest. I once tried to get in line for the Nike Zoom Kobe 5 “Big Stage” (when I saw the line stretch to the dark recesses of the Beverly Center I gave up) but that was about as crazy as I ever got.
Nowadays, I stare at these same walls and think about how I can turn what I see into something to write about for Kicks On Fire. I get in line for a pair of black “Infrared” Air Jordan 6s simply because it might have good story potential. And then this past week, I took a picture of those retros above just begging to be bought and I think to myself, “has the bubble burst?”
Three years ago, if I had tweeted that I saw multiple pairs of Air Jordan 6s, 7s or 9s just sitting, people would have threatened my life if I didn’t give them an exact location. Any retro, no matter how good or bad the execution, was an instant sellout. The Air Jordan 5 “Pro Stars” would not be hilariously disrespected like in that picture. Basic colorways from the Nike Big 3 were often hard to find just weeks after they dropped. In 2015, unless it’s an retro of the OG variety or a Yeezy, the retweets and Instagram just don’t hit as hard as they used to. So has “sneaker culture” in its current iteration already hit its apex?
The rise of sneakers into the mainstream is no different than how comic books – well, comic book characters at least – became the coolest thing in the world. Both were supremely niche hobbies with dedicated followings that seemed destined to stay that way forever. But slowly and surely, a variety of factors ushered both into the spotlight. For comic books, it was Hollywood finally giving them the time of day and the proper budget to do the stories on the page justice and for sneakers, it was LeBron James’ arrival to Miami and the literal growth of kids who grew up watching Michael Jordan finally having money to buy Air Jordans at whatever cost. Social media also made it easier for people to share their passion for comic books or sneakers and for others to jump into a culture that would accept them. Since then, comic book movies have made headlines for the billions of dollars that they make at the box office while sneakers grab everybody’s attention on Saturday mornings.
But just as quick as we are build something up, we also can’t wait to tear it down. The pushback by creators and critics against comic book movies is getting louder even as the movies get bigger, more bombastic and larger in number. It was almost inevitable that a movie, say The Fantastic Four reboot, was going to come along and bomb terribly. It doesn’t mean that comic book movies are all of a sudden going to stop being made, but studios and fans are going to be a lot more cautious moving forward. By the same token, with so many kicks coming out and rising in price, it was only a matter of time before we saw the scenario pictured above. Regardless of how much hype it gets on the blogs or on social media, not every sneaker release is going to be the greatest thing ever and some are going to be left behind waiting for a price drop. Great for me; not so much for hype’s sake. And if you bought a shoe just for the sake of hype and it doesn’t blow up, you were out in the cold; and that feeling is happening more often now than ever before.
That picture you see up top is the Air Jordan 21, considered by many to be one of the worst Air Jordans ever made. If we had posted this pic a few years back, it would have been crapped on by most of the commenters and barely reach 10,000 likes . As of this post, it has garnered nearly 38,000 likes in less than 24 hours. People are paying more attention to what adidas is up to, looking up what Stephen Curry is rocking and seeking out what Diadora has been cooking up. Even I know what Diadora is up to. So maybe the bubble hasn’t actually burst; it’s just evolved.
This is the time when you’re going to see who really was into sneakers for the sake of sneakers all along and those who liked it because it upped their profile. Just check the sneaker personalities you follow on social media and see how much their posting habits have changed once they saw the retweets and likes weren’t popping off like they used to. There is a whole new generation of kids out there that aren’t as willing to show off like the ones that were around for the rise of Twitter and Instagram, opting instead to build their brands through more discreet (or difficult to navigate thus walling off crusty old thirtysomethings like myself) means like Snapchat. Those who adapt and open their eyes to new things will thrive in this new sneaker world order and those that don’t will be stuck with boxes of “Marvin The Martian” 7s desperately trying to sell them at sneaker conventions. If sneaker conventions will continue to exist in their current form, that is…