I’m not one for going negative, however, in a year that has disappointed on so many levels, it seems fitting to re-evaluate the world around us and identify what we’d like to see changed going into the new year.
Sneaker and streetwear culture are, at their core, subjective. You might like a shoe that your friends think is trash, and they might like a particular style that you just don’t understand. With other things, though, there are pretty clearly defined lines as to what constitutes “good” and “bad.”
Therefore, I’ve rounded up aspects of sneaker culture that I believe were disappointing in 2020. Some you may agree with, others you may not. Either way, I think we’re all on the same page in that we’re tentatively excited for what 2021 has in store for us.
I think I speak for every sneakerhead in the world when I say that I cannot wait for some semblance of normality to return to my life. How Covid-19 changed the way we live and how that’s affected sneakerheads has been covered at large over the past 10 months. For me, it’s not so much the fact that I have fewer opportunities to “flex” my sneakers. I just miss the in-store releases, the launch parties, and sneaker conventions where I could socialize with other sneakerheads.
When you strip away the layers of flex, hype, clout, and drip, sneakerheads are nerds that are completely obsessed with inanimate objects. At the end of the day, what we enjoy most is nerding out with other like-minded individuals, both online and in person. Unfortunately, the latter has been missing for a good chunk of this year.
I want to get back to meeting new people that are as into Nike Shox as I am, or talk to kids about last week’s release and who copped and who didn’t while lining up for an in-store raffle, or walk into one of my favorite sneaker stores after I’ve won that elusive raffle and literally pick up my latest pick up.
I truly believe that the future of sneaker culture is localized drops. Some might see that as a step backward and argue that the current system of online drops and global raffles benefits all sneakerheads equally, regardless of if you live in a big city or not.
I’m not suggesting that New York, Paris, London, and Tokyo get all of the cool sneaker releases. I’m saying that localized and geographically-locked releases could help make certain drops more special.
In addition to making the hunt for sneakers exciting again, this strategy would benefit brands, too, as it allows them to speak to specific demographics and finetune their storytelling. A project inspired by a cult club in Berlin might not do huge numbers worldwide, but it’ll definitely fly off shelves in Germany’s capital while feeling that much more special to the city’s sneakerheads.
Some sneakerheads despise resellers. I’m not one of them; I understand that resell and hype is part and parcel of the game and each have their benefits. But where I draw the line is when hype and the potential to make crazy amounts of money are the primary reasons for a sneaker being popular.
Resell is only a problem when it’s the only thing that matters, and in 2020, I got the feeling that that was the case whenever a new Nike Dunk was dropping. In normal doses, hype and resell value drive trends and bring new consumers to an existing product. When hype takes over, you’re left with people buying sneakers for the wrong reasons. There’s no way to stamp it out completely but when it comes to the Nike Dunk, I think it’s gone too far.
Hype and resell also affect brands’ decision making, who will look to capitalize by pushing out more releases. The market can easily get oversaturated, and just as quickly as the hype arrived, it leaves. Look at the adidas NMD a few years ago, or New Balance 327 in 2020.
This year, Nike dropped a women’s-exclusive Dunk Disrupt, which watered down an iconic model to speak to the female demographic. It was a huge miss. It likely came from a desire to capitalize on the Dunk hype and speak to a female audience that is so often misunderstood in sneaker culture.
I don’t want hype to go away in 2021, nor do I want big resell come ups to disappear. But what I don’t want is for hype to be the sole driver for many decisions — both on the consumer and on the brand side.
There is too much product in the world for any brand to truly be sustainable. Sneakerheads don’t need one more pair and brands don’t really need to release another sneaker. Alas, that is the system we are currently a part of. Change is happening and should be lauded — such as Nike’s Space Hippie project or adidas’ forays into more environmentally-conscious technologies— but it’s happening too slowly.
There’s really not much more to say than that everyone — and that includes media like us — holds themselves and others in the industry accountable, and that real strides are made towards a more environmentally-conscious future. The first step, in my opinion, would be more considered releases and less overall. I don’t need 1500 variations of a Stan Smith or Air Max 90, regardless of how much “recycled material” is used in the production. We’d all be better off if each colorway, each collaboration, was carefully considered first, and only then released.
2020 was the year when so much didn’t happen — sometimes it was disappointing, sometimes it came as a relief. From sporting events to sex parties, Highsnobiety’s latest collection “This Never Happened” is built around the events — big and small — that didn’t happen this year. Dropping December 28 exclusively at our online store.