Cartmanstan42, via Wikimedia Commons
Sneaker collecting, created by black culture and shunned by pop culture was once treated as a stain on society.
Enthusiasts are known as "sneakerheads" amassing large collections and standing in long lines to obtain rare or limited edition sneakers.
However, in recent years, the mainstream culture has embraced this subculture, and sneaker collecting has become a lucrative industry with a worldwide market worth billions of dollars. With the increasing adoption of sneakers by "surburban" consumers with little to no connection or recognition of the culture that it originates and likely no understanding of the hardships encountered by the original creators and adopters of the culture.
The question arises: has sneaker collecting become gentrified?
A decade ago, standing in lines for sneakers was considered a waste of time, Jordans were banned in many nightclubs and and collectors were often mocked as lacking intellect and sophistication.
Sneakerheads were often marginalized and considered outcasts, as they were seen as spending large amounts of money on an unnecessary pursuit. However, over time, the demand for rare sneakers grew, and the value of certain models skyrocketed. As the market for these sneakers grew, so did the attention of mainstream culture.
Now, celebrities and pop culture icons are often seen wearing the latest and most exclusive sneakers with no connection to its subculture and hip-hop origins.
The sneaker industry has become a marketing tool for high-end brands and celebrities, driving up the prices of sneakers that were once accessible only to a niche group of enthusiasts. In addition, sneaker reselling has become a significant industry, with some resellers earning six-figure profits on individual sneakers.
While it is great for business and has allowed sneakerheads to profit from their collections, the mainstream commodification of sneaker culture has brought some negative consequences. Some argue that sneaker collecting has lost its authenticity and is no longer about the love of the shoes but rather about the status symbol they represent. The exclusivity of certain sneakers has created a hierarchy within the sneaker community, where only those with the most money or connections can obtain the most desirable sneakers.
Furthermore, the gentrification of sneaker collecting has made it more challenging for lower-income sneakerheads to obtain their desired sneakers. The market value of these shoes has made it nearly impossible for some people to afford them, even if they are passionate about collecting sneakers. The gentrification of sneaker culture has also shifted the focus away from the origins of the subculture and the DIY attitude of sneakerheads.
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In conclusion, while the mainstreaming of sneaker culture has brought many benefits, it has also created a new set of challenges for the subculture. The increasing commodification of sneakers has led to the gentrification of sneaker collecting, which has made it more challenging for lower-income sneakerheads to participate in the culture. However, the passion for sneakers is still very much alive, and sneakerheads continue to find ways to adapt and evolve as the culture around them changes.