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Sneaker Culture: What It Says about Our Current Youth

Sneaker Culture: What It Says about Our Current Youth

By: Victoria Elizabeth Lancaster

On my evening commute home about a week ago, I passed by countless stores with tents pitched outside filled with faces eager and anxiously waiting for something. That something happened to be the third version of Kanye West’s Yeezy Boost 350 in new, and apparently highly sought after, moonrock colour. This prompted me to find out exactly what motivates our youth to stand outside for hours in the November gloom of London to try their hand at grabbing a pair of one of the “hypiest” items on the market.

On my evening commute home about a week ago, I passed by countless stores with tents pitched outside filled with faces eager and anxiously waiting for something. That something happened to be the third version of Kanye West’s Yeezy Boost 350 in new, and apparently highly sought after, moonrock colour. This prompted me to find out exactly what motivates our youth to stand outside for hours in the November gloom of London to try their hand at grabbing a pair of one of the “hypiest” items on the market.

Throughout the history of time, psychologists have studied patterns behind the motivation to collect, or in other words the motivation to gather or accumulate many objects that are either the same or different from one another. Some say it’s to cope with anxieties and find comfort in the overwhelming accumulation of items. Some say it’s for status in society’s hierarchy of “cool”. 

I had to start my investigation somewhere, so I saw fit to look back at the gradual rise of sneaker culture. Sneakers, trainers, kicks, tennis shoes – whichever fancies your vocabulary – are found, quite literally, in wardrobes in every corner of our world.

I took my research all the way back to Converse circa 1917. The All Star, it was called. It was an indoor gym shoe that captured the brand’s signature toe bumper on the front and rubber licence plate on the heel. 

Some say it all really started, though, in 1985 with the iconic Nike Air Jordan kick designed by Peter Moore. NBA player of the Chicago Bulls, Michael Jordan, was one of the first sneaker legends, in fact, these sneakers gained their acclaim when they were officially banned by the NBA. This didn’t stop Jordan from sporting the kicks and that made them even more sharp.

Fast-forward a year to Run-D.M.C. track ‘My Adidas’ and when sneaker culture merged with the  rise of hip-hop in the 90s. The iconic hip-hop group adorned not just matching Adidas tracksuits, but ‘Superstars.’ The Superstars soon gave rise to unity defined by NYC streets and hip-hop roots. After this, nearly everyone wanted to wear those iconic three stripes (and they still do). 

How about the sneakers that weren’t made for the athlete or hip-hop icon? That’s right they're out there. The 2008 NikeCraft Lunar Underboot’s were moon boot sneakers designed by artist Tom Sachs as a nod to the power of the minds of the aerospace world. 

Now we hit 2015, and Kanye has done it again, and if one thing’s for certain it’s that the hype certainly hasn't died yet. The question that remains, though, is why does our youth have such an obsession with kicks such as the Yeezys? Are we standing outside for hours on end for the right reasons? Have we lost sight of sneaker’s cultural roots ridden with history of sport and music? Do sneakers still unify groups and cultures, or do they simply instigsate the competitive battle to buy and resell? 

Let’s look past the superficiality that has become of these things that we wear on our feet. Let’s continue to contribute to the rich history and legacy of unity that defines these kicks. 

Next time you throw on your favourite sneakers, remember where they came from and check out GQ’s documentary series Sneakerheadz to learn more.