Deflating Sneaker Hype

When advertisements for back-to-school sales start appearing, I get annoyed because I know I’ll have to go shopping for clothes. I find going from store to store to look and try on clothes becomes tedious and exhausting for something that will be out of fashion in a year or less. Unfortunately, my parents disagree with my idea that I can shop for something online. However, there is an exception to my aversion to shopping: sneakers.


I do not consider myself a “sneaker-head,” someone who obsesses and goes to great lengths to acquire the latest release or unique edition sneakers, but I want to ensure that my choice is in line with other friends and classmates.


The attention that I devoted to sneakers was not gradual but had a decisive moment. In middle school, someone commented to me in a condescending voice, “no one still wears Nikes.” At the time, Adidas NMDs were all the rage. Until then, I wasn’t even aware that my shoes had a brand or alternatives existed. It was the moment I learned that what I wore on my foot said something about who I am.


Be it good or bad, high school students often care about the sneakers they wear for various reasons. Sneakers are a fashion statement, and students may want to wear the latest and trendiest styles to fit in with their peers and feel like they belong. Sneakers may also be associated with an activity or social group, such as sports or hip-hop, and wearing particular brands or styles can show you belong to that group. Additionally, some students may view sneakers as a status symbol and feel that wearing expensive or exclusive brands can increase their social standing or popularity among others. How did shoes initially designed for sports and physical activity become a symbol of style and self-expression that influences culture? 


The popularity of sneakers has evolved over the years and has become a staple of casual streetwear. These days sneakers are worn not just to improve athletic performance but for their looks and status. For example, I doubt you will ever see someone wearing a pair of iconic vintage Air Jordans play basketball. Air Jordans are a trend that has gone global, seen through the growth of sneaker sales year after year. According to Statistica, global sales for sneakers grew from $43 billion in 2014 to $72 billion in 2020 and are projected to grow to $100 billion by 2026. These days new sneaker releases can cause excitement among fans worldwide, with people willing to pay a premium for limited edition or exclusive styles. Multiple websites like StockX trade premium sneakers like gold or silver, some selling for over a million dollars. 


While sneaker culture may have positive aspects, such as promoting self-expression and individuality, it can also negatively impact high school students. For example, a student may feel peer pressured to conform to sneaker trends or wear specific brands or styles just to fit in. It almost sounds unreal, but there have been cases reported in the media of students that have been bullied for not having the “right” sneakers or for wearing outdated or less popular brands.


In popular culture, sneaker brands’ influence is beyond reasonable. As high school students, the time has come to look beyond the marketing hype and find alternate ways to express ourselves beyond a pair of fancy new kicks.