By Paige Gordon
Although it seems sneaker culture has blown up in the past few years, the sneaker culture community was established long before online shopping and Instagram.
In fact, the birth of sneaker culture can be attributed to two sources: basketball, specifically Michael Jordan, and rap music.
In the 80s there were two brands that dominated the sneaker scene: Nike and Adidas.
Nike managed to bring attention to basketball by building a whole brand around basketball superstar Michael Jordan. As the story goes Jordan was banned from wearing Air Jordan 1 sneakers during games because they featured non-regulation colours. Jordan continued to wear the shoe anyway despite facing a $5000 per game fine.
Legend has it Nike paid the fine, using the attention surrounding the superstar a marketing opportunity. The first pair of Air Jordans were released that year to the public retailing at $65.
Jordan set the standard for future players to wear custom made shoes, opening up a whole range of opportunities for creativity on the court and endorsement deals for players like Kawi Leonard, Kevin Durant, and Kobe Bryant. The Air Jordan influence is far-reaching, eventually making the transition to music, particularly the rap scene.
The Beastie Boys are often heralded as Sneaker Head pioneers, influencing fans through their footwear choices for more than three decades. However, as opposed to Jordan, the BeastieBoys tended to favour Adidas over Nike.
The shoe that defined that band at multiple points in their career was the Adidas Campus. This suede model was also a favourite of the Boston Celtics.
The Beastie Boys have recently collaborated with Adidas to create a pair of vegan trainers. The shoes are made from off-white canvas, featuring grey stripes, and have the Beastie Boys logo on the tongue and heel of the shoes. The release of the shoes coincides with the 30th anniversary of the Beasties’ album ‘Pauls Boutique’.
More recently, rap musicians are also embracing sneaker culture.
Kanye West has a huge hit that has nothing to do with music. In 2009, he launched his Yeezy shoe line with Nike, moving to Adidas in 2013. The Yeezy is creeping up on Jordan’s empire in cultural and commercial performance. They have continued to be the most popular brand of luxury sneakers in the past five years.
Don’t worry, even if you hate basketball and have never heard a Beastie Boys song, you can still be a part of sneaker culture. There are plenty of places in Edmonton to get those coveted Nike Airforce 1s. Foosh is one of Edmonton’s most well-known sneaker boutiques carrying brands like Jordan, Addidas, Converse and more. If you are at West-Ed, be sure to check out House of Hoops by Footlocker, the Vans Store and Champs. With all these options, you are sure to satisfy your sneaker fix.