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Sneakers have become a lot more than just a kind of footwear, as they have become a part of a contemporary subculture. Currently, there is a trend of blurring the line between formal and casual clothing making it socially acceptable to wear what people want in any circumstances. The subculture has become a driving force for manufacturers to design and produce more sneakers making a substantial profit. The present paper offers a literature review consisting of an academic article, a Master’s theses, a newspaper article, and a blog post approaching the phenomenon from different directions.
While discussing the same topic, all four featured sources touch upon varying aspects of the matter. In his Master’s theses, Laitasalo makes an effort to find out if sneakerheads significantly influence the industry or provide inside information for the manufacturers (2). Laitasalo conducts empirical research by interviewing three representatives of the subculture and analyzing the results (5). Moreover, he offers a review of the sneaker culture, industry, and the phenomenon of sneakerheads, defining them as fanatics who dedicate their lives to buying and selling shoes (4). In short, while focusing on footwear enthusiasts, the author also provides background information on the topic.
The academic article by Bekoe discusses how African Americans influence the sneaker culture and all its positive and negative aspects. Bekoe also offers a brief history and declares that this subculture and industry will prosper during the coming three years (8).
At the same time, Grover also states that wearing casual footwear with formal suits is becoming a trend (para. 2-3); however, the newspaper article offers predictions only until the end of 2018 and does not give long-term promises (para 7). Ema in her blog post touches upon the same aspects emphasizing reasons for becoming a sneakerhead (para 6-12). Ema analyzes the pros and cons of the subculture and claims that even though the members of the cultural subgroup face increased stress, the warm community is the driving force of the phenomenon. In brief, the literature reviewed in the present paper provides a holistic overview of the sneaker culture acknowledging its place in contemporary society.
Areas of Agreement and Disagreement
One of the central messages in all the literature reviewed is that with the dawn of the internet age, sneaker culture is experiencing its second birth. Even though the history of the phenomenon roots from African American culture of the 1970s (Laitasalo 28, Bekoe 3), the number of sneakerheads has increased dramatically since 2015 (Laitasalo 36-37, Bekoe 4, Grover para. 2). The primary reason for this is the shift in the image of people wearing a sneaker. In the 1980s the subculture was associated with violence and danger (Bekoe 3). The shoes were worn mostly by African Americans and were closely connected to NBA and hip-hop (Laitasalo 28).
In 2018, it became acceptable to wear sneakers for any occasion, including sports, formal meetings, and even weddings (Grover para. 6). Moreover, sneakerheads created an internet community where they can exchange news, buy and sell shoes, discuss trends, and cheer each other (Ema para. 7). In summary, all the authors of the reviewed literature agree that the internet is the driving force of community growth, as it improves the image of an average sneaker wearer.
While all the authors of the reviewed literature agree on most of the points, their opinions differ on the role of sneakerheads as the driving force of the subculture. On the one hand, Bekoe states that the industry benefits greatly from the desire of the enthusiasts to own a pair of shoes from a limited edition (5), and Ema agrees on the matter (para. 10). On the other hand, Laitasalo in his academic research concludes that “sneakerheads were influential in the early stages of sneaker subculture and even though sneakerheads continue to be a highly vocal group within this market category, their influence has waned over time” (47).
Grover also believes that the central motive for the rise of the subculture is the ability to wear comfortable clothes and shoes in any situation (para. 2). In short, the influence of sneaker fanatics is a point of disagreement in the reviewed literature.
Problems and Gaps
The principal problem of the review is that there is a gap in research about countries other than the US. While the authors of all the works discussed in the present paper provide an excessive amount of information about the history of sneaker culture in America, there is no data about the phenomenon in Japan, where the movement is also popular since the 1990s (Laitasalo, 49). Moreover, it would be beneficial to state long-term predictions for the popularity of the subculture, which would be helpful for businesses evaluating their future profits. In brief, while the reviewed literature offers plenty of information on the topic of interest, there are significant gaps in the research.
Sneaker culture is almost a 50-year-old phenomenon, which originated in the 1970s and experiences a rebirth at the present day. The primary reason for the subculture becoming increasingly popular is the growing community of sneaker wearers communicating through the internet. Even though there are no long-term predictions on the matter, the analysis shows that the sneaker trend will continue to be prominent in the nearest future.
Bekoe, Shaquille-Omari. “Sneaker Culture Has Given Black Men Fashion Freedom While Creating Restriction.” CUNY Academic Works, 2017, pp. 1-9.
Grover, Purva. “The Rise of the Sneaker Culture.” Khaleej Times. 2018. Web.
Laitasalo, Riku. Sneakerheads: Influencers of Industry or Insignificant Insiders? Master’s theses, Aalto University School of Business, 2016.