The Gentrification of Sneaker Culture



Sneakers, you either love them or hate them. But they are an essential piece in making someone's outfit whole, especially in the 1970s for ethnic minorities. Having your sneakers in pristine condition back then wasn't because you appreciated the shoe in all its glory, but it was because of the poverty gap that was happening in New York around this time. But to really take a deep dive into sneaker culture, we will need to understand the key word gentrification.

So what is gentrification? And how can this be applied to sneaker subculture?


By Google’s definition, gentrification is where a poor urban area is changed due to wealthier people moving into said area. This comes with newer buildings, improving older buildings and attraction of new businesses to move into the area. Due to this new change, it often displaces current inhabitants in the process.

So we know what the definition of gentrification is, but how does this affect sneaker culture as a whole? As stated in the intro for this article, I briefly spoke about New York during the 1970s. During this era, there was an economic collapse that increased social segregation between ethnic minorities and white people in New York.

Due to these circumstances, this allowed things such as hip-hop culture and also rap music to shape a lot of the culture that was once considered "ghetto". As hip hop was anti-mainstream, it became its own subculture that thrived on creativity, pride and self-determination of those who were at the top of this subculture. A lot of the lifestyle could be broken down to the way you dressed, which is why rappers that thrived in this genre of music can be seen showing off their sneaker collections, as it is a way of saying they can now afford these highly priced sneakers that were once out of their reach due to poverty.


How was Nike involved in sneaker culture?


As hip-hop and rap made itself into mainstream culture, so did its fashionable culture. This meant that sneaker brands such as Nike were beginning to compete with other sneaker brands when it came to technology used in the shoes to make them comfortable for the wearer alongside the unique silhouettes coming out at the time, especially the Nike Air Jordan 1 from 1985.

The sneakers, that were named after the famous NBA basketball player Michael Jordan, originally signed him for a contract of $2.5 million. To Nike's surprise, the sneaker sales resulted in a profit of $1.3 million in the first year.

This rise is profit was due to the fact the Jordan was rebellious against the NBA rules as he wore his own shoes to the court, which resulted in them being banned. And because of the ban, it made fans want the shoe even more, to which Nike decided to seize the opportunity to mass produce these sneakers.


Now the Jordan line is said to be worth millions. Because of this notoriety that Nike has, it is said that a pair of Jordan 1 Retro Fragment that originally retailed for $185 in 2014 can resell for up to $2,000 today.


So as we can see from the 1980s, Nike was and is still reining supreme when it comes to sneaker innovation and advertising these sneakers well compared to their competitors. But what does the sub culture look like now in the 21st century with technology involved?

What does sneaker culture look like now?


In the age of technology, with technological advancements such as smartphones and the internet,

sneaker culture has been able to make itself known worldwide, with people using smartphones to communicate their interests with one another, especially on social media.

Sneaker brands have been able to use these advancements to their advantage, as they are able to see that there is a market in advertising to the sneaker community on social media. When there was to be a release of a new sneaker, brands were quick to use social media to advertise this new item to consumers as the internet was vastly becoming accessible to people around the world.


Brands have taken it a step forward to advertise their products using specific media sites such as Twitter and Instagram that have had a big impact on creating trends and pushing releases that have gone viral worldwide. Not only did this create competition amongst brands to create innovative shoes, but also opened the floor to older sneaker enthusiasts to compete with the new age sneaker enthusiasts using technology to gain an upper hand in securing a new release before anyone else.


With the rise in competitive marketing amongst sneaker brands, it has opened up a new playing field for sneaker heads to find a way to cop their favourite pairs of shoes before resellers get their hand on them first. With the aid of technology, bots are being used to leverage the consumer in getting their first than being sorry later. You could say that love for shoes now is not what it was before for many older sneakerheads.


I hope this article allowed you to get a brief understanding on sneaker culture and why there is such a craze around for wanting to own a pair of new sneakers.