November 3, 2017 Che Smith

Im Not A Sneaker Head But Hip Hop Needs A 5th Element!

Note: All photos by @cristopherschafer on Instagram. Please provide photo credit if the photos are reposted or shared. Thank you!

Yesterday Jeff & the crew were all invited to an upscale Retail consignment shop that specializes in rare and exclusive sneakers. I must admit, I’m not a “Sneaker Head” which to many in hip-hop culture sounds blasphemous. Hip-hop is known to have 4 principle Elements
1) DJ’in,
2) M.C.’s,
3) Graffiti
4) Breakin’
I think it’s proper at this point in history to amend it’s pillars to include
5) Sneaker Heads

From the early days of Run D.M.C. yelling “My A-Didas” to Nelly stompin’ in his “Airforce One’s”, artists and fans alike have been infatuated with foot wear.
Although I’ve never been as entranced by a pair of vintage Nikes as those around me, I didn’t want to miss an opportunity to see what the fuss was all about.
We went to a small shop in London called “Presented By,” They shut down the store to give Jazzy Jeff and the rest of us a tour and education about the product and business of Sneaker retail culture.

The first things I saw were the various incarnations of Yeezys. Prices ranging between $600-$5000. I was utterly shocked! As much time as I’ve spent with Kanye in my life, I never knew how expensive and important his shoes and clothing line were to the culture that supports it. I was told stories about how people literally sit and look for pictures to see what he wears to and from his office so they can scavenge for where to find the apparel. Some fans sit outside of stores for days to buy shoes and even pay people to stand in line for them.

Pharell has a line of shoes called racers that used to sale for about $250 but now people all over the world look for certain pairs of them and are willing to pay way more. Of course a nice pair of vintage Jordans are always the most sought after, drooled over shoe everyone’s eyeing.
How about a pair of “Back 2 The Future” Marty Mcfly Nikes on sale for $150,000,00?

Of course these weren’t all the original prices Nike, Kanye and other sold the shoes for originally, but in this world the original price isn’t the point.
These shoes are always on limited runs, so people snatch them up quick then Jack the price up for those who are willing to pay for a piece of gym shoe history.

This culture is real, it’s profitable for those who know what they’re doing and it’s here to stay as long as Icons are willing to sell a piece of their personal style.
I’m happy I went to see what Sneaker culture was all about and get a full understanding of a part of hip-hop history that almost escaped me.
When I posted some of the kicks on my IG with the attached prices, I immediately got some push back with comments like “our folks better stop worrying about the latest sneaker coming out and learn how to manufacture and design them” or “You could buy a nice condo or fixer upper house to flip”.

The assessment that “These Are Just Shoes That Hold No True Value” is a bit short sighted to me after visiting this shop in the U.K. where the majority of purchasers of these expensive vintage shoes are not “people of color” but often designed by people of color and financially benefit “people of color” I’ve learned that this is not just a vanity sport, it’s an actual lifestyle and business for many people who pay rent, aquire property and support themselves buying and selling vintage shoes.

We often downplay forms of capitalism we don’t personally connect with, but honestly I don’t like the idea of “flipping buildings” especially in black communities where gentrification is real and we’re too quick to have mere transactional relationships that sell away our Land assets. Again I’m NOT A “SNEAKER HEAD” I like a nice pair of cowboy or Kenneth Cole boots to be honest.


But I did learn that Kanye, Pharell, 2 Chains & countless ball players who all have collaborations with distribution companies like Nike or Adidas are being empowered through hip-hop to influence how the world dresses and yes, also getting paid for it. To say “let’s open our own Manufacturing facilities” is in the right direction and necessary but in the words of a famous ranter “How Sway”?! Our people are growing with every generation, becoming more wealthy powerful and knowledgeable. Let’s be careful not to be harder on ourselves then others are on us.