Collecting sneakers is a hobby at the intersection of fashion, sports, and brand identity. Accordingly, the market of sneaker enthusiasts, or “sneakerheads,” is predominantly young and multicultural.
Some of the most popular and well-known sneakers, like Jordans, feature sports legends, but collecting sneakers is much more than just being able to wear your favorite basketball player’s shoes when you are on the court yourself. Sneakerhead culture is also about collecting sneakers and being able to impress other collectors with your own collection. Sneakerheads are always on the lookout for the next limited-edition sneaker, and they must act quickly once it “drops” in order to improve their collection. As a self-proclaimed sneakerhead myself, few moments rival unboxing a new, rare pair of sneakers. It’s the same feeling I had as a kid when I would find my favorite athlete’s trading card in a new deck, or a rare state quarter in spare change.
But what makes sneaker collecting different from other forms of novelty items is that brands have permission to play. A very popular type of limited-edition sneaker is a co-branded sneaker, made in partnership with a brand or influencer. These partnerships allow sneakerheads to express their love of specific brands and sneakers all at once. Shoe brands collaborate with other recognizable brands, like Gatorade, PlayStation, McDonalds, or even Ben & Jerry’s, to create limited-edition sneakers. These shoes are generally released as part of a special one-time promotion, or because a specific athlete pushed for a collaboration with one of their own favorite brands. A personal highlight of my sneaker collection is my Nike Kyrie 5 Spongebob sneakers, a collaboration between Nickelodeon and basketball star Kyrie Irving – as well as a frequent sight around the pre-quarantine Collage Group office!