What Makes a Sneaker Iconic?

What makes a sneaker iconic?

There are numerous sneakers released every year by every brand and styles/designs change to reflect the rdmc03current times. The passion and opinions of sneaker enthusiasts evolves just as similarly. Occasionally, one might lose touch with what truly brought them to their passion of sneakers – from the Chuck Taylor All-Star to Run DMC and “My Adidas.”

The answer to the question posed is obvious, right? Have you ever asked what specifically elevates a particular sneaker above the rest? Maybe the answer to this question isn’t so black and white or clear-cut to the extent that an answer fits into one sentence.

The term “Icon” has taken a new meaning in today’s pop-culture world. The definition of an icon, by the standards it is used by today essentially equates the status of icon to being related to or attached to someone or something of celebrity status. As my friend WEAVERTHEGREAT phrased it “an icon is something that transcends its medium.” “How does this relate to sneakers?” you ask. I’ll explain.

Throughout the progression and evolution of the sneaker culture, all of its ups and downs – from midnight releases to early Saturday releases – there have been sneakers that separate a specific shoe from the rest of the “herd” of countless sneaker releases that occur at any given time. Several factors can contribute to this separation.

One of the most notorious contributing factors is the dreaded hype factor. The sneaker associated term “hypebeast” evolved from this phenomenon. A hypebeast has numerous definitions but one that we can all aaagree on is “an individual that makes a purchase based on seemingly shallow intentions: buying not for the appreciation or likeability of a sneaker, but simply because of the buzz or “hype” surrounding a particular sneaker.” Hypebeasts tend to follow other Hypebeasts. We’ve all seen it – the Instagram photos, ridiculously vain attempts for attention (Licking sneakers?) – it seems all too prevalent in a certain generation but we aren’t here to point fingers. When one hypebeast is attracted to a particular shoe, the rest seem to follow. Thus, the hype is created and no longer containable. A prime example: the Air Yeezy. The first release and the Air Yeezy 2 model fit this mold perfectly. Don’t get me wrong; I think the Air Yeezy 2 in Platinum is really a dope colorway. There are however, those that simply sought to purchase them simply because of its limited nature and difficulty to attain. These sneakers are only iconic to the hype follower because of what social status they might bring. Thus we have the hype factor which adds to the icon status.

dee_brownAnother contributing factor to a sneaker’s iconic status can be linked to a famous athlete, musician or actor that wore them during their ascent to stardom. Air Jordan is too easy so let’s take look at the Omni Pump Lite by Reebok. Dee Brown was able to slam home a “no-look” dunk in the 1991 Slam Dunk contest, forever securing his immortality, in name only, for completing a brazen move. The ensuing purchases of the Reebok sneaker many years later were made for the nostalgia factor related to that dunk contest and/or because the buyers were fans of what Dee Brown did and how he impacted the game. The Diesel aka Shaquille O’Neal also generated some recent buzz with the releases of the Shaq-Attack’s, and more recently the Shaqnosis. The marketing of O’Neal’s sneaker were laden with trips through memory lane where we saw images of Shaq during his early Orlando Magic playing days as well as celebrities rocking the silhouette at music events and even in some Hollywood film scenes. This purchase attraction, or motivation is closely related to liking a sneaker because of its history, back-story, theme and or what they stand for. The shorthand titles or nicknames that develop throughout the years originate from the impressions of these events. The “Last Shot” or even the “Championship Pack”: these titles are evidence that when something memorable happens and is captured in a physical representation, that memory is forever immortalized as iconic.

Lastly, the most simple of reasons behind making a sneaker purchase: just plain liking the design. “Buy what you like” – words I like to live by. I tend to make purchases based purely on color choices, the overall shape, air-jordan-11-space-jamhow it fits on my feet and the comfort level. Many people operate this way and are happier for it. Thus, when a retro release comes around, or even first time releases, that feature a long cherished color scheme; a model that makes an appearance again or even something that one finds to be their all-time favorite sneaker – that particular shoe earns that person’s purchase choice and maybe even their favoritism. When a sneaker wins the heart of the sneaker community as a whole, the iconic status is bestowed upon it.

What I may identify as an iconic sneaker may vastly differ from your opinion on what makes a sneaker iconic. The thirty-something year old Air Jordan fan may have a differing viewpoint as a seventeen-year-old Air Jordan fan. We each have our own standards that separate us.

I ask the question again – what makes a sneaker iconic? Does the answer still seem so obvious?

Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comment section below or send us a tweet with your take on what makes a sneaker iconic.

@MidwestSole
@corruptsoles
@WeaverTheGreat
@SimplyForKicks

Special thanks to WEAVERTHEGREAT and NicoAtienza

Images via SN, SC

About corruptsoles

Aspiring photographer. Sneaker enthusiast. Purveyor of all things - sneakers.

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