Tennis shoes on feet sitting on a table.

Courtesy photo

By Wanda T. Boulware
Special to the AFRO

Tennis shoes, sneakers, kicks. What you call them depends on what part of the world you live in but wherever that might be; if you know then you know. Tennis shoes, or the love of them, have been a major part of society for more than four decades, and have slowly developed into a giant micro-culture or sneaker culture that crosses race, gender, age and socioeconomic groups.

 “Michael Jordan is the Michael Jackson of the sneaker world. He came in and there will never be another like him.”

Even MSNBC news anchors, like Ari Melbourne, are part of the sneaker culture. All are welcome if you’re willing to put up the cash. Sneaker culture has expanded across the ocean and has seemingly reached every part of the planet. There is a worldwide excitement, a language and a rhythm in the sneaker world where nothing else matters but that fresh new pair of kicks. People say music brings people together and that may be true, but that same energy is alive in the sneaker universe. When you see someone in a hot pair of kicks, you are no longer strangers; you are bonded and immediately drawn, and the conversation flows as if you have known each other forever.

Nike White Chrome Foamposites release date 2018 (Courtesy photo)

Some would say it started with Dr. Jay and Converse. Chuck Taylors were the thing to wear in the late 70s and early 80s. Some sneakers were always acceptable like any brand of Nikes. Then there were sneakers that you could not be caught dead in (Remember that song about fish heads). Some may agree that it started a different way. I know most would agree that when Run DMC sang “My Adidas,” tons of people were walking around with shell head Adidas with no shoelaces. Even though Run DMC brought Adidas to the forefront, Nike was a brand that kept up with the trends and even created some of their own. Nikes were always part of the local and national basketball leagues. Air force 1s have been a major staple since the eighties and like the rapper, Nelly said, you can’t have just one pair. Air max 93, 95, 97 pick a number, pick a hot colorway and you are in the game. But that is just the beginning of the conversation.

Air Force 1 s50 original release date 1982 (Courtesy photo)

When Reebok came along, they had something for everyone. Reebok classics were cool for hanging on the corner with your friends or going to the movies with your girl. Then there were the Reebok freestyles. They weren’t too expensive; in fact their nickname was 5411s because they cost 49.99 but with tax it came to $54.11. They came in so many colors. I remember my sister buying a bunch of colors and buying matching outfits; that was the definition of a hot girl summer back then. And for the ballers and or tennis players you could rock any one of Allen Iverson’s brand or the ever-popular Reebok pumps made more famous by the movie “White Men Can’t Jump.” Even then there were tons of sneakers to fit your mood.

The one sneaker that not only changed the game, not only redefined it but has continued to dominate the sneaker culture to this day … Michael Jordans. Michael Jordan is the Michael Jackson of the sneaker world. He came in and there will never be another like him.

Nike Air 270 Reacts release date 2019 (Courtesy photo)

When Jordan 1s came on the scene, they cost between $65 and $100. Now Jordans cost a minimum of $100 and can max out in the thousands. The buzz was so crazy almost instantly. Jordan was the sneaker people fought for, the sneaker they stood in line for hours to purchase, only to have to worry that someone would rob them of those same sneakers. One of the reasons schools instituted dress codes and uniforms was to reduce the fighting over sneakers like Jordans.

For the past four decades Jordan’s have been produced and reproduced and people will still sell their left kidney to get a pair (based on the price of some that may not be enough). Jordans changed the way sneakers are purchased. People used to line up around the block for Jordan sneakers but as the demand grew lotteries were created to reduce the crowd, but the demand continued to grow. Even though Jordans still control the conversation, there are some strong contenders; Yeezys branded by Kanye West is a dope shoe that is hard to

Nike Air Correlate original release date 1993 (Courtesy photo)

keep on the shelves. Yeezys can range from $200 to $2000. Virgil Abloh the designer of Off White and even Travis Scott are among the long list of hot sneakers in the game today. It is also cool to see all old school sneakers re-emerge into the culture as well. In reality, there are simply too many sneakers to create a definitive list and truth be told, the list changes depending on where you lived and what you grew up with. But one thing is true. Always. The excitement has only expanded. Sneakerheads, as they are so affectionately labeled, are passionate about their collections; it’s not just a hobby. The sneaker business is a multi-billion-dollar industry, but to the individual sneakerhead, every purchase is like Christmas and your birthday wrapped up in one.

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