Sneakerheads aren’t a new phenomenon but what’s interesting is how the category has expanded to include high-fashion tastemakers and the everyday consumer who wants to feel on-trend.
The answer behind this seismic change is simple, the pandemic, and yet layered. There are cyclic changes in fashion, and one such change coincided with the global pandemic, where practicality and comfort were suddenly at the forefront of our sartorial choices. What we buy no longer needs to be just fashionable but also practical.
If earlier people were drawn by the story and style of luxury products—think handsewn loafers made with premium Italian leather—today, they are just as invested, monetarily and emotionally, in a pair of sneakers that is comfortable and functional.
The pandemic changed people’s perspective on what they needed and why. You were working from home without putting on a suit. There were no parties or red carpet events to go for. Far fewer people wanted to buy an expensive suit or costly shoes. What people wanted and pursued was comfort, and lockdowns made people further prioritise comfort. That was the biggest propeller for pushing athleisure into the forefront.
More than a trend
When people started buying Nike Air Jordans or Adidas Yeezys because their favourite actor or rapper or influencer wore them, sneakers became more than just a trend. They suddenly became cultural commodities that were functional and fashionable. If sneakers were seen as casual, now they are coveted.
Even luxury fashion houses, from Gucci to Dior and Balenciaga, have become more involved in the luxury sneaker market. Whether it’s a Nike Dunk SB x Travis Scott collaboration or limited edition Jordan 1 Retro High Dior, the shoe is a unique piece of art. They are the result of two creative energies coming together to tell a story. As status symbols go, sneakers go beyond being a combination of premium materials, innovative design and eye-catching aesthetics. They combine social significance and individual history to tell a brand story that you want to be part of.
The beauty of this fashion shift is that it has swept everyone up, from an eight-yea- old to a 75-year-old.
The sneaker market runs on hype, and FOMO when it comes to coveted limited editions, like retro Air Jordans or Yeezys. Analysis show when Netflix aired The Last Dance, a 10-episode documentary about Michael Jordan and the ’90s Chicago Bulls dynasty in April 2020, interest in Air Jordans went through the roof.
What's more, scarcity is the name of the game. There are a limited number of Air Jordans, Nike SB Dunks and Adidas Yeezys in the market and hundreds of people are clamouring for them. Few weeks ago, rapper Travis Scott’s 30-minute raffle window for the Air Trainer 1 had “over 1 million entries.”
An asset class
The laws of the market apply to sneaker culture as well. If there is a demand, it must be met. This is where sneaker resellers come into play.
Sneaker trading has long been a money spinner, but the pandemic brought more people, with more free time and an eye on the prize, into the game. The market in India has thousands of casual sellers alongside a handful of serious market players.
We’re seeing more customers who are thinking about sneakers as an alternative asset class, one that often yields better returns than stocks or crypto.
How’s this for ROI? I bought two shoes, one for ₹60,000, and other, ₹30,000, two years ago. Today their value stands at ₹2,17,000 and ₹90,000, respectively.
Sneakers have become investible fashion. The global sneaker resale market was valued at $10 billion in 2021, according to a report by Piper Sandler. In India, the size of the resale market is likely to be $1 billion by end of this year.
Whether pursued as a status symbol, investment vehicle or for pure passion, sneaker culture is here to stay.
Anchit Kapil is the co-founder of Crepdog Crew.