Sneaker Culture 101 – Understanding The Hype Behind The Shoes

Interesting fact: Sneakers were first designed for the upper class in England during the 1860s for playing sports like tennis and croquet.

Today, we all own a pair of sneakers, trainers, joggers, or shoes (whatever you may call it) to make a fashion statement rather than for functional use. The history, design, and art of sneakers has resulted in the evolution of the sneaker culture.

It’s a world of its own where “sneakerheads” are busy tapping into the sneaker market that’s expected to grow at a CAGR of 5.18% between 2024 and 2028. Whether it’s collecting, selling, or discussing the latest or limited edition sneakers from brands like Nike and Adidas, the hype behind these shoes is constant.

Read on to know all about the sneaker culture and understand the real reasons behind this hype.

What Is The Sneaker Culture?

The passion for collecting, buying, selling, and wearing sneakers is what gave rise to the sneaker culture. It’s a phenomenon that dates back to the 1970s when sneakers rose as fashion statements rather than a functional pair of sports shoes.

And it was former professional basketball player Michael Jordan who created the new market for sneakerheads in 1984. He was a rookie back then who had yet to play a professional game.

Even then, Nike saw him as their brand’s future and signed him to a $2.5 million endorsement deal for five years. 

He started wearing Nike’s Air Jordan 1s on the basketball court, defying the NBA guidelines, which required the sports shoes to be 51% white. The brand saw this as a marketing opportunity and paid a fine of $5,000 to the player each time Michael Jordan wore his pair of Air Jordan 1s designed with hues of black, red, and white.

Of course, the popularity of these sneakers skyrocketed as Jordan went on to become the greatest player of all time!

Understanding The Hype Behind Sneakers Today

Today, the hype of sneakers is more about standing out on social media by wearing the latest drops from the big names in the industry. It’s about competition, feeling and looking great, and owning a branded pair of these shoes. 

Believe it or not, your social status may be judged based on the sneakers you wear! 

No wonder there’s a boon in the sneaker reselling market as a subculture where sneakerheads buy and sell limited edition sneakers at higher prices than they retail for. This can also be attributed to major brands releasing limited stock to fuel the surge of their product demand. 

The psychological drivers that come into play here are similar to those behind the consumption of luxury goods. It’s the rarity, price, and exclusivity of the sneakers that create the “hype.”

Sneaker enthusiasts or professionally acclaimed “resellers” line up to buy the latest drops and limited-edited sneakers with the sole intention of selling them. This hype enables one group to earn enough money to fill their pockets and continue the cycle of buying and selling. And the other group of people are more than content wearing their latest pair of “wearable art.”

Sneakers have also left a mark in pop culture through exclusive collaborations with famous influencers, basketball players, and celebrities. A few popular examples we’ve seen over the years are Adidas and Kanye (Yeezy), Reebok and Cardi B, and Puma and Fenty (Rihana).

The collaborations with female sensations like Rihana and Cardi B have broadened the horizons of the sneaker market. It was done to do away with the perception of the sneaker-wearing industry being male-dominated.


Sneakers are a medium through which the younger generation today expresses themselves. Wearing a pair of Air Jordans or any other sneaker from brands like Adidas, Nike, or New Balance is a style statement.

The “hype” referred to here is the excitement and passion sneaker enthusiasts have for owning limited edition sneakers, and it isn’t going to die down anytime soon. In fact, it has led to the establishment of a lucrative market that’s expected to reach $30 billion by 2030. 

You can also be a part of the sneaker resale business, provided you share the same passion for the sneaker culture. Just make sure you research the market well and create a solid business plan before entering. Sneakerheads can check out the latest sneaker releases and stay updated on the current sneaker trends on!

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