STURBAN: Sneaker Culture

Sai Kotamraju, Student and Entrepreneur at Babson College. Photos courtesy of Rohil Vir Basu.

Written by Rohil Vir Basu

A Brief History of Sneakers

“The Sneaker Game” is a joke, an addiction, a lifestyle and for many, a business. Started in the 70s by B-Boys and the rest of the exploding Hip-Hop movement, people in the city started customizing and collecting “kicks”. Fast-forward some 20 years and one in 12 Americans owns a pair of Jordans despite a steep $125 dollar price tag.

Sneaker fever experienced a defining jolt in 2003 with Nike’s release of 202 pairs of the Paris Sb’s designed by the late French painter Bernard Buffet (Rest in Peace). Due in part to their scarcity, the sneakers sold for an average price of $3,500. Of course, that is chump-change compared to their present day value of $11,000. The trend continued with British rapper Tinie Tempah’s purchases, from the Michael J. Fox Foundation, a replica of the boot worn by the actor in Back to the Future for $37,500. Yet even this was outdone by Atlanta rapper Big Boi’s purchase of Diamond Encrusted Air Force 1 Socials for a whopping $50,000. Beneath these landmark purchases remained an expansive and thriving community of individuals who buy, sell and collect sneakers to this day.

Getting into the Sneaker Game

Growing up in the city, you are surrounded by sneakerheads – individuals who collect sneakers. My friends and I got our first insight to “The Sneaker Game” in elementary school, as we watched older students experiment with different shoes. Like many before us, we became obsessed – we spent hours looking at what our favorite footballers (soccer players) were wearing. From there we saved up cash for that first purchase. From that point on, the thrill of copping a new pair was a well-established part of our lives.

The Sneaker Game Today

The culture has now, like many others, shifted online. Sneakers released in limited quantities are an investment – and their value often appreciates, much like a vintage car or fine bottle of wine. In fact, an entire economy exists between those who are able to “cop” them on release date and people who are willing to pay much higher resale prices. Sites like Buying and Selling Kicks NYC serve as a market place wherein fair marketprices are determined and deal making is facilitated. The pursuit is lucrative to the point that individuals are able to use “sneaker money” to buy textbooks, a car, or even pay for college. I spoke to a couple sneakerheads about their experiences in the game.

Sai Kotamraju, Student and Entrepreneur at Babson College

*pictured above

Why do you use Buying and Selling Kicks (NYC)?

“Because it facilitates buying kicks, and makes the whole process more amusing. The page brings out the huge number of people buying, selling or trading their shoes, which makes it easier for people to find what they are looking for. It also has the amusing process of having to barter, find a proper meet up location, etc.”

What’s your best cop?

“I’m working on a deal that will get me a pair of Doernbecher 2’s in return for some Bred 11’s and $300 cash.”

Radman Mirramazani, Semi-Professional Footballer


So why did you retire from the sneaker game?

“I had made a good amount from sneakers by 2014 and I was moving to Montreal so I sold about 90% of my collection.”

What’d you do with your sneaker money?

“I’m saving some and investing some. [Laughs] Well, I bought a Honda XL motorbike. but was actually entirely paid for by just one pair, my Nike SB Pigeons.”

 Sid Rao, Student at Franklin & Marshall College


How did you get into the sneaker game?

“I got into the sneaker game when Air Force 1 had its 25th anniversary.”

What’s your best cop?

“Ah, my best pickup was at Flight Club, Varsity Red 6s for $185, 2 months before Kanye wore them.”

 Fano Razafindrakoto, Student at Massachusetts Institute of Technology


Why do you use Buying and Selling Kicks NYC?

“Easy access, as in its people within my area and fair market prices.”

What’s your best cop?

“[Chuckles Heartily] I traded a pair of Supreme Air Force 1’s and $500 cash from a pair of Yeezy II’s once.”

 Tazmio DaSimsosa, Professional Smash Bro’s Player


What’s your favorite sneaker?

“Air force ones, I don’t wear anything else.”

Wow, why is that?

“Their simple and effortless allure make them a good buy for anyone.”

The Community

The sneaker community is now larger than ever. Ask anyone who’s been to Sneakercon – a notable sneaker convention – and they will tell you that the scene has truly blown up. While it has traveled a long way from its Hip-Hop crew roots in the 70’s, the appeal remains the same. People still want to express their individuality and wear nice kicks. The beauty of the culture is its ability to mesh with the fabric of the city. You could be a skater in a rare pair of Supreme Vans or on your way to ball in some Nike Zoom Rookies, it doesn’t matter where you’re from or what you do. You’re a part of this not-so- underground community – a community that celebrates creativity, individuality, and expression. So, if you’re riding the train and you’ve got on a fresh pair of Jordans, you just might get daps.

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