A Beginner’s Guide to Becoming a Sneakerhead
By Rebecca Noronha
When you first start getting into the sneaker world, the most valuable advice you could possibly receive is “get whatever the hell you want."
Nowadays, sneakers have evolved from being only a practical pair of shoes to a precious collectible and a statement piece, as we observe an increasing number of sneakerheads/streetwear aficionados. Since there is a certain amount of elitism among the in-the-know crowd, getting into the shoe-biz might feel daunting at first.
For individuals looking to show a strong sense of style and imagination, sneakers have taken centre stage.
Figuring out your purpose
There are several kinds of collectors, just as there are various kinds of sneakers. Consider your goals and what you value most when it comes to gathering sneakers before you begin your adventure. Are you buying them to resell to make some money, or are you a fan of the culture and history behind each pair you wish to own? There is nothing right or wrong with either, but it is a good idea to know why you are purchasing them, in order to help you organise your collection more effectively.
Starting off and planning your budget
Just like any other collector, becoming a sneakerhead demands time and devotion in addition to spending money. You don't have to buy every pair, and your favourites may not cost lakhs. “Buy sneakers you’re genuinely interested in but also make sure the quality is right and that you’re going to get a lot of uses out of them, for the value you’re paying”, says Khalid Walb, content creator and sneakerhead.
You should have fun getting new sneakers. They shouldn't strain your financial situation. When buying sneakers, consider your options carefully. Ridhii Paul, founder of Dame and Max, says, “Prioritise thorough research. The sneaker game and collecting can be quite expensive, so it’s crucial to make informed decisions.” Select the nicest sneakers you can afford, but repress the impulse to buy an absurdly cheap pair. You'll need to replace these shoes more frequently because they typically wear out much more quickly than their expensive rivals. This can eventually result in you buying shoes for even more money than you intended to. Instead, stick to time-tested pairs that you are confident will perform. “My biggest tip for new collectors would be starting with basic silhouettes like AF1s, Converse etc. Don’t rush into the process, rather take your time to decide the kind of wardrobe you want to have and choose accordingly.”, says Simran Chanta – sneakerhead and part-time influencer.
If there aren't any particular sneakers you must have more than anything, choose something practical rather than spending all your money on one outrageous pair. You're better off having a few pairs that suit diverse needs (at least initially) rather than one pair of really costly, extremely hard to maintain shoes that you'll worry about every time you wear them out. Content creator Janvi Choudhary (justjanvi) says “Go step by step. Don’t spend your whole savings on 1 expensive pair when you can have 2-3 good ones”. Avoid starting with shoes that aren't comfy. The comfortable footwear remains in weekly rotation, whether there’s hype or not, while the showy, flashy pairs are stored in boxes. Second, don't stress about trying to keep up with every trend; just buy what you enjoy. “You should invest smartly and don’t go overboard in buying sneakers especially when you are new into this!”, says Suhana Sethi, content creator and experiential marketer.
You don't have to collect sneakers at a certain rate to be considered a sneakerhead. It has to do with your devotion to the community and the shoes. One pair every year doesn't diminish your enthusiasm for them. Content creator Viraj Desai says, “Always keep in mind your wallet because it’s gonna empty your wallet sooner than you realise.” Having said that, you may get good bargains if you have patience and networking skills. Keep in mind that it's not only about who has the trendiest shoes; it's also about the connections and relationships you build.
Forming your individual style
Many people start off by acquiring hyped-up sneakers. After all, "everyone" seems to be sporting these kinds of pairs. The promotion of these sneakers, the buzz among sneakerheads, and celebrity endorsements force them onto everyone's social media feeds. Whether or not you begin this way, you should ultimately develop your own preferences. “Figure out your style and always invest in things that resonate with who you are. Don’t fall for hype or the herd mentality”, says Nandith Jaisimha (Filmmaker, photographer and big-time sneakerhead). “The pair that got me hooked onto the sneaker game would be the Air More Uptempo’96. I was 10 or 11 years old when I first saw them on the basketball court”, he goes on to say.
The more you are interested in a certain shoe, the more you should research its past. Storylines offer character to a collection and give sneakerheads something to discuss! If you solely focus on popular kicks, your collections will resemble those of other collectors. While there is nothing wrong with this, variation is required. “Let there be a connection between the sneaker and who you are as a collector, and you will love your collection even more.”, says Mihir Joshi (Host of the MJ Show podcast, WWE Hindi commentator, singer and sneakerhead)
Earlier when individuals used to collect, sneakerheads would pass up a pair if it was a style that everyone else was wearing. Don't purchase anything simply because others are doing it. Be distinctive. Find a shoe that you truly like, and collect that. In a conformity-driven age, individuality is crucial. Consider why you are purchasing them. Do they hold any significance for you? Will they go well with your wardrobe? Never purchase shoes just because they are popular. Ridhii Paul says, “One mistake I made when I started, was impulsively buying whatever I could without researching the specific pairs first. As a result, there are sneakers in my collection that I have never even worn. This not only affects the sustainability aspect of my collection but also the overall value I derive from it.” If you can afford them, believe they're stylish, and they feel comfortable on your feet, get them. “The pair of sneakers that got me obsessed was my Yeezy 700 Static Reflective. I still remember the first time I wore those, I felt like I was walking on a soft pillow. One of the best shoes I’ve bought till date and still a gem in my vivid collection.”, says Manas Mulchandani, sneakerhead and aspiring engineer. Khalid Walb went on to say, “Please do not let the crowd make decisions for you. Keep up with the culture and let your sneaker collection be about you more than anything. You’re going to wear the sneakers, not the people!”
Studying brands and stocking up on staples
There are a ton of brands available to you because of the size of the market. Today's sneakers are so intricate and inventive that you can locate anything to suit your preferences. To support sports and sneaker culture, many individuals like purchasing genuine Jordans. “The pair of sneakers that got me obsessed with the culture were the AJ1 High ‘Blue Chill’. I love the silhouette. The colour blocking and the patent leather was the cherry on top. It was love at first sight.”, says Simran Chanta. Since Michael Jordan caught the globe by storm after the 1985 introduction of the Air Jordan 1, he is regarded as the boss of sneakerhead culture. Nandith Jaisimha says, “Its always easy to start a collection with the cult classics, they don’t burn a hole in the pocket and they never go out of style!”
“My biggest tip would always be starting simple. Stick to nice, clean, subtle looking, neutral shades in your sneakers”, says Jeet Tailor, fashion and lifestyle content creator. Even if you don't enjoy spending a lot of money on shoes, Vans and Converse Chuck Taylors are fantastic alternatives. “If they’re your first few pairs, focus on the versatility aspect more than anything because you want to be able to wear your sneakers and not just have it as a show piece. The New Balance 550s got me more invested in the culture”, says Jeet.
Developing connections with other sneakerheads
The best thing about becoming a sneakerhead is the opportunity it gives you to interact with many other sneakerheads. You ought to make an effort to build connections with them offline and online. The more sneakerheads you interact with and meet, the more you'll begin to identify with them. You'll be on the right track to elevating your position in the footwear sector.
Participating in community activities will enhance the experience. Getting to know other collectors, may be a great experience. With like-minded people, collectors are typically ready to impart their knowledge and can even create chances for exchanges, bargains, or collaborations.
Maintenance and storage
When keeping any collection, organisation and available space are key considerations. However, because sneakers are made of a variety of materials, it's crucial to pay attention to a few more factors. “It’s essential to research the fabrics and materials used in the sneakers before making a purchase. Some materials may require professional maintenance, making it important to be aware of the necessary care methods in advance. By doing homework on the pairs you’re interested in, you can make wiser and more sustainable choices for your sneaker collection.”, says Ridhii Paul.
Take caution when storing your kicks. Do not pack products into small areas or stack boxes on top of one another; they need space to breathe. Similar to this, temperature-controlled environments with sufficient ventilation are always preferred. Also, what should be avoided at all costs are moisture and direct sunshine. If you plan to exhibit them, be aware of the dangers and pay particular attention to the items' more delicate components. Whatever method you use to store your pairs, you need to routinely check them and take charge of their upkeep. After investing a significant amount of money in them, you would want to keep them for as long as you can, ideally in excellent condition, for wearing now or selling afterwards.
In the event that you decide to sell them, always maintain the original box since it increases their value. It is not just about keeping the shoes; it is also about maintaining the boxes, especially those that arrive in distinctive boxes.
Paying attention to what others are saying
Look at what others are saying when you're shopping for new kicks to add to your collection! Make a brief list of the styles you like, and then research them by reading ratings, reviews, and personal stories. Keep in mind that businesses spend a lot on branding and marketing to appeal to your aesthetic preferences. You do, however, require footwear that feels as good as it looks. Read the reviews to get a sense of how functional and comfy the shoes are.
Being up to date
A popular shoe release frequently sells out in a couple of minutes. So that you may be among the first in queue, you must be aware of the precise dates and times of those releases. You should also bookmark websites that cover sneakers because these professionals frequently have up-to-date information.
It also helps to follow the stores you frequently shop at because they frequently announce new drops or forthcoming sales. As you continue to collect, you will establish additional online "go to" locations for learning about new releases. Talking to other collectors also aids in gathering information.
Fakes and scams
Every collectible market has its share of counterfeiters, copycats, and ripoff artists, sneakers are no exception. To make sure you receive the sneakers you are seeking to purchase, be mindful of the websites and/or merchants you are purchasing from. Avoid independent merchants on social media platforms like Instagram and websites with unbelievable bargains. The likelihood that the kicks are fake or that the vendor is a crook out to steal your money is really high.
It is imperative to request photos and videos of the shoes and box, or even better, to examine them personally. You must be knowledgeable with every aspect of the shoes, including the labels, manufacturing code, shoe SKU, etc. Keep an eye out for any damaged boxes. Watch out for pairs that are available in all sizes, as some well-known collabs only have a limited supply and range of sizes. Be cautious of any inconsistent SKU (stock keeping unit) numbers because every pair of genuine sneakers will have a unique one. Keep an eye out for any design or construction flaws.
Learning the language
Eventually, you'll hear sneakerheads using a lot of jargon. The greatest advice in this situation is to look up and communicate with other sneaker collectors online. The more conversations you have with people about the kicks and the more you understand about their history, the simpler it will be to decipher the meaning of certain phrases. Experience allows for the growth of this understanding.
Entering sneaker raffles
Some businesses ask you to participate in raffles so that everyone has an equal opportunity to purchase a pair of shoes. In essence, you participate in a "lucky draw" where the website selects which participants can purchase shoes first. Use many accounts when entering rather than just one. Your chances of winning the chance to purchase your ideal pair increase as you submit more entries. This is a great chance for beginners to cop the best pairs.
Even if you are not a reseller, reselling shoes at some time will undoubtedly be a part of sneaker collecting whether your goal is to make money or simply to have extra money and room for that new sneaker you want to acquire. Even if you don't want to sell your sneakers, it's still a good idea to periodically check their worth since the secondary market is such a significant and integral component of the sneaker community.
The important thing is to avoid falling for the "sneakers are an investment" misconception. Decide what you like, then spend money on it. Assume that eventually everything you purchase will be useless. It's okay if you don't get a release. There will be another one. “Go after something that you love, don’t care about the hype, don’t care about the resale value, don’t care about what it would be valued at 5, 10, 20 years down the line. Always look out for something that will make you happy.”, says Mihir Joshi.
Sneakerheads buy them because they adore them, at the end of the day. Sneaker culture doesn't have to be overpowering or scary, and the hype isn't necessarily a fair picture of the people that make up the scene. Anyone who has the willingness to venture, openness, and passion can participate.