The Sneakerhead Discourse Community
The Sneaker discourse community is a diverse one, which encompasses the minds of many creative members ranging from a plethora of diverse backgrounds. To communicate ideas with a central focus on modern and retro footwear, members of this group use specific terminology in their dialect. This “sneakerhead language” allows a smooth transfer of ideas between one member to another, which leaves no loose information excluded. Interestingly enough, I first entered this world through listening to what I believed was an alien language. I was sitting in class, and heard students talking about copping supreme bricks to flip. It was as I was listening to another tongue, one that I wanted to understand. Only after searching up key terms did I learn that these peers were purchasing expensive items off a website called supreme, only planning to make a small amount of money be selling them again. The discourse in the community drew me towards it and led me to become the person I am today. Slowly, I also learned more about the background and history to all fashion. I learned that figures such as “the man himself” alluded to none other than Virgil Abloh. As head designer of Louis Vuitton, CEO of Off White ℅, and successful nike shoe designer, the man was none other than the Jesus of our community. In the sneaker community, an icon’s name can not be their true full name. In our community, there is not much mention of Kanye West. However, there is mention of his aliases such as, Ye or Yeezus. To members outside of this discourse community, our ideology and language may be seen as gibberish, but a deeper look into the group will convince otherwise.
One of the largest topics of discourse in the sneaker community revolves around the structure of the shoe. The physical sneakers talked about in our community are made up of a very large amount of parts, ranging from the sole, midsole, body, tongue, heel, heel tab, laces, toe cap, and much more. People often group these parts into either “the uppers”, “the mids”, or the “lowers”. This event allows for members to quickly make distinctions on what part of the shoe deserves praise, and what part should be sent back to the drawing board. On a more technical note, this also allows for companies to understand what part of a shoe needs structural improvements and in what manner. The language of this discourse community leads to benefits for both the consumers and producer’s side. For instance, a shoe’s colorway is the specific mix of hues applied to a shoe. It’s likewise an incomprehensibly irritating term, however an important identification system in this universe. In many cases, an colorway is related with the color scheme that is found on the case. For example, the Oregon, Cements and the True Blues are altogether unique colorways of the Jordan 3 outline. Terminology such as colorway and sections such as toe box can often be heard in videos reviewing releases such as ‘Air Jordan 1: Leather Quality Different On Each Pair?”(Hall). The structure of a sneaker tells a story about it’s past, it’s inspirations, and it’s future. This is why the sneaker head discourse community uses such a selective language to discuss these factors.
Contrary to what many people believe, the current sneaker game is all about making money. Retails sell to a limited amount of buyers that can either be determined by a raffle, or on a first come first serve basis. These buyers, then become the re-sellers. Demand is high and the stock is low, which means the market price on these shoes is free to skyrocket. This in turn, means people can now sell the shoes they purchased for a retail price for a mark up, possibly making tenfold profit. To better communicate between buyer and seller, no matter at what level, terminology has been implemented. A key point in communication between buyer and seller consists of the constitution of the shoe. Common conditions incline deadstock, VNDS, NWT, and the obvious used. What Deadstock means and how it’s utilized today are two totally various things. The genuine significance of the word Deadstock is reference to a shoe that is no longer underway, or is never again sold in stores, for example Cool Dark Jordan 11 Mid. Nowadays, most interpret the term Deadstock as meaning a shoe being in pristine condition. What’s more, they mean fresh out of the box new. It hasn’t been taken a stab at, re-bound or messed with since leaving the production. VNDS basically means extremely Close to Dead Stock. On the off chance that a shoe has been worn and demonstrates insignificant wear, it will be labels as VNDS. NWT or New With Labels is just a similar alternative to DS that can be used if the buyer does not consider trying on significant. An example of this can be found in marketplace discord chats, such as the one I use the most. Members call out whether they are wts or wtb (willing to sell or willing to buy). I have attached a picture of this to show in action (Screenshot). Another factor impacting the money to be made are the droplists. Droplists basically give retail buyers an idea of how much stock there is and where it will be available. For example, the yeezy glow in the dark release that was only defined by 30,000 pairs surprise releasing online at 3:00 am will be more profitable than the air jordans anyone can go purchase at their local footlocker. To help establish the range of profit for each shoe, writers create these tools. Drop List articles such as “The Final OFF-WHITE x Nike “The Ten” Pack Drops Today” list which stores are releasing the shoes and key features of the release (Highsnobiety). The hype surrounding certain shoes is the glue that holds our discourse community together and may even be what makes it as intricate as it may be.
In conclusion, I am proud to be a member of the sneakerhead discourse community. I also take pride in understanding the various terms that are often thrown around, whether it is when describing a shoe coming out, or a shoe that is making its way through the financial market. I believe that this community has a lot to write about and should be understood by as many people as possible. It provides an explanation to why people may be seen acting in such a careful manner with their footwear. If a person is not a member of this community and does not understand the true impact of sneakers, that careful behavior would just be described as petty. My membership in this community began years ago and I hope to contribute for the rest of my years, as I see it as socially and financially beneficial. Throughout my journey, I have learned a plethora of new terminology, made a myriad of new friends, and picked up some very rare shoes along the way.