Which Came First, The Sneakerhead Or The Menswear Nerd?

The 90's were a special time for most of us millenials, and I mean the ones born before 1990 (yeah, we’re old by today’s standards). Just ask any one of us and we’ll tell you it was the greatest decade that ever was. Why? For starters, we had real toys like Stretch Armstrong, Voltron and ridiculous next-level Yomega yo-yos—If you had the Fireball you was an OG, but the Brain? That was for wackass busters. We had the two illest rappers in history, Biggie and Tupac (if you instantly thought of anyone else, go ahead and kill your whole everything), who also happened to ignite the greatest hip-hop rivalry in existence. And we had the motherfucking boss don Power Rangers. Seriously, try and top that shit. But out of all that the one thing that affected me most, that carried into my adult life, was my introduction to sneaker culture and its eventual manifestation into collecting. Someone eventually came along and decided that people like me needed a name—we were dubbed "sneakerheads."

Sneakerhead culture actually had its roots in the 80's with the rise of Michael Jordan's unstoppable line of signature kicks (I'm pretty sure this needs no explanation whatsoever). These were the very sneakers that sparked my infatuation and, being that I was in middle school at the time and considering the fact that most middle school kids are cash poor, it wasn't until high school that I somewhat balled out and purchased my first pair of Jordans—shout out to my meager Baskin Robbins salary. Yes, us menswear guys do have humble beginnings. As the sneaker scene started evolving, so did my tastes. Running sneakers came into the picture, the most popular being Nike's famed Air Max series. These were the sleeker, more sophisticated cousins of my Jordans. They catered to a slightly different style that can only be best defined as "non-basketball."

And not just professional Internet circlejerkers; professional street style important guys are getting in on the action too.

Fast forward a little bit to today, and most of the guys you knew as big sneaker enthusiasts have somewhat grown up. In fact, they've sorta graduated to the next phase of their lives, this thing called #menswear. It's typically described as "dressing like an old person"—trading in the Air Maxes for the double-monk straps, if you will. While there's nothing inherently wrong with that, it seems like so many of the people who have adopted this lifestyle of straight dressing up (sometimes, and, quite frankly, often for no reason) are realizing that there is in fact nothing actually wrong with mixing sneakers into their newly adopted tailored lifestyle.

We're starting to see more and more people (and not just professional Internet circlejerkers; professional street style important guys are getting in on the action too) reach for their runners instead of the loafers and it's easy to see why. They're comfortable as hell, first and foremost. We could easily stop there, but since we're a bunch of dorks, we should also mention that runners add a certain casual elegance to your outfit that kind of says, "you don't have to take yourself so seriously in order to look good." And some of us are coming back to our sneakers for the same reason we were drawn to them in the first place—uh, news flash, perfectly designed sneakers are perfectly designed sneakers.

And therein lies the crux of it all. Sneakers, mainly of the technical variety, were once thought not to have any real place in a respectable wardrobe and that's utter bullshit, my dear. If fashion is indeed cyclical like everyone always says whenever they talk about fashion, then this is no exception. But it's also not a simple 180. Guys aren't just repeating trends, they're combining them to create something new altogether. And if that's not the most beautiful thing we've got in this all-too-often-not-so-wide-world of menswear, then I'll be damned. When was the last time you actually saw a guy pull off a suit with running sneakers? I'm sure the reformed sneakerhead can answer that question for you.

Daniel So is a writer living in Brooklyn. Follow him on Twitter here.

  • Just1

    I didn’t realize there was a difference between “professional Internet circlejerkers” and “professional street style important guys”

  • liam obrien.

    question: anyone know what nike shoes the guy in the photo at the top is rocking? i saw them around the other day and forgot to jot down what model/style they were. anyone help me out?
    thanks.

    • http://www.twitter.com/sodaniel daniels

      Nike Roshe Run

      • liam obrien.

        thanks man.