Digging Into the Sneaker Culture at Skyline

“Getting my Jordan 11 ‘Gym red’ was probably the hardest to get,” said Junior Jayden Potts. “So I had to wait at a Footlocker an hour away. I arrived at 5 am…they opened the store at 10 am.”

“Sneakerheads” will wait in line for hours or even days. The thrill is opening the shoe box. The wrinkle sounds of unfolding. The leathery smell of the sneakers. 

This is the sneaker culture, developed for teens who want to have the hottest releases in their shoe collection. Since the 1980s, celebrities have kept this art intact, keeping people on their toes as they touch the courts to the playoff.  Shoes tell a story, with a backbeat of musical artists.

Gen Z has shaped the evolution of sneakers to form a platform that new generations can express themselves in.  When sneakerheads go to a mall such as Briarwood or Twelve Oaks to enter the sneakers stores, the difference for this new age is that it is unlikely to find the unique pieces that students usually don’t have. Sneakerheads are looking for more options that aren’t just white Air Forces or the Air Max 97’s. 

As the culture of sneakers continues to grow in Michigan, students often explore smaller businesses that resell the shoes that most students weren’t able to purchase when they came out the first time. Cities such as Dearborn have stores like Sneaker Legends that keep their business going by purchasing sneakers are rare or competitively priced. Teens at Skyline spend hundreds of dollars from sellers just to buy the shoes that are popular for the season.

“Jordans have always been a staple in Black culture because it’s the streetwear aesthetic,” said Mckenzie Browning, Skyline junior.  “Reselling shoes for a higher price is honestly a scam because people make almost no more than the price of the original shoe only because it’s trendy.” 

As the market for shoes is increasing, students at Skyline have noticed that the more popular a shoe becomes, the more expensive it will be for not only the silhouette but the shoe size. Big companies like Stockx and GOAT have individual resellers, boutiques, and retailers that  list their products for sale on the marketplace.  Buyers peruse the listings after they ship their resale products for authentication. 

Even though these companies have any sneakerhead’s dream collection, the prices may vary on the day that the shoe is purchased.  Often, there is also a ridiculous charge of $13.50 for shipping on top of the price of the actual shoe. This has caused sneakerheads to strategize techniques to keep stocking up on the sneakers by finding the best “plugs” in their nearest cities. 

“Most I’ve spent like 400. But I’m not gonna spend a crazy amount on shoes unless I really want them. I can’t do that knowing there are people out there who can’t pay their bills but I have a plug so I will always get a good price on whatever I want.”

The story of a student’s journey with sneakers starts right in their own backyard, with memories of the first pair of shoes they were given as a kid.  It builds up each time you size up: a new step for all the shoes that are worn. 

A big part of sneaker culture is how you wear the shoes, but the most important part is to make sure that sneakers are a piece in the outfit that can define your personality. The best way to style sneakers is to “Dress in a way that makes you feel special but also comfortable. Make it unique,” said Browning. 

What students at Skyline wear on their feet sets the culture and keeps trends alive. People debate the worth of spending a significant amount of money collecting shoes that will dust in clear displacement boxes, or the need of having the latest styles, but sneakerheads always have a place in the history of sneakers. 

“As far as pop culture and how to dress, there’s a lot of influencers out there who wear sneakers with fire outfits and I think so many people want to replicate that look because it’s easy and looks good,” said Diarra, a Senior at Skyline High School. 

The first thing that many students see when meeting someone is the sneakers that they chose to wear.  No matter how much dirt or how clean the sneakers are, it shows a blend of style, comfort, and the representation of the culture of sneakers.