You’ve seen them in the streets. You’ve seen them in your church. They’ve brushed past you in both the mall and the courthouse, because they are everywhere. They are the “Sneakerheads.”
The ever-growing subculture of footwear fanatics, collectors, traders, aficionados, and fan-boys all came together on Sunday July 28th for one common fetish, their love of nice tennis shoes. “Sneakerheads” live and breathe sneakers. They stay updated on the latest shoe release dates, and in conversation they can rattle off the history behind their favorite shoe without missing a beat. At the 9th Annual HTOWN Sneaker Summit, thousands of “Sneakerheads” gathered at Reliant Stadium to collect, trade, and admire the several shoe brands and clothing styles that were on display.
The line for entry sprawled away from the door in two directions, resembling the lines outside of shoe stores on the morning that a pair of Retro Air Jordans are released. Adults, teenagers and children waited anxiously, some clutching a single shoebox while others had wagons, coolers, or giant plastic bags stuffed with Nike and Reebok boxes. Inside and outside of the entrance doors, there was a DJ constantly spinning tracks with bombastic bass lines, keeping the pulse high like a type of sound wave defibrillator. It was a type of unspoken guarantee that no matter what corner of the room you made it to, people would be nodding their heads to the beat of the music, and embracing the rhythm unconsciously. Hip Hop has always been a staple and trademark of the “Sneakerhead” community, and similar to Hip-Hop music, the streetwear lifestyle brings together people from dramatically different environments and backgrounds.
Once the gates opened, the bodies spilt into the showroom by the hundreds, and you could easily see who was having trouble holding back their excitement. Hundreds of tables were lined with printed tees, colored socks, custom-made hats, and shoes shrink-wrapped for preservation. Grown men rushed around like children, with their eyes surveying the goods on display with enough lust to make a girlfriend jealous. Vendors from New York sold designer hats with shoelaces weaved into the construction and shoe sole patterns molded onto the underbills. Local streetwear stores displayed rare Air Jordans next to colorful socks patterned with flowers and images of the Virgin Mary. Teenage crews set up mini-displays on the lunch tables, standing atop chairs waving shoes in the air hoping to attract a buyer or trader, and sometimes simply showing off their kicks. At a certain point it became difficult to determine whether the Summit was more of a market place or an isolated urban frenzy. The moment could have been when kids began balancing sneakers on their head, or when rapper Pusha-T stopped by before his after-party concert, or possibly when a full sized man began riding through the aisles on a remote controlled car with his legs hanging over the doors. Is it possible that the Sneaker Summit is simply a “Streetwear Mania” fueled by enthusiasm and obsession more than commerce? We may never know, but it’s in its ninth year and by the looks of it, everything seems to be in its right place.