Guest Article By: Martin Fortunato
Back in high school I considered myself to have the freshest pair of creps on my feet at any given moment. I remember having stacks of sneaker boxes from the floor to the roof of my room and thinking nothing of it, as if I were just some dude who could wear a different pair of shoes every day of the week. Unlike most people, figuring out my outfit for the day started with the shoes and worked its way up. This eventually led to another passion – but that’s a different story.
As far as sneaker culture goes, Air Jordans set the groundwork for what we know today and has become the benchmark of what every company strives for. Every Saturday Nike releases a new pair of Jordans to retail stores across North America and every Saturday these shoes would eventually sell out. Sometimes it would take days for the sneakers to sell out and other times it could take less than an hour. Being able to push this much product at such a rate is a clear sign of why Nike holds such a big piece of the market share in its industry. So how do marketers capitalize on such a product? The answer is in the name derived from the man himself and built from the exact specifications of the best NBA player to ever play the game. Now I’m no basketball aficionado but when someone asks me who the greatest basketball player of all time is I instantly think of Michael Jordan. I also didn’t grow up in his era but I can only imagine what its like seeing your idol breaking records in a pair of sneakers that the world has never seen before.
Selling off of hype is certainly one way to get product off of shelves and the hype is built up in many ways. It could be derived from the limited quantities being produced, the celebrity co-sign, or the even just the stories behind the shoe.
At this time marketing the sneakers were much simpler because the sneaker culture was much more niche. Marketers would attach the sneakers to an athlete and watch the fans follow. Lets fast forward to today, hopping off of their 30th model of the shoe, Air Jordans are still releasing and still selling every Saturday.
Nowadays its not just the athletes who play their roles as influencers. Brands have reached out to all artists and other public figures to drive sales and increase brand presence. There are a ton of influencers out there who are co-signed to a lot of different brands but the most influential is undoubtedly Kanye West. While he was signed with Nike he helped design the Nike Air Yeezy 1 and 2 that literally skyrocketed the brand to even higher heights. But it wasn’t until the period around Watch the Throne, where Kanye shook the sneaker world with the Air Yeezy 2 (and his music), that I started to realize the momentum that sneakers had taken. It was the sneaker that bested all other sneakers with its luxe materials including snakeskin, glow in the dark soles, and gold aglets. At this time sneaker culture and everything associated with it took an unprecedented leap.
Overlooking all the drama, Kanye West is now signed with Adidas and is still creating sneakers. His most recent and sought after creations include the Yeezy 750 and 350 Boost which are made with a taste of luxury via its premium suedes and designer cues. Along with other artists and designers such as Pharrell, Pusha T, Raf Simons, and Rick Owens, he is credited to increasing the presence of the brand in North America and aiding with the jump in sales.
Remember when I said that hype is built up in many ways? Well these factors can actually be marketed together to create the pinnacle of consumer desire. As polarizing as he is, Kanye West has grown to play such a big part in sneaker culture because he is an influencer who brings ground-breaking levels of hype. His sneakers are highly limited and highly coveted in the market and not only does he attract new adopters to the community but he also brings his vast fan following of his music. There is something about owning a limited sneaker designed by one of the most influential people of our time that makes it so sought after. Sneakers are now becoming an extension of status and are being marketed to the masses as essential. Companies noticed this early on and have been capitalizing on it ever since.
A second year student in International Business at Humber College, Martin Fortunato has got a knack for fashion, sports, and pop culture. With ambitions to work in international trade, Martin is planning ahead and hopes to run his own clothing boutique. You can follow Martin here on Instagram