Did you know that the most expensive sneakers ever sold at an auction are valued at £1,332,990? The model is Kanye West’s Nike Air Yeezy 1 “Prototype”. They were worn by the artist during the 2008 Grammy Awards before their official release on the market.
You might be wondering, who would pay such a colossal amount for a pair of trainers. The answer is hypebeasts. Obsessed with being in the epicentre of the latest fashion trends and owning the most popular items, hypebeasts belong to a culture that glorifies name-branded clothing.
But long before the hypebeast subculture was formed, sneakerheads were dominating the sneaker appreciation club only to completely revolutionise the most iconic item – the trainer.
Football and sneakers: the start of something great
British youth culture is imbued with subcultures. The 1940s post-war ambience and onwards have paved the way for the youth to unite in a revolt against traditional societal regulations and strive for ultimate self-expression. From hippies and goths to skinheads and ravers, we’ve seen a fiesta of subcultural statements, usually dressed in a poignant fashion style. Whether it’s a cultural movement informing style or vice versa, one thing is certain – fashion is everything.
That seems to be the mantra around how the sneakerhead and hypebeast subcultures are formed. While in the US the sneakerhead culture was a reaction to the booming hip-hop stars and basketball legends, in the UK, as we all know, things revolve around football.
The shoe that ignited the fire of the sneaker appreciation community is the 1975s Adidas Trimm Trab. It was introduced as part of a nationwide fitness program originating in West Germany. By the early ’80s, the Adidas iconic shoe revolutionised football stadium fashion. Now, the shoe is decorating the shelves of British sneakerheads as an artefact symbolising the start of a movement which they very much consider as their own.
Sneakerhead vs hypebeast
But before we get on to tell the story of how sneakerheads became hypebeasts, let’s do some terms clarification.
Sneakerheads share a deep love for sneakers, which is manifested in a fervent interest in the history of the shoe, in obtaining rare and exclusive sneakers, and sometimes reselling them.
In 1999, Nelson Cabral’s “NikeTalk Forum” was the place to be online for sneakerheads. They would passionately talk about Michael Jordan, the latest fashion trends, and facilitate a sense of belonging.
In 2005, it was time for the hub for sneakerheads to evolve. Kevin Ma launched his website “Hypebeast”, which provided an upgraded version of the 1999 forum, and was easier to digest.
It was this technological move that yielded the emergence of hypebeasts. Similar to sneakerheads, they are obsessed with sneakers but with a poignant focus on trends. They appreciate the historical value of items but from a more recent perspective. Whatever is trending, they need to own it no matter at what cost. They, too, find joy in reselling their high-valued items.
Hypebeasts are the new influencers
Hypebeasts are dominating the influencers space. In fact, there are 28,972,347 Instagram posts with #hypebeast. Roaming through the feed, we get a clear vision of what’s trending at the moment. Girls in pure white sneakers and coordinated sweats, men’s leather trainers matched with hipster-like stylish jeans, shirts, groovy accessories, and gym-ready colour-block trainers are what the hype is all about right now.
Not only have sneakerheads and hypebests risen to the accidental sneakers’ influencers but their sneaker-oriented mindset has also become contagious. Just in time for the pandemic-induced casual style, people in Britain and all over the world are rocking the sneakers look for work, home, gym, and leisure.
It’s beyond unbelievable what a turn one fashion item has taken. From dominating a subculture of sneakerheads, through building hype around the latest trends, to becoming a one-size-fits-all wardrobe staple, the sneaker has made fashion history like no other.