Sneaker culture is a worldwide phenomenon. Sneakerheads seek out shoes that are rare, vintage, trendy, or just fashionable.
“I kind of liken it to music,” says footwear professional Brian Osborne. “You discover a new type of music and you kind of deep dive a little more into that. Sneakers are the same way. And the guys that really love sneakers want to show up in something that nobody else has.”
While a lot of sneaker buying and selling takes place online or through apps, the local conventions are still a draw for collectors who enjoy seeing what’s out there and meeting fellow sneakerheads.
“For me, this is a hometown show,” says KY Kickfest participant Ethan Sieg. “I probably know half the people in here just from being to these events in the past. It’s not like something you would see if you went to Chicago Sneaker Con where there’d be hundreds and hundreds of vendors. This is more local. These are our people for sure.”
The in-person marketplace also reflects the region, according to Dalton Christopher, creator of 859approved.
“The people in Kentucky are rather unique,” says Christopher. “There’s some of the different ways of life in this state and I think you kind of see the blends of fashion and style and everything here. It’s pretty interesting to see.”
Jacob Cain is the founder and co-owner of Sole by Style, a brick-and-mortar sneaker shop in Covington. He sees sneaker culture as a combination of style and sometimes nostalgia.
“A lot of people want some of the retros that are released because it reminds them of a shoe they had back in high school,” says Cain. “I’ve had people come in off the street and they’re like, ‘This shoe is really cool. I like it.’ The design just catches eyes.”
Customization provides a way for collectors to have a shoe in the style they love that is truly unique.
“We’re just creating artwork that you can wear,” says Jeremy Thompson of Showtime Customs. “I’ve painted them. I’ve attached different soles to them. I sew on them.”
Thompson says he got his start painting his own shoes. Now he’s done customizations for customers from across the country and as far away as Europe and Asia.
“The best of sneaker culture is a kid who gets something that they love and it brightens their day,” says Thompson. “There’s something they can wear that their heroes wear. Or it’s something they can wear to look fresh. I don’t know why exactly we’re all drawn to it; it’s something that’s entangled in all of us.”
This segment is part of Kentucky Life Episode 2517, which originally aired on April 11, 2020. Watch the full episode.