February 23, 2016

JAIN | Damn, Daniel: On Sneaker Culture

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This past weekend, anyone with access to Vine or Facebook saw the infamous series of “Damn, Daniel” videos. Snapchat even had a “Damn, Daniel” filter yesterday, which prompted everyone I know to send me pictures of their white Vans. If you haven’t seen the videos, essentially one kid says “Damn, Daniel!” to another kid (who I assume is named Daniel) because his shoes are some heat. Okay, that’s all there is to say about “Damn, Daniel.” The rest of this is going to be about how strange sneaker culture is. Damn, Daniel.

For those of you who don’t exactly understand what a sneakerhead is, they’re essentially a cult of people who buy rare shoes, such as Jordans, Foamposites, Yeezys, etc. They’re willing to pay insane prices and wait hours,  even days in some instances, for the latest and greatest shoes. The sneakers these people go after usually sell in retail for about $200, but their resell value can be upwards of five to ten times that price. While paying a month’s rent for shoes may sounds crazy to some, sneakerheads live to buy these hard-to-find kicks.

At Cornell, the sneaker climate is more disappointing than I am to my parents. Most people wear Sperrys or some indistinguishable variant of Clarks, seemingly to appear pre-professional at all times. You never know when you might be interviewing for a job at Cornell! Just kidding, you always know in advance. I think people here just like blending in. Regardless, Cornell is definitely not a sneakerhead’sparadise.

Any semblance of sneaker culture in my experience is relegated to my friends from back home posting pictures of their Jordan pickups on Instagram. Recently, as I browsed through their purchases, I noticed they were able to easily obtain shoes what were generally damn near impossible to get. Almost everyone got the 72-10 Jordan 11s and the Maroon 6s, an achievement that would usually warrant celebration. When I asked how much they dropped for the shoes, all of my friends claimed they paid retail at their local Foot Locker. My jaw dropped all the way down to the disappointing Clarks Desert Boots on my feet.

My friends told me to check out my local shoe stores because for whatever reason lots of shoes were staying on the shelves. With minimal expectation, I drove down to the Footl Locker in the Ithaca Mall. As I walked in, I saw every shoe that had been released that month. I asked one of the guys that worked there if they had an 11 in any of the shoes, expecting him to laugh in my face and tell me they only had size 15s left, but he didn’t. He calmly told me that they had every size still.

After awakening from my brief loss of consciousness, I asked him how the hell that was possible. He claimed that Jordan sent way more shoes than usual and raised prices, so the shoes were staying on the shelves. It seems that Nike was finally sick of the resale market and wanted people to buy shoes to wear them. Faced with the most extreme existential crisis of my life, I quietly left Foot Locker and walked to the parking lot.

As I sat in my car, I thought of all the reasons I loved shoes. The first one that stood out to me was just the aesthetic beauty of shoes. As an art history major, I can tell you a lot about art. Just kidding, I can’t, but there’s really no denying how great a well-crafted shoe looks. Think of the color balance of an Olympic 6 or the simplicity of the Concord Jordan 11. But a part of me has to admit, some of the fun in sneaker collecting is the journey you go through to get the shoe. Whether it’s standing in six hour lines or paying $800, there’s something inherently exciting about sneaker culture.

The question kind of remains, has Jordan’s new effort to deter sneakerheads from reselling their shoes ruined sneaker culture? I’m not sure I have an answer, but I didn’t end up buying any of the “rare” shoes I found that day at Foot Locker. Damn, Daniel.   

Akshay Jain is a junior in the College of Arts & Sciences. He can be reached at aj265@cornell.edu. College Stuff appears alternate Wednesdays this semester.

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