Thousands of “sneakerheads” will spend as much as £3,000 on limited edition trainers this weekend, at a south-east London event billed as Europe’s biggest trainer convention.
This is the first time that Sneakerness, which was launched a decade ago in Switzerland and has travelled to cities including Amsterdam and Johannesburg – has arrived in the UK, where organisers expect it to attract between 3,000 and 5,000 people.
One trainer model – the Nike Air Jordan 1 Off-White in a new blue and white “North Carolina” colourway – is likely to become the most in-demand of the convention, according to Sergio Muster, managing director and co-founder of Sneakerness. The style sold out immediately when it was released through retailers last week, priced at around $190 (£144). It is tipped to fetch between £1,000 and £1,500 at the event, where it will be sold by private collectors.
Other rare shoes will include the Nike Air Max Parra x Patta Cherrywood, likely to fetch around £3,000, as well as the Kanye West-designed Adidas Yeezy 350 V2 Butter. The bulbous “Dad trainer” trend – the anti-fashion footwear silhouette of the moment – will also be big news, says Muster, with the Yeezy Wave Runner a key style that collectors will be looking out for.
The sneaker enthusiast market has heated up to boiling point in recent years, just as general trainer sales have soared. In the luxury market, trainers have become the tentpoles propping up big designer brands: sales were up 10% last year to $4bn, according to consultancy Bain, outperforming a 5% rise in the overall luxury market. Notable sellout styles include Versace’s $920 collaboration with trainer app Goat, and the Balenciaga Triple S model, priced at £615. In the mainstream, an acceptance of increasingly casual dress codes has seen millions wear trainers by Nike and Adidas on nights out and to the office. Where the 90s had the “it” bag and the 00s the high-heeled “it” shoe, the trainer has become the 2010s’ definitive status item, reflecting an age in which exercise and fleet-of-foot comfort have become highly aspirational.
Sneakerness’s demographic is mainly 16- to 24-year-olds and 70% male, Muster estimates. Many of these fans spend months saving for trainers, or “flip” pairs they already own for a profit. They will also queue for hours or enter online raffles in order to get hold of the styles they covet.
Trends are moving faster than ever, thanks to the rapid pace of social media. Muster says: “If Drake wears a pair of Jordans today then everyone will want Jordans on Saturday.” Though sneakerheads’ dedication is a cut above anything seen in the mainstream, their taste has a ripple effect. Their favourite designer, says Muster, is Off-White’s Virgil Abloh, who was recently appointed artistic director of menswear at the world’s biggest luxury brand, Louis Vuitton.
Kish Kash, a self-described “trainer archivist” with at least a couple of thousand pairs, who is Sneakerness’s UK country manager, says trainer culture is about much more than buying and selling. There is a collegiate atmosphere at the event, he says, with a panoply of sneakerhead-friendly activities – including shoe cleaning and authenticity checks, as well as bars and screens to watch the World Cup.
The sneaker world, he says, is about preservation of culture and an “appreciation of an aesthetic – people gravitating towards the same thing. It’s a fascinating anthropological study. We are human, we have passions. We want to create a world around us that is not drab. We want to brighten up the place.”