The sneakers market in Australia is a peculiar one. In my view, sneakerheads are segmented into few groups.
You have the casual sneakerheads that pretty much purchase sneakers depending what sneakers are in brick and mortar retail stores. You have the hypebeasts/resellers who keep up to date by following hype publications, and have their finger on the pulse with key industry media releases.
Then there is a third group. The advent of influencers and social media has meant that now a large group of mainstream sneaker consumers are purchase sneakers because of the influencers and sneaker celebrities they are following.
I can't speak for other markets since my expertise really is the Australian sneaker market, but I'm sure there are parallels in other markets as well.
I find this very pertinent for a number of reasons.
Social media has really democratised sneaker culture
Prior to the gram being a fixture of the culture, sneaker culture in Australia was reserved for those in the know.
You had to be hardcore sneakerhead following the latest industry news, or be a hardcore fan of certain celebrities to really stay updated with what sneakers were the hottest.
You really had to put in work to be into sneakers. The lack of a sneaker scene in Australia meant that you really were restricted to what were being sold in brick and mortar stores. It was difficult to be adventurous and get into sneakers.
With social media and specifically instagram, sneaker culture began to explode in Australia.
People here were now exposed to sneakerhead influencers to adopt and synthesise their own style. They were able to keep up to date through dedicated sneaker instagrams and youtube news giving them updates on the latest drops.
It really made it easy for people to get into the subculture of sneakers in Australia.
More people into sneakers meant the secondary market took off
With the democratisation of sneaker culture, this meant that more people in Australia generally were into sneakers. This really increased demand for sneakers. With increase demand, it became viable for sneaker resellers to actually make money off reselling sneakers.
Prior to this, there was really no point for resellers to go through the trouble of copping sneakers if they couldn't offload them to anyone.
More demand for sneakers meant that profits and margins and mark-ups were able to be made. This is why reselling took off. Its the reason why we saw PUSHAS as a platform take off.
It was a natural progression of more participants in Australian sneaker culture creating a need for a secondary sneaker market.
Geography no longer became a hindrance for Australian sneakerheads to cop the freshest sneakers since supply also ramped up.
What's "hot" at any given time is different depending on which segment you fall into
Since there are three distinct segments, it is tough to pin down definitively which sneaker is hot.
Amongst Aussie hypebeast / reseller types, arguably the hottest sneakers in 2018 would have been the Nike Air Max 97/1 SW (Sean Wotherspoons).
What's interesting here is that the casual sneakerhead would likely have never heard or seen these sneakers before.
The demographic that is influenced by social influencers and celebrities may have just seen these sneakers in passing, but from my experience if you asked them what they were, they would have no clue.
I find that extremely fascinating.
Sneaker culture has become so huge now that one of the most hyped sneakers of the year can exist relatively unknown to other people who love sneakers.
The Nike Air Max 270s or the Reacts would arguably be hottest sneaker for the casual sneakerhead judging by how many people I see wear them around Sydney. Many of the hypebeasts / reseller types would never be seen wearing those sneakers.
Social media types would possibly consider the Jordan 4 Cactus Jacks by Travis Scotts, the Off-Whites, or even the Yeezys to be the hottest sneakers of the year. It was quite difficult to have avoid seeing these sneakers in music videos, or the hottest celebrities flexing them online.
Of course, the hottest sneaker is subjective and a matter of taste. But since the different types of sneakerheads are getting their information from different sources, I would argue that it definitely shapes your opinions and taste.
More sneakers for niche segments
A lot of people complain that Nike, Adidas, Yeezy, Off-Whites et al. are releasing too many sneakers. They worry that this will flood the market, and make sneakers no longer special. Some even worry about resell value.
What these critics miss is that there are so many customer segments that these issues rarely pose a problem.
Sure, Yeezy may have released a ton of different 500s, 700s and more colourways in the 350 V2s this year. But what I'm finding is that these sneakers are targeted to different customers.
I find that the 500s are more popular with casual sneakerheads. The 700s are more worn by the hypebeasts/resellers. The 350 V2s which initially were worn a lot by the hypebeasts and resellers, are actually now more worn by the influenced by social media and celebrities group.
Keeping true to their hypebeast tendencies, the group that is most "in the know" find the 350 V2s too mainstream and have largely abandoned the 350 V2s barring some colourways.
Think back to 2009 with the Nike Yeezys or even the Yeezy 350 V1s, the main demographic that these sneakers had targeted were only hypebeast / reseller types. This was especially true for the sneaker scene in Australia.
True to Kanye's word, there are now Yeezys for everyone.
What else needs to improve to grow the state of sneakers Australia?
I would preface this by saying that this is just my perspective. I do have privilege of vantage, but my perspective is still limited.
In order for sneaker culture in Australia to grow, we need more education. I think there is an appetite and demand for casual sneakerheads and the social media sneakerheads to learn more about sneakers.
This was a big reason for why I dedicated resources for PUSHAS to start the media arm of our business.
We think if we do our part to educate sneakerheads in a way that makes it easy for them to understand, it will help further democratise sneaker culture.
The issue I find with many current sources of info is that they cater too much towards the hypebeast/reseller types. I understand the business impetus for this since they're the people these publications should be targeting since they are the most lucrative.
I do think there is something to be said about democratising sneaker culture for the people who are not early adopters.
Because as we saw with the impact of social media, that helped the ecosystem in Australia as a whole when the number of casual and social media sneakerheads grew.
Hypebeasts and resellers might not like these other sneakerheads because they are not "real" sneakerheads. They may want to keep sneakers and the culture "exclusive". I do admit, being an insider feels great, and I catch myself sometimes being a bit of a sneaker snob when other people talk about sneakers.
But it's important that we remind ourselves that if we welcome more people and better sneaker culture as a whole, we all end up winning.
By Justin PUSHAS