Here’s a scenario that sneaker fans in 2024 might find familiar.

You’ve trawled the week’s wildly packed drop schedule and found something worthy. You log onto the app to purchase a little early, maybe ten minutes or more, and as you watch the clock gradually count down, your adrenaline levels slowly rise. The timer hits zero and the shoe is almost yours. Two minutes later the sold out signs go up with you still queuing like a damn fool. You log off sorrowfully, cursing your bad luck. Later that day, you spot the usual resellers surrounded by 10 or 15 pairs of the shoe in question on social media, playing with them joyfully like they were a soppy gang of puppies. If you want the shoe now you’ll likely have to pay double, maybe even triple the price. 

When it comes to sneakers, the drop-and-cop schedule has been developed and refined over almost three decades. In combination with brands often deliberately cutting production runs it has become a well-oiled machine powered by A.I., bots and cold hard capitalism. But fractures have begun to appear, with the industry beginning to look just a little jaded. While OG sneaker fans were already used to feeding off scraps when it came to staying in the game, now resellers are now decrying an industry that has seemingly lost its imagination. The question is, has sneaker culture finally hyped itself out of the game?

Of course in an era of fake news we should be a little careful in what we believe. Then there’s history to tend with. As a people we often have a tendency to decry our current crisis as the worst of times. Socially, culturally, financially… the nadir is almost always here and now. The: “It was so much better in my day” effect. When it comes to sneakers, just a cursory online search reveals that its own cultural demise has been grossly exaggerated on more than one occasion. 

In the beginning, sneaker culture was about community and camaraderie. It was about buying (‘copping’) a shoe at the retail price and, if there was any reselling to be done it was often direct to other collectors or even local stores, increasing the special bonds and like minds of a location. Slowly but surely that model changed.

In 2012, your average sneaker collector thought that the nascent hype culture was just a fad. Those who had been in the game since MJ dropped his OG Nike shoe in 1985 were furious, but they were content to wait it out.

At the time, a thread on the sneaker forum entitled “Sneaker Collecting is a Fad… and Dead” got some serious heat. While the majority tentatively disagreed with the statement, almost all were aligned on the fact that things weren’t changing for the better. “As a 13-year collector I have to say, yes,” said one user. “The sneaker culture sucks now. You can’t even buy the kicks you want without going above and beyond and out of your way. I think it’s officially time to throw in the towel.”

Others, however, were a little more committed to the long game. “I’ll just slow down for now,” said another. “I’ll stack my money and be back in full effect when everybody leaves this fad.”

While many pointed the finger at big brands such as Nike for reducing numbers and therefore creating the illusion of demand, the majority had one target for their ire. “It’s the hypebeasts and resellers that kill me,” fired off another comment on niketown. “They don’t care about the history of the shoe, they only want to make a profit off it or be seen in what’s hot.”

You can argue that it was the bot that killed original sneaker culture. Used in a variety of ways, the key is that a reseller can programme a bot to mimic human behaviour in a fraction of the time. So, after being set to alert the user of a restock or new drop the second it becomes public, the bot can then clear the digital shelves before a real life human user even has time to enter their email address. When the majority of those kicks wound up on reselling sites at hugely inflated prices, the majority of early sneaker collectors just got priced out of the game.

Kobe 8 Protro Halo. NIKE

When brands such as StockX took things out of the spare room and into a big business model, well you knew that sneaker culture was never really going to be the same again. While bots were to blame for killing the OG sneaker game, the industry’s current malaise could be put down to oversaturation. Sneaker drops and fresh collabs have become so omnipresent that any real joy at copping dissipates in hours. But although back in the day it was the individual sneaker fan whose nose was out of joint, now it’s the resellers that are crying foul.

“This is definitely an issue,” says hegotkickz, a sneakerhead who started his YouTube channel in 2019 and regularly speaks out to more than 50k followers. “But right now what’s affecting the market is [as simple as] the lack of good colourways. People have been asking for them, but just not getting them.”

At the beginning of 2023, a Business of Fashion report revealed that sneaker sales had dropped in 2022. The market was in decline. While the big brands continued to be popular, the constant drop model—combined with uninspiring colourways—was starting to become a turnoff for sneakerheads. That was something that resulted in a spike for more niche brands such as Mizuni and HOKA.

While big brand methodology was clearly out of sync with the consumer, the hypebeasts themselves were coming under fire for something far more sinister altogether—echoing the concerns of those niketalk chats almost eight years earlier.

According to an article on ESPN in January 2020, Nike had quickly removed all its Kobe Bryant-related products from the shelves to stop people profiting off the NBA legend’s tragic death. It mattered not. Sneakers and memorabilia prices were hiked by 200 to 300 percent on resale sites within 24 hours of his passing.

In reality, while sneaker culture is undoubtedly going through some shifts in power right now that’s simply evolution. However, you cannot shift the feeling that, with every passing phase you feel the love dissipate from sneaker culture just a little more. It’s profit margins over passion. What’s needed is a reset.

As for hegotkickz, well he’s a purist at heart.

“I was into sneakers as a kid, but I just couldn’t afford them. Until I got some Military Blue Jordan 4s. To be honest, I don’t think that the culture will ever really die. But we do need to get back to simply loving the shoe instead of just the money. These shoes are pieces of art. People should enjoy that."

Originally published on Esquire ME

Like New Year's Eve for the doomsayers or Christmas for the consumerists; Air Max Day has arrived for the sneakerheads. Nike's annual celebration of the Air Max model that came out on 26 March, 1987, will be greeted with special drops. The brand has re-issued grails like the Air Max 90 Bacon but this year's we're looking at a brand new look: the Air Max Dn.

This model was borne out of the R&D look into a new Nike Air unit called "Dynamic Air". This unit is a dual-pressure tubes that give a reactive sensation with every step. Not only is the Air Max Dn imbued with new tech, it's also made out of, at least, 20% recycled content (from post-consumer and/or post-manufactured waste) by weight. The Air Max Dn will boast six colourways.


There are other models specially released for Air Max Day. Models like the Air Max 1 '86, this time the red accents give way to the royal blue ones.

As we look forward to more Air Max Days, let us take a walk down memory lane with a few classic favourites from our local sneakerheads.

Jonathan Fong (One-Half of local sneaker con, Sole Superior)

Air Max 95 OG “Neon”

"I was 16 when it dropped, and this was a unicorn. I was just gawping at it in Japanese magazines like BOON and Non-no. It was such a fresh, dope, futuristic-looking sneaker. Pity, I never had a chance to cop. If someone were to rock a pair at Far East Plaza on the weekend, it would probably break necks. At that time, I guess they would have gotten a pair from Hong Kong. Finally, I'd gotten my own retro pair in the late 2000s... but it crumbled way too fast. RIP."

Dexter Tan (The Other-Half of local sneaker con, Sole Superior)

Air Max 1 Atmos Animal Pack 2006

"Not only were these a Japan exclusive; they were an eye-catching combination of faux fur that definitely [grab attention] if you wore them out."

Josiah Chua

Air Max 97

"Inspired by the style lines of a water ripple effect and the hues of mountain bikes (which is usually in silver chrome), this iconic pair is extremely versatile to pair with. Whether it’s completing athleisure sporty looks or street style ensembles, the Air Max 97 is just the hyped-up finishing touch you need."

Sam Lo

Air Max Susan

(Editor's note: Animation studio, Laika, is owned by Nike founder Phil Knight and his son, Travis, is Laika’s President and CEO. Limited-edition shoes based on Laika's first four films were made, many were given to friends and family. When Missing Link (Laika's fifth film) was released, the Susan was given a wider release, although, they were quickly sold out. A Friends and Family version was also created, this was even rarer.)

"I love the attention to detail and it was a beautiful way to see the animation translated onto the shoe. It definitely opened my eyes."


Air Max Sean Wotherspoon 1/97

"I've followed Sean Wotherspoon on his Round Two journey on YouTube. From how his curation and passion led him to a successful street culture vintage store to working with Nike to getting a shoe to involving the community. And they created a shoe that made so much buzz around the entire world. It made me feel that if [Wotherspoon's] passion, curation and hard work can get him to where he is today, maybe I can as well."

Nike Air Max 90 Bacon

"[This is just] a little reminder that some concepts can just be playful and fun for the sake of it."

Air Max 95 "Stash"

"Stash pioneered the artist brand collaboration space. And, in some way, paved the way to allow someone like me to do what I can do today."