words // Gerald Flores

I hate the word “sneakerhead.”

That may sound surprising to read from someone who’s deeply entrenched in sneakers and the culture that surrounds it. There are thousands, maybe even millions, of people around the world who proudly identify as a “sneakerhead,” and it’s because of those individuals that I, and others like me, can do what we do for a living.

But I think the word “sneakerhead” sucks, and people should stop using it to describe everyone who’s into sneakers. Sorry.

This epiphany was sparked by a conversation I had with Vashtie a few weeks ago. We were talking about quirky habits that people with an affinity for sneakers have and she told me, “It's sort of outdated to be a sneakerhead, no?”

I thought about it, and she's kind of right.

The culture has grown exponentially over the past 30 plus years. Back in the ‘80s and early ‘90s, you had to actually go to sneaker stores to see what you could pick up and you actually talked (you know, conversations?) with other people about sneakers instead of tweeting or Instagram commenting on them.

As sneaker culture has gotten more popular, so has the mainstream perception of its participants. More often than not, “sneakerheads” in the news are either portrayed as tweens hustling their parents’ money so they can flip a pair Air Yeezys, or a swagless 30-something camping out in front of a sneaker store instead of being a responsible adult.

“Sneakerhead” isn’t the word that represents what the culture is in 2014.

The culture is about more than just resellers and hoarders. It’s become a wide spectrum of hobbyists from different generations. There are people who’ve been following kicks for a while and find the word “sneakerhead” dated (like myself). On the other hand, there’s the neophyte who is just getting into sneakers, but not quite confident enough in their prowess to claim the title “sneakerhead.” Then there’s everything else in between.

We need something to represent the different subcultures of sneakers, that doesn’t make it sound like the hobby is an unhealthy addiction. Liking sneakers isn’t the same as a “meth-head” being hooked on methadone. At least I hope it isn’t.

If I did have to choose a word to categorize my personal love for sneakers, it would probably be “sneaker connoisseur” (™ Bobbito Garcia) or “sneaker enthusiast.” But, that’s how I define my passion for sneakers - looking at them more as pieces of art rather than something that needs to be acquired every Saturday.

You should choose the term that defines what you’re into, rather than just having it thrust upon you by society. If there’s a word thats assigned to someone who’s into plants (horticulturist) or someone who geeks out over stamps (philatelist), surely we can come up with something to classify those of us who are only into O.G. Air Jordans or Reebok Instapumps.

Let's just move past the juvenile term to describe a culture that's not so juvenile anymore. Or better yet, don’t use a word to classify your hobby at all.

Gerald Flores is the editor-in-chief of Sole Collector. You can follow him on Twitter here.