Before social media, television stars were the original influencers. Sneaker-obsessed kids who didn't have online communities to seek out like-minded friends and sources of inspiration took comfort in seeing their passion represented by some of the biggest names in entertainment. When there wasn't Niketalk, there was the Fresh Prince. When Kanye West wasn't known, Martin Payne was. Then, once social media took off, we were able to reflect on these sneaker culture pioneers and give them their due in features like Celebrity #SoleWatch.
Further validating these characters, artist Oli Holmes helped us put together an illustrated rundown of the 10 Greatest Sneakerheads in TV History. See who helped shape the culture below.
10. marion hill — in the house
It was impossible to escape LL Cool J in any format in 1995. Just before releasing some of the most successful music of his career with the album Mr. Smith, the self-proclaimed G.O.A.T. was the star of his very own sitcom, In the House. As retired professional football player Marion Hill, LL brought his signature style to primetime. That typically meant a ball cap, peak FUBU before the dreaded Platinum era, pants with one of the legs rolled up, and a pair of the hottest sneakers on shelves. Marion doesn't get mentioned much when it comes to conversations about sneakerheads on television, but if you go happen to catch any episodes in syndication, you'll appreciate the episode-to-episode flexing.
9. the taylor family — home improvement
It's not likely that Home Improvement fans were doing much sneaker watching, but those who did noticed that Tim "The Tool Man" Taylor and his three boys Brad, Randy, and Mark rocked some serious heat. The men of the Taylor household perfected the craft of pairing OG Air Jordans and Nike trainers with swagless bootcut jeans. Don't forget that Nike even made Binford Tools promo sneakers for the cast and crew.
8. eddie winslow — family matters
The resident "cool guy" of the Family Matters cast, Eddie Winslow was one of the first characters to bring the sneakers we love to the small screen on a consistent basis. Before becoming more of a boot man in the later seasons, Eddie was busy trying to avoid his annoying neighbor Steve Urkel in all of the sneakers being retroed today when they were originally released.
7. cory matthews — Boy meets world
Aside from the episode where he tried to chemically straighten his hair, Boy Meets World's Cory Matthews never seemed to be too hung up on his appearance. However, during the early part of the series, Ben Savage made sure his character always had a fresh pair of sneakers. Viewers can spot classics like the Air Jordan 8, Air Maestro, and Air Max2 CB trekking down the halls of Jefferson Elementary and John Adams High throughout the show's seven-season run.
6. marlon williams - the wayans bros.
Beyond the brilliance of John Witherspoon, The Wayans Bros. is a goldmine for enthusiasts of '90s streetwear. Shawn gets the occasional 'fit off, but Marlon is the show's true fashion standout. In addition to wearing all of the clothing deemed hot at the time, he laced up virtually every pair imaginable from that golden era of sneakers. What separates Marlon from the pack is variety—he would just as likely break out Fila Grant Hills or Reebok Questions as he would Nikes or Jordans.
5. turtle assante — entourage
In television history, no episode has captured the essence of sneakerhead culture quite like Turtle's hunt for Fukijama Nike Air Force 1s in Entourage's "What About Bob?" Fresh off receiving his Saigon settlement money, Turtle goes hunting for the limited edition kicks at Undefeated. After schemes to use Vince Chase's star power to score a pair fall short at two Cali-based locations, Vince reaches out to Fukijama himself with a ridiculous amount of money to have a custom 1-of-1 pair made for his friend. Nike would reference the episode later with real-life pairs based after those.
4. martin payne — martin
Ol' Marty Mar was the funniest character ever featured on a primetime sitcom, but his sneaker game was no joke. Though he was a die-hard Pistons fan, Martin Payne never hid his admiration for Michael Jordan and his legendary sneaker line, often stepping out in whatever Air Jordan model was current at the time. But it didn't stop there—Martin was a serious Nike head who showcased crazy variety within the brand over the years.
3. Dwayne wayne & Ron Johnson — A different world
There may not be a sitcom more underrated than A Different World, and there aren't two more overlooked celebrity sneakerheads than Kadeem Hardison and Darryl Bell's characters from the show. Before the "grown up" phase of the series, the best friend duo of Dwayne Wayne and Ron Johnson had a five-year stretch during which they seemingly wore almost every relevant pair of Air Jordans and Nikes that dropped.
2. jerry seinfeld — seinfeld
Put anybody in a room with Jerry Seinfeld and they're automatically the second coolest person there at best. Seinfeld has made almost $1 billion by making people laugh, but he's never been above stopping by a brick-and-mortar sneaker shop and slumming it with the rest of us. For nine years, he turned heads on the small screen with immaculate sneaker selections, which was equally surprising and exciting. Seinfeld has explained that his preference for white shoes stems from the fact that all adults wore black sneakers when he was growing up, and pop culture figures like Joe Namath broke the mold and made wearing white shoes look fun.
1. Will smith — the fresh prince of bel-air
It's no surprise that Big Willie tops the list. The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air is the standard in celebrity sneakerheads and one of the community's original reference points. To live up to his moniker, Will never left the mansion without a fresh pair, most notably original Air Jordans and offerings from Nike Basketball. To put the Fresh Prince's connection to sneakers in simple terms, Will famously wears the "Metallic" Air Jordan 5 in the show's first scene, then ends the series in the "Columbia" Air Jordan 11—images from both are iconic.