137 | Elizabeth Semmelhack (Sneakers x Culture: Collab)

My Summer Lair Chapter #137: It Is Weird To Use Nike (A Billion Dollar Business) For Self-Expression?

“The urban interest in status sneakers coincided with the increasingly larger cultural trend rampant throughout American society that suggested individual expression could be achieved through brand identification.” Page 108 of Elizabeth Semmelhack’s Out of the Box: The Rise of Sneaker Culture.

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That’s the quote I employ during our discussion because it documents a fascinating tension. This idea of using a mass-market product like a Nike shoe (Air Force 1 or Dunks) or Jordan shoe to advocate for self-expression is interesting. Nike is a billion dollar business it doesn’t just exist for you to be…somebody.

There are two significant battles that are always worth fighting: one is declaring war on mediocrity; advocating for incredibly high standards for well…everything: teachers, NBA players, podcasters, policeman etc. and the other battle is of course pushing back against conformity.

Sneaker culture easily feeds into both of those relevant fights. It is individualism, it is collaboration, connection, community, design, all connected to broader larger cultures like skateboarding and hip hop, all kinds of music; basketball, the NBA it’s incredible how something so “small” turns on some of the biggest things.

I’m reminded of The Red Wheelbarrow by William Carlos Williams which opens with:

“so much depends

a red wheel

Right? I’m so grateful when somebody is generous with their time and their ideas.

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Bata Shoe Museum @ WT F

Host Sammy Younan

Photography by Henry VanderSpek aka Culture Snap Photography

Recorded: Tuesday December 11, 2019 at 10am (EST) at Bata Shoe Museum

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