Collecting sneakers that tell a story is new hobby for ritzy millennials
Gokul has 75 pairs of fancy kicks. The most expensive include a collaboration sneaker by artiste Kanye West and fashion label Alexander McQueen. "In 2017, I bought a limited edition sneaker every month. This year, my wish list includes sneakers by sportsmen Andre Agassi and Usain Bolt," says Gokul, active on Whatsapp groups of sneaker-heads where they engage in dialogues on sneaker drops.
Sneaker fever, which first went viral in the West with the collaboration of NBA player Michael Jordan and a sportswear brand in 1984, has caught on in India in the last two years. International brands are launching limited edition sneakers that tell a story. Enthusiasts are hooked to this growing subculture like their counterparts in fashion capitals like Tokyo, Milan, Hong Kong and New York.
They are attending sneaker-head meets across the world. Bollywood star Sonam Kapoor, who is dating India's most popular sneaker-head Anand Ahuja, was spotted at a meet in Dubai in December. A sportswear brand is curating India's first multi- city sneaker-head meet this March. Social media has been the primary driver.
Take the case of Delhi-based graphic designer and sneakerhead Henry Vinoth (32), first in India to launch a dedicated Instagram page called Sneakernewsindia with 4,000 followers. "Delhi's sneaker-heads have the privilege of different seasons to experiment with styles. We wear high-top sneakers in winter and classic styles in summer. Humid Mumbai prefers functional styles," says Vinoth. He is the only Indian at present to own a handcrafted sneaker inspired by the streets of Milan by an Italian brand.
Buyers — typically aged between 22-38 years — are a mix of bloggers, techies, models and marketing professionals who wear them as an outlet of self-expression. Shivani Boruah (28), a software engineer at Wipro in Bengaluru, started pursuing the hobby a year ago and owns 22 pairs. She gladly wore a pair of collaboration sneakers by singer Selena Gomez for a New Year's Eve party.
Samir Rana (36), a former IT professional with Schroders in London, owns 60 pairs, with one costing almost 600. "I would pair my blazer and denims with sneakers for my corporate meetings in London. It's a great conversation starter," says Rana, a street-style photographer in Mumbai now. The sneaker resale industry is a trending subject. The global sneaker resale industry is evaluated at $1billion. The more limited the release and offbeat the story behind its design and technology, the greater the value.
Bengaluru-based sneaker-head Allen Claudius whose collection of 50 sneakers include seven precious pairs of Yeezy that cost a whopping Rs 24,000 each and are considered big ticket in the resale industry. Claudius says, "A sneaker that I bought for Rs 17,000 is valued at Rs 1.4 lakh now because only eight pairs were sold in India. I use Instagram to resell hand-me-downs and dead stock," says Claudius.
According to fashion experts, most number of sneaker-heads are found in Delhi and Bengaluru. Mumbai comes next. Bhavisha Dave, co-founder of streetwear & sub-culture consultancy Capsul Collective, says "Bengaluru is a trendy young city. Top retail brands are headquartered here. There is a high density of sneaker stores in Bengaluru but the culture is not as vocal as Delhi," she explains.