If you somehow haven’t noticed, March Madness is going on right now. Not only is it one of the greatest spectacles in sports, it’s also a sort of fashion show for sneaker heads. From Creighton’s Gregory Echenique’s hot pink kicks in honor of his coach’s wife who survived breast cancer to Wichita State’s Sean Ogirri’s shocking yellow shoes that match his electric play, there’s as much to watch for on the players’ feet as there is in game action. UNC, Cal, Georgetown, and Marquette’s teams were wearing customized 2012 Air Jordans. No doubt sneaker fans have been watching games to scope out new trends.
Like jeans and t-shirts, sneakers are a staple of the Millennial wardrobe, and many teens and 20-somethings elevate sneaker culture to high style. It helps that there are so many limited edition and one of a kind pairs of kicks to choose from. They’ve become so sought after that a few riots have broken out at stores carrying highly limited — and very expensive — special editions.
Part of growing up used to mean ditching sneakers for more expensive work-appropriate shoes, but older Millennials have changed that — think Mark Zuckerberg going to work in sandals. Sneakers have become perfectly appropriate for kids as well as adults, and instead of showing style maturity by lacing up a pair of oxfords (or putting on pumps), pulling on a pair of studded Converse by John Varvatos does the trick equally well because the sneakers are high style and laid back at the same time. It helps that haute couture brands, such as Christian Lacroix and Louis Vuitton, have embraced sneakers, as well as designer collaborations, including Yohji Yamamoto for Adidas, Liberty for Asics, and even Kanye West for Nike.
For all the high end collaborations, some sneaker fans just want to customize their own pair. These days that doesn’t mean going to town on your clean white Keds. There’s NikeID, customizable Converse, and, yes, even custom Keds that don’t require markers so Millennials can put their unique stamp on classic styles.
Although the focus during the tournament is on men’s shoes, girls can be sneaker freaks, too. However, sneaker brands aren’t very actively embracing the female shopper because they don’t want to alienate their male fans. Some of the bigger brands with broader lines are rolling out flashier designs for women, but a lot of girls end up buying guys shoes to get the look they want.
Sneaker culture is hitting a fever pitch this spring, and we don’t see it waning any time soon.