Reader Email

Hey Maurice,

I have a question which I’ve never understood; why do black people love shoes so much? Whether its camping over night for Jordan’s or creating groups on facebook such as “sneakertalk” to deal, trade, and buy shoes from peers, its seems to me that for some reason(is it genetic?) black people really love shoes. I have a story that verifies this. I was at a friends house and a friend of mine and her boyfriend (who is black) were there. I introduced myself to the boyfriend, said whatsup, the usual stuff, and asked what high school he went to. His response: “I don go to skool.” I said, “so your in college?” His response: “I don’t go to school.” During the next five minutes, the conversation somehow shifts to shoes and man, does this guy know everything about shoes. I swear he could have recited the creators, stitch count, and color scheme of every Jordan shoe ever created. All I could do was think, “unless he is planning on becoming a shoe connoisseur, how the hell is knowing this going to help him in life? He doesn’t even go to school! (He is 17)” Please Mo, tell me why black people love shoes!

Keep it global,
@the_arj_mahal

Got a few questions along this line and to be honest with you it concerns the hell out of me.

First of all, it’s not just black people who love shoes/sneakers. I can’t even stress that enough. I used to intern at a certain Complicated urban men’s magazine when I was at school, and a major part of their brand was reporting on and showcasing sneaker culture. Yes, there were a lot of black people who worked there and absolutely loved shoes, but there were just as many white, Latino, Asian, Southern Asians, etc who had serious sneaker addictions.

The sneakerhead thing isn’t about race, it’s about culture. It’s part of hip hop culture to be heavily invested in your kicks. WASP-y businessmen have suits, ties, and pocket squares, sports geeks have obscure jerseys and memorabilia, and urban culture kids have sneakers. And I guess pretty much every other article if you’re truly fashionable.

Hip hop itself for better or worse has always been incredibly materialistic. Which on the one hand sucks because those unfamiliar with the culture/music can (and without fail will) point their ignorant fingers and make swooping judgements about the cars/clothes/jewelry that go along with it. But on the other hand, for those inside or aware of the culture and its history, it’s more about the quality of, appreciation for, and artistic value found in those material things.

I’m no real sneakerhead, although I do own a decent number of shoes. If you want to make it something racial, then you can say black people take pride on looking good when we want to. I’ve made the point about white people not dressing up for church. Just a difference in culture. If we’re going to church, or the club, or anywhere we expect to be seen, we’re gonna do what we can do look as good as possible.  And that includes having a solid shoe game.

But as I said earlier, the shoe thing isn’t really a black thing so much as an urban culture thing. It’s fashion. It’s something for people to Nerd over. Knowing that the Black/Cement Jordan III is one of the greatest sneakers ever made doesn’t mean much to you, but it surely means a lot to your school-less buddy. Just like knowing sports statistics or owning memorabilia might mean something to you.

Point is, everybody’s gotta have something they geek out about. Something that they do for the simple fact that they like it. If you can’t find anything in your life that you’re passionate about, be it fashion, sports, technology, politics, whatever — then you’re fucking up.

By the way: My favorite sneaker = Jordan V.