June 1, 2021
Melinda Head

Sneaker Culture: Tech Meets Style

Sneakers, there’s no denying America’s love for them. And even more so during COVID, as Comfort has become King.

Celebs are lending their names to create custom sneakers that sell out within minutes, while outfitting athletes and other high-end folks remains a cornerstone of the business. Artists are swarming sneaker brands and making them their own.

How many pairs of sneakers do you own? Have you bought sneakers as an investment, without any intention of ever wearing them? Have you thought of buying a digital pair that doesn’t physically exist?

More than 23 billion pairs of sneakers are produced annually. Most of them use virgin plastic, rubber and petroleum, which negatively impact the environment with their mega carbon footprint. On average, it takes 30-40 years for sneakers to decompose in a landfill, and it is estimated that 300 million pairs are thrown out every year, not necessarily because they’re worn out, just because they’re no longer in style.

Sneaker landfill
Sneakers are filling up landfills unnecessarily

In addition to the quest for ever changing, trendsetting styles, which are synonymous with the sneaker business …

Air Foamposite Sneakers
Rei Kawakubo remixed Nike’s Air Foamposite One in a collaboration with Comme des Garcons

Louis Vuitton Sneakers
Louis Vuitton sneaker fashion details

Rick Owens DRKSHDW x Converse TURBODRK Chuck 70
Rick Owens DRKSHDW x Converse TURBODRK Chuck 70

… today’s consumers expect products to be made responsibly. And there’s a new demand for sneakers that only exist in the digital world. This blog covers both.

Big Brand Sneakers and Corporate Responsibility

It’s easier to be a small, fighter brand and change things. Big brands are typically not as nimble, yet their impact can be massive due to scale and sheer brand power.

Adidas has been highly vocal about its sustainability efforts. It collaborated with the environmental group Parley for the Oceans in 2015, producing a sneaker using yarn made from recycled ocean plastic and deep-sea gill nets, which are illegal because they are non-selective and snare everything that comes in their way. In 2020, Adidas made more than 20 million pairs of sneakers with Parley ocean plastic, doubling use of this new type of material each year since 2018.

Nike has been using Flyleather, a new material made from 50%+ recycled leather fiber, and is also diminishing its carbon footprint by using recycled rubber on midsoles and outsoles.

Flyleather uses leftover scraps that would otherwise go into a landfill. These scraps are combined with synthetic fibers and a fabric infrastructure that is fused together using a high-pressure water process to create one material, which then is finished, and put on a roll to be cut, improving cutting efficiency, creating less waste than traditional cut-and-sew methods for full-grain leather, and providing a consistent grade across a broader range of product.

American Amanda Anisimova, ranked No. 21 in the world at age 19, in the Nike Flyleather Cortez, which also has recycled lining, laces and labelling

Introduced by a former galoshes company, Converse’s Chuck Taylor All-Stars are arguably the most timeless sneakers in the world. Purchased by Nike for a mere $315 million in 2003, Converse continues to evolve 60 years after the launch of its iconic high-tops. In the canvas uppers of every pair of “Chucks” can be found recycled plastic bottles sourced from First Mile, a US-based recycling company, which grinds plastic into flakes, melts it, rolls it into bales, spins it into yarn and weaves the yarn to produce Converse’s 100% recycled “canvas”. In 2020, Converse revenue was $1.8 billion worldwide.

“I just love them … it’s either Chucks or heels … always has been.” - Vice-President of the United States, Kamala Harris

As an aside for those who are curious, Charles (“Chuck”) Taylor was an American semi-professional basketball player who joined Converse as a salesman in 1921. His signature was added to the ankle patch and the shoes became known as Chuck Taylor All Stars, the first celebrity-endorsed athletic shoe. Taylor held basketball clinics in high schools, colleges and YMCAs across the US, teaching players the fundamentals of the game. From 1926-27 he also served as player-manager of the Company-sponsored basketball team, called the Converse All Stars, which was established in Chicago to promote the brand. Converse All Stars were the official shoe of the Olympic Games from 1936-1968, as well as the official athletic training shoe of the U.S. Armed Forces during WWII. What marketing genius!

We’ve used some technical jargon to describe sneaker parts in this blog, here’s a great summary of the anatomy of a sneaker – if you pay attention you’ll get more answers right in our Quiz of the Day, which you can find in our Quizefy app.

Anatomy of A Shoe Article
shoeguide.org - Anatomy of A Shoe Article

NFTs and Sneakers

An NFT is short for “non-fungible token” – that’s not a particularly attractive word, but it’s all the rage. Think of anything you fancy, including sneakers, being collectable and tradeable. It’s that simple. Except they don’t physically exist.

In the sneaker world, a new company called Rtfkt is creating digital-only shoes for people who care more about their digital possessions than physical ones. Yes, there are people like that. Imagine owning digital shoes that can be worn by your digital self or anyone else of your choosing in any digital medium. Imagine a future where your sneakers can be animated with special effects and the whole shebang. As Chris Le from Rtfkt said: “How can you compete against that with physical shoes?”. Oh, and by the way, they don’t take up any valuable closet space. Goodbye California Closets.

An artist called Fewocious recently created 3 digital styles of sneakers. In just 7 minutes, $3.1 million worth of them sold. Did you hear that right? 7 minutes, $3.1 million for sneakers that only exist in bits made up of zeros and ones. Each digital shoe each comes with a unique identification number that tracks ownership indefinitely on the (also relatively new) blockchain. A word of advice to Big Brands – pay attention, these folks are not outliers, they are innovators, and after innovators will come early adopters, and after that early majority, late majority and, finally, laggards. This thing is happening.

Digital Chinese New Year Shoe

These digital shoes celebrating the Chinese New Year were auctioned off on Treasureland for a mere price of $28,000 by a brand with no market recognition and an object that doesn’t physically exist.

Digital Sneaker

The future is now, in fashion and beyond fashion. It’s a great time to be on this incredible merry-go-round we call life (with sneakers).

Gucci Sneakers
These Gucci sneakers, designed by  Alessandro Michele, only exist digitally and can be used on Roblox

A new digital ecosystem in the world of fashion is in the midst of being invented

Now challenge yourself and your friends to our Sneaker Culture Quiz of the Day, by downloading Quizefy from the app store if you haven’t already done so, then see how much you know and Strut Your Smart. Our Sneaker Culture Quiz is only available today, then it disappears.

We’ll be back again every Tuesday with a special blog posted at www.quizefy.com, along with a new trivia quiz on the same topic as the blog.

Don’t forget to follow Quizefy in social media, so we can remind you of upcoming blog and quiz content.

Coming Up For Quizefy

Every day:  a new trivia Quiz of the Day on continuously changing topics. Available for 24 hours only

Every Tuesday:  our FACT-ory blog on www.quizefy.com, with a matching Quiz of the Day in our Quizefy app. Read our blog for hints that will improve your Quizefy score

Every Sunday:  the Week in Review, our comprehensive review of national and global events in the past 7 days. This would be a great addition to your Sunday routine

Always:  trivia questions on a myriad of topics that you can choose yourself
Tuesday, March 28th: The Masters at Augusta
Wednesday, March 29th: Manatee Day
Thursday, March 30th: National Doctors Day
Friday, March 31st: Prom Day
Saturday, April 1st: April Fools' Day
Sunday, April 2nd: Week in Review
Monday, April 3rd: Film Score Day
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About the Author

A serial entrepreneur, Melinda is a sociologist and statistician who believes there is no currency with greater value than knowledge

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