What do sneakers mean to you? Something to put your feet in? Laces and leather? Or do they mean something more? Would you give your life for a pair of them? Sadly, too many kids have.
When Michael Jordan stepped out on the basketball court donning his black and red Air Jordans in 1985, he revolutionized not only what shoes players in the NBA wore, but what shoes people worldwide wore. Gone were the days of plain white sneakers as Air Jordans with their aggressive color schemes and logos took the world by storm. People, and espiecially teenagers like you and me, wanted to be like Mike, and that meant number 23's sneakers were a must have. Basketball sneakers were now coveted possessions, possessions to die for, literally. Across the United, stabbings, muggings, and shootings over Air Jordans and Nikes ravaged neighborhoods. The logo on your sneakers were now the difference between having dinner after school and lying dead on the street in your socks. This sort of violence began in the '80s, and as sneaker culture has persisted to the present day, so has the violence surrounding brand name footwear. Three years ago, just six miles away from where my school is located, a man was fatally stabbed in an altercation over sneakers. Last Christmas Eve, a teenager in Ohio was shot while attempting to rob a man of his Air Jordan sneakers.
The sad trend of youth violence perpetuated by Air Jordans and Nike shoes ought to have brought about a change in the worldwide sneaker titan, but shockingly, the company has actually helped preserve the deadly pattern of sneaker related deaths. Basic Economics tells us that when supply is low, demand will increase, and product pricing will ultimately rise. Nike has a number of products in high demand, ranging from running shoes to Air Jordans. A cult following of certain sneaker models exists today, as consumers will pay exorbitant amounts of money for the slightest variations in design and color. These sneakers in high demand typically sell out in a matter of seconds when released online, and retail stores are swarmed by customers camping out of the store to be first in line to get a new sneaker release, which means that Nike has a low supply of what’s in demand. Air Jordans that cost $150 dollars in 2011 now cost $190. While inflation affects that price point, Nike is also responsible in part for driving the cost of sneakers to be so high. Surprisingly though, this price point is the cheapest that consumers are able to buy coveted Air Jordan sneakers at.
On top of Nike’s manipulation of consumers that has resulted in people crashing store websites as well as crashing into stores to get their hands on a pair of sneakers, the people immersed in sneaker culture are at fault as well. There are consumers out there who try to capitalize on the business of Re-selling sneakers, further increasing the demand for products and increasing the likelihood for sneaker related violence. Those looking to be Re-sellers will buy large amounts of an already limited product, taking it off the market. Then, these people, instead of wearing the shoes, will re-sell them for prices that dwarf the price point of Nike. A shoe worth $100 dollars could be resold for $300 if the demand for it was high enough. Because coveted sneakers are no longer affordable and nearly impossible to attain, consumers, who are primarily teenagers, turn to theft, robbery, and violence to get the most exclusive and limited pair of sneakers they can.
Sneakers have revolutionized popular culture around the world, as pop icons and athletes made wearing casual footwear the norm for society. Sneakers have been a way for people to express themselves, and it’s a shame that parents now have to worry about what shoes their children wear, lest they see their young ones mugged or shot. Fashion helps us to show who we are to the world, but unless Nike works to eliminate its role in perpetuating violence around their sneakers, we will have to leave that pair of shoes we love so much in the closet, buried in fear.