The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Gotham Beat: Self-Expression in the Sneakers

People say you should be choosy about what you put between you and the earth. You’ve got to buy good shoes.

In New York, it matters even more. There is a thriving culture here that most will never even notice, because it exists far below eye level. It’s a culture populated by men, women and children. There are buyers, sellers, collectors and retailers. It’s about style and fashion and the cutting-edge. It is influenced by tomorrow’s trends and yesterday’s vogue. It’s a culture that revolves around sneakers, and it is a big deal.

Followers call themselves “sneakerheads,” and for them, what they put on their feet is an outward expression of who they are. Sneakers are art, and they are the curators.

There are blogs, forums and online stores dedicated to the latest in sneaker news, announcements and upcoming releases. The sphere of influence is huge, and New York City is at its center.

On Broadway in the East Village, there’s a glass storefront whose doors are an aperture into what is commonly referred to as “Sneaker Mecca.”

It’s called Flight Club, and it’s the world’s biggest hub for the sale and consignment of rare sneakers, primarily those made by Nike. In an online review of the store, one customer said, “if the sneakerhead world had a stock exchange, Flight Club would be the NYSE.”

The store is huge, with beautiful wood floors, high ceilings and brick walls lined with more than 1300 shoes.  Most of these are shoes that are long out of production, limited releases and vintage collectors items.

Flight Club is simultaneously store and museum. It’s a tribute to a trend that has endured for decades, and it’s home to a community of people connected by their very real love for high-end footwear.

There are Air Jordans in more rare colorways than a sneakerhead could dream of. There are Nike Dunks and Air Forces. New York is host to the world’s sneaker economy, and the walls of Flight Club are lined in currency.

One wall is dedicated entirely to fitted hats. There are hats in every color, designed to match any pair of shoes you could purchase.

The store is always full of people. Some are there simply to gawk at the sneakers, some of which are so rare they’re being sold for as much as $8000. Most come to “talk shop.” Most interesting is the enormous scope of people drawn through Flight Club’s doors. On any given afternoon, there are people fresh from work, carrying briefcases. There are teenagers window-shopping and serious enthusiasts looking to add to their collection. Many of these collectors are looking to buy a pair of shoes they’ll never wear. It’s enough just to own them.

There are countless subcultures that flourish in New York, and the majority of them exist under the radar of most of us. But this is a city of constant surprises. When you pay attention, you start to notice things. You look down the subway car and notice people’s sneakers.

It can be eye opening to discover these subcultures, and to learn how important they are to the people you share the city with.

For the majority of people, sneakers are just shoes. They’re practical, comfortable, made for hitting the gym or taking a stroll around the reservoir. But really, it’s not about the shoes. It’s about understanding the things that are important to the people around you. This group of people uses their footwear as a form of artistic expression, and that’s something that all observers should notice, acknowledge and appreciate. New York is the most diverse city in the world, and we’re lucky to live in a place so conducive to self-expression. So take advantage. Express yourself, in whatever way you choose, and be an attentive audience member for the self-expression of your fellow New Yorkers.

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