Cover Image courtesy of Michael Concepcion

The sneaker community here is growing, with a newfound interest in this footwear that can sell for thousands of pesos

There can be a mad scramble when buying prized sneakers. When highly limited designs are released in the market, fans rush to shops or join raffles which grant them early access to purchasing a pair.

Over the years, the rise of hip-hop and celebrity culture has played a role in the sneaker obsession. Today, however, it can also be the younger generation’s desire for uniqueness that drives them towards it. Usually, prized pairs are collaborations between two premium brands, such as Dior and Prada. There are also sneakers designed by pop culture figures like rapper Travis Scott and Grammy-winning artist Billie Eilish, to name a few.

People have been known to purchase shoes with tags marked up to more than PHP400,000 a pop.

As of April 2021, Kanye West’s first pair of Yeezys became the world’s most expensive shoe after it sold for US$1.8 million (PHP87,614,100), beating the Nike Air Jordan 1 which went under the hammer in May and garnered USD560,000 (PHP27,257,000).

This is what urges some resellers, especially those in the US, to earn extra profit. While fans stand in long lines for hours to purchase one pair, resellers are “back-dooring”, which happens when stores sell their products to individuals before the public can purchase them. Some even use sneaker app bots to buy sneakers online faster than humans can, which recently sent Nike under fire.

See also: 5 Must-Have Kicks From Yeezy, Nike And More

Looking at the sneaker community worldwide now, it seems the market will continue to grow. Countries like the Philippines are following suit. It appears that the bug has already arrived in the local scene. Bigboy Cheng, a long-time sneaker and toy collector in the Philippines, is aiming to get his hands on the Jordan Retro IV “Hoyas” Sample. “It’s very, very limited! This shoe was only given to the players and coaches of Georgetown, which makes it super rare. Add to this the fact that [it was an older model that was released] a couple of years ago,” he explains. 

We’re a basketball family, so it came with the culture; it stuck with me and only grew from there
Bigboy Cheng

Those who actively participate in the sneaker culture do so for varying reasons. For Cheng, it is a passion he discovered at a young age, given that his older sister Peachy played basketball. “The love for sneakers came naturally. When I first laid eyes on Jordan, Converse and Nike, it just hit me!” he says. “We’re a basketball family, so it came with the culture; it stuck with me and only grew from there.” This also explains why Cheng urges collectors to buy pairs that they genuinely admire, and not because they’re en vogue.

Another self-avowed sneakerhead is Adrian Garcia, who established Cop Garden, a Makati-based sneaker and streetwear store. “Without being a sneakerhead and loving the culture around it, this store would never have started,” shares Garcia. “I believe that wearing sneakers shows your character and who you are. Almost like wearing art ... It is more than just a piece of clothing, but almost like a way of life for many that have enjoyed it and some that have even made a livelihood and career out of sneakers and the culture around it,” he says.

Michael Concepcion, who started Commonwealth in 2015, wanted to provide an avenue for Filipinos with limited access to renowned brands selling clothing and sneakers catering to the ‘hypebeast’ lifestyle. At Commonwealth, a premium multi-brand retail store in Manila, the prices of footwear range from PHP7,000 to PHP15,000. However, must-have sneakers that are sold in limited quantities sell for higher on the secondary markets. Concepcion, however, does not forget to give back to the community. “We try to use our platform to support our communities in any way we can. Perhaps one of my favourite releases is the Sacai x Nike’s last year. [During that time] we managed to raise a large sum to support the families affected by the Typhoon Rolly.” 

Nonetheless, Garcia believes this fad is here to stay. “I don’t see it dying down. But [it] could possibly keep changing and adapting through the years
Adrian Garcia

In the Philippines, there is a limited market for sneakers despite being a sports-centred country that’s overly fascinated with basketball. Additionally, at outset of the pandemic, Filipinos had trouble buying sneakers from abroad due to travel restrictions but at the same time, the demand for comfortable sports footwear is climbing as people prioritise comfort and health. Nonetheless, Garcia believes this fad is here to stay. “I don’t see it dying down. But [it] could possibly keep changing and adapting through the years. New brands could come into the picture as well [and] some could lose popularity,” he says.

A pair of shoes can take a man to many places, both literally and figuratively. It has brought the late Henry Sy to his business empire. It can be a bare necessity, luxe accessory or prized possession. And it can be a manic craze such as this sneaker fever that is peaking and will continue to increase exponentially. But the question is, will the sneaker community keep thriving? The collectors are optimistic.

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