It's difficult for me to describe SneakerCon 2017. How can I, a 32-year-old fashion and beauty editor who still thinks her white high-top Vans are pretty cool, verbalize the sensation of entering the dimly lit basement of a convention center occupied by roughly 19,000 people, most of whom appear to be boys under the age of 25?
I was, by far, the most out of place human being in the crowd. Despite the fact that I felt very how do you do, fellow kids, being extremely old (relatively) and extremely uncool (objectively) ended up working in my favor. As soon as I walked in, I'd fallen through the looking glass and emerged in an alternate reality — one where 21 Savage and Gucci Mane blast on loop from overhead speakers and Supreme-clad teenage boys clustered and milled around with the dead-eyed focus of White Walkers on their way to King's Landing. The sharp vision of pubescent hypebeasts cut through me like a laser and zeroed in on the sneakers that lay beyond the wall, all while holding footwear (most of which cost more than my last few phone bills, combined) in presentation on their outstretched arms.
Surprisingly, there wasn't much frivolity or mirth to be found: SneakerCon attendees are all about their business, and they conducted that business in a room filled with, according to the SneakerCon organizers, over one billion dollars worth of shoes. Simply put, I thought I'd be standing in a hobbyist habitat for hardcore sneaker enthusiasts, sharing their passions with one another — but what I really found was an economy.
SneakerCon has been around since 2009, traveling through cities across the world — New York, London, Berlin, Atlanta, Las Vegas, Toronto, Miami, Washington DC, Los Angeles, and Chicago have all hosted the event. It was founded by Yu-Ming, the founder of both the SneakerCon and of SneakerNews, one of the largest sneaker media outlets in the game. There are no major brands representing themselves at the event — you won't find Nike or Adidas selling new pairs of kicks, or even showing off a new product. Instead, SneakerCon is all about resale: Sneakerheads and sneaker collectives hoping to sell or trade their wares.
Walking through the event, it was immediately clear what the biggest shoe of 2017 was: The adidas YEEZY 350 V2, unofficially nicknamed the Beluga 2.0. It's dark gray and orange colorway is pretty unmistakable, and it felt like every third person in the crowd had a pair on. The pervasiveness of the YEEZY's had me wondering, what could possibly be next? What's the utility sneaker of 2018, the model that's buzzy enough to command high resale prices but easy enough to wear day-to-day? I asked several different people in the crowd, and all of them had the same response: The Nike Air Force 1.
Air Force 1's aren't exactly new — the first pair came out in 1972 and they've been through dozens of incarnations since — but according to everyone I asked at SneakerCon 2018, they might be on their way to a major 2018 comeback, thanks in part to recent collaborations with rapper Travis Scott and designer label Off-White.
Some of the high top versions are a bit too busy for the sneaker novice or footwear minimalist — personally, I can't do an ankle strap. However, the low top white version is about as basic and fresh as it gets.
Whether or not they reach Stan Smith or white Vans status remains to be seen, but it's easy to imagine becoming ubiquitous. Yes, they're expensive. Yes, they dictate a certain style aesthetic for the rest of your outfit. Yes, everyone else will have them. But then again, isn't that kind of the point?