I like to think of myself as a pretty positive person. When I get into the negativity that’s out there, I typically just ignore it, remind myself that I don’t need to waste my energy by talking about it or spreading the message about it.
Taking it a step further, countless times I’ve been sent products from companies that wanted to help spread the word of a new sneaker, hoodie, or collectible, and never posted anything about them on social media. I don’t feel the need to say I don’t like something when I can just not mention it on my social media accounts. Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on how you look at it, that can be taken in many ways by the brands that do this sort of thing. Most of the time, as long as I have a personal connection to a brand, I can communicate clearly why I wouldn’t post something.
Recently I’ve been seeing a lot of people post things that they were criticizing just weeks before. To me, it doesn’t make sense for the creator, or the brand. However, I can’t fault these people or brands because they are merely playing in the sandbox that was created by the creators and brands they’ve looked up to. When you view the system as something you want to be a part of, there’s a certain level of exception you will make in order to play the game. It’s the most relentless contention point of authenticity between brands and creators. Those that can say nice things, even about products they don’t necessarily like, can continue to receive free products. Those that don’t, walk away empty-handed. One of the worst parts about the system is that it creates a huge amount of supply and demand. Unnecessarily seeded products create a false sense of “must-have” for some consumers, inflate numbers for brands and retailers, and ultimately become just another product sold to the highest bid (well-below market value) on StockX, GOAT, or eBay. Nobody seems to care as long as the numbers on the spreadsheets that land on the executive’s desk adds up to more than the previous product. Then the cycle repeats itself.
For years, I thought these inefficiencies were the worst thing to happen to the footwear industry, or more specifically, sneakers. From the business side, it forces you to repeat the exaggerated numbers over and over again. From the creator side, it forces you to compromise your authenticity. In a lot of cases, for both the business and the creator, the “nice things” said and inflated numbers about a product eventually become the truth. It doesn’t seem like it would, but it’s somehow how it works out. It’s all of these things that add up to people having such triggering emotion around the term “influencer.” Despite the term “influencer” being the worst thing to ever happen to sneakers by most people’s accounts, it’s not that serious, and it’s always been a thing and it always will be (Michael Jordan is the 🐐 influencer btw). I’ve lived on both sides of it. It’s not a jarring word to me like it is for others. I’m influenced all the time by people in our Discord community who share the places, things, and (thankfully for me) the foods they enjoy. It’s just a word. It’s just people trying to find more enjoyable ways to support their individual creativity. It’s all good.
Today I discovered the actual worst thing to ever happen to sneakers. Afterpay, a “don’t call it credit” credit program that allows consumers the ability to pay for products in installments, has partnered with JD Sports to release an “exclusive” colorway of the Nike Air Max 90. To be clear, you have to sign up to make payments in order to make the purchase of this colorway. If you happen to forget to make a payment or make a late payment, you’ll be charged for it…up to 25% of the purchase price.
It’s bad enough that so many products like sneakers are produced in low quantities and heavily marketed to keep the hype high, but now, sneakers are being used to market poor decision-making and debt. As if consumers should be making payments for their sneakers as if it’s a car or a house. BREAKING NEWS! It’s not. It never will be. Don’t go into debt to buy a pair of shoes, even if you are told it’s an exclusive limited edition. No matter how much you (or I) love this shoe or this colorway, making payments is just a way to get you hooked into spending money you don’t have and establishing bad habits that you will struggle to break if you’re not careful. When you’re “influencers” become pay later programs, it might be time to revisit your priorities.
Also, this “exclusive” colorway somehow ended up on Nike’s EU site as well, so if you have to have them, maybe try looking a little harder.
Nick Engvall is a sneaker enthusiast with over 15 years of experience in the footwear business. He has written for publications such as Complex, Sole Collector, and Sneaker News, helped companies like Eastbay, Finish Line, Foot Locker, and StockX better connect with their consumers, has an addiction to burritos and Sour Patch Kids, and owns way too many shoes for his own good.