What sneakers Is Kylie Jenner wearing? I would have never thought that Kylie Jenner sneakers would be something I’d care about, or ever write about. But that seems to be a common question as of late, and quite frankly, not one I would have ever expected to see across the sneaker blogs and social media channels. But if there is one thing that I have learned in nearly 15 years working in the sneaker business, it’s that the things that are often ridiculed are the things that keep the business moving forward. The out with the old and in with the new is more painful for sneakerheads than most because the game is based so much on nostalgia and exclusivity. Even the people who claim to not care about resale value or limited production numbers are quick to jump when an exclusive pair of their favorite kicks are released. It is what it is. We’re all hypebeasts on some level.
The thing I can’t understand is how people want to ridicule a person like Kylie Jenner, or even Travis Scott for that matter, for wearing Nike SB Dunks, arguably one of the most go-to silhouettes for many sneaker enthusiasts. Recently Kylie Jenner has been wearing a number of old school and rarely seen (outside of the sneaker community) Nike SB Dunks and there is no shortage of old men yelling at clouds about it. Don’t get me wrong, there are times when I have felt the same about other people coming into the sneaker world and not having the passion I do, or the passion of the people I have helped create opportunities for in the footwear business. But it’s important to remember, none of us got into sneakers without the guidance (and hype) from the generation before us.
I won’t roll anyone under the bus, but in the last month or so, I’ve seen multiple MAJOR media outlets mislabel sneakers on their social accounts. I’ve seen multiple big-name retailers in the footwear business have typos in their content for launch products. I’ve seen two of the top footwear brands make mistakes on their referencing of products…that are re-releasing as retros this year. There IS a huge problem in the sneaker world right now but it’s not someone like Kylie Jenner buying old SB Dunks to wear on Instagram. The problem is that people are not paying enough attention to what they are doing. People in the business are taking for granted how lucky they are to be doing something they love. On top of that, the people that are being elevated to positions that younger sneakerheads look up to them as an example, many of those people are too concerned with likes and retweets to be able to guide the next generation. So instead of being a role model, they ridicule the next generation for not knowing about something that they weren’t even alive for.
That said, Kylie Jenner wearing Nike SB Dunks is the best thing that could possibly happen to sneakers right now. Why would Kylie Jenner sneakers matter to those of you that don’t watch Keeping Up With The Kardashians, those of you that have dismissed being a sneakerhead because you hear people talk about being an influencer, or those of you that only buy a pair of Air Jordans a couple of times a year? Because the business has to have truly passionate people working in it for it to be successful and accommodating for all of you. People with her popularity bring attention to the business and help it discover those passionate people. Let me explain.
In the past few years, Air Jordans have gotten better than they have been since back when Michael Jordan was still on the court. In large part, that is because of the people within the sneaker community talking non-stop about how to improve upon releases year after year. Whether that’s MJO23DAN and his detailed review of Air Jordan retro releases, Weartesters offering feedback to the new performance models, any of the dozens of people who have found a way to contribute to the community and earn some money doing it, or the people from within the sneaker community that have taken their passion to work for Jordan Brand. All of these people have these opportunities because there are millions of ‘other’ people that buy Air Jordans on a regular basis. Those ‘other’ millions of people aren’t all buying retro Jordans, they’re buying the Jordans that sneakerheads don’t appreciate because it’s ‘not a numbered’ Jordan, or it’s ‘not an OG colorway.’ They are buying the Jordan Maxin 200, Jordan Max Aura, and a bunch of other retro-like models that remind them of the signature Air Jordan models but don’t cost nearly as much. Those consumers allow the rest of us to have nuances to enjoy in the sneaker game.
Another great example of how that works to the advantage of old ‘heads is in the Air Max world. The average consumer buys an Air Max Wright because it has a ‘big Air bubble’ and they see that as comfortable. Millions of pairs of Air Max Wright shoes are sold every year. Probably exactly 0.000001 are sold to ‘sneakerheads,’ and that’s only because Eminem buys every colorway. Because there are so many of that particular model sold, Nike has the money coming in that allows them to make more obscure products like the Air Max2 Light or the Air Max 94, neither of which sells particularly well at full retail price. Old ‘heads like myself scoop up these shoes on the hash wall at the Nike store and get to relive a small slice of nostalgia thanks to the regular consumer buying all those mid-level GR sneakers that I didn’t want anyway.
Now, let’s get back to Kylie Jenner and her Nike SB Dunks. If you look at what Travis Scott has worn over the past few years, it’s obvious that the trend of celebrities wearing older SB Dunks started with him. Plenty of people complained about Travis wearing Dunks, especially when he laced up the Paris SBs. But many of the same people complaining about it were also trying to cop Travis’ Air Force 1s and Air Jordan collabs. Travis Scott was 10 years old when the Paris Dunks dropped in 2003, he wouldn’t have had the ability to get a pair back then. Kylie Jenner would have been 11 years old when the What The Dunk dropped in 2007. Were the people complaining about Travis or Kylie wishing they could cop sneakers at 10 or 11 years old? I know I was. So why wouldn’t Travis or Kylie? Besides, Travis and Kylie bought their newborn OG Air Jordan 1s from the jump, sounds like something most of us would (or already have) done, too.
Now, maybe people are mad because they think buying rare sneakers for astronomical prices somehow makes someone less of a sneaker enthusiast. So, let’s look at where the SB Dunks in question came from. If you are reading this, you are probably familiar with Franalations. Fran is an OG sneaker YouTuber and one of the most well-liked collectors in the sneaker game. You are also probably familiar with Dre aka Croatianstyle, who runs Project Blitz, he’s been the premier reseller for over two decades. Both of these guys are OGs in the sneaker community here in Los Angeles. What do they have to do with Kylie Jenner? She bought her SB Dunks from them. That’s right, so how can anyone be complaining about her wearing SB Dunks when she literally put money into the pockets of two of the OG sneakerheads?
The truth about Kylie Jenner wearing SB Dunks is that it is the best thing to happen in sneakers in quite a while. Things have been stagnant not just in terms of releases, but even with the energy surrounding sneaker culture. Retro Jordans, even the true to OG form releases, haven’t had the instant selling out excitement that existed 5-7 years ago. Even Virgil Abloh’s latest Off-White collabs seem to be available for closer to retail than ever before. The same old faces are doing the same old things, plugging the same brands and retailers, making the same comments about how things used to be. The culture needs new energy. It needs fresh faces to offer new perspectives. It needs someone like Kylie Jenner to get kids excited to learn about the backstory behind those SB Dunks so they can be inspired to be a part of the sneaker community and carry the torch for the next decade.
Yes, there is one less pair of grails available on the market for us ‘sneakerheads’ to cop. But the exposure that celebrities like Kylie Jenner brings to the sneaker game, the same way Kim and Kanye have for the last five years, turns into opportunities for passionate sneakerheads to earn a living doing something they love because they care enough to not have typos in tweets, mislabeled descriptions, and to not take the opportunity for granted. I’m excited to have people talking about Kylie Jenner sneakers because what else would get your favorite blog or Instagram account talking about What The Dunks, MF Doom Dunks, De La Soul Highs, or Purple Pigeons? I’m excited for new people to be introduced to sneakers that aren’t talked about because they are old and overpriced. I’m excited for those new people to learn the stories and pass them on to the next generations, the same way the OGs did for all of us.
For more in-depth thoughts on celebrities and sneakers, listen to Episode 86 of the Sneaker History Podcast
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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, StockX, and Stadium Goods better connect with their consumers, has an addiction to burritos and Sour Patch Kids, and owns way too many shoes for his own good.