DJ Khaled, Mayor & Other Influencers Talk Sneakers

Sneaker lovers often tell it like it is. And when FN asked 18 passionate influencers to weigh in on the ups and downs of the ever-changing business, it’s no surprise they didn’t hold back.

STATIK SELEKTAH
Producer, DJ & radio host

“Brands don’t make enough general releases to get fly. The puppet masters know how to limit things so the average person can’t get shoes without spending stupid money. Brands could put more general releases out there. Sneaker stores [mess] up the game, too — they do raffles, but a lot of times, they hook up their boys first so regular kids don’t have a chance to get sneakers. Brands need to penalize people when they find out stores are doing foul things. People are just greedy; it wasn’t like that back in the day.”

MAYOR
Sneaker expert

“The word sneakerhead bothers me; it’s negative. Growing up in the Bronx, surviving the drug era, I hate the word ‘head.’ If you’re a crackhead, you’re addicted to crack; if you’re a cokehead, you’re addicted to coke — [but] if you’re a sneakerhead, you’re not addicted to sneakers. If I had to pay for my mortgages or sneakers, I’m going to pay my mortgages. Why can’t I be a sneaker connoisseur? A sneaker enthusiast? I’m one of the biggest sneaker collectors in the world and could make $200,000 a year hosting sneaker shows, but ‘sneakerhead’ is too generic. It stagnates my progress, it slows me down — don’t put me in a box.”

SUSAN BOYLE
Owner, Rime

“The resale game is the worst. Kids who want to wear sneakers are not getting the product. When the Rihanna slide came in, we had a million guys on line, like, ‘I’m buying them for my girlfriend,’ and you knew some weren’t. The pink ones were going for, like, $300, for an $80 shoe — it’s a slide, it’s not even a Jordan. I did something radical for the second Rihanna release. I did a girl’s-only line from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. — I made sure my girls got them. I told the guys if you could fit in that shoe like Cinderella, by all means, you could get on line.”

Stadium Goods DJ Khaled
DJ Khaled appeared in many selfies while at Stadium Goods.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Stadium Goods

DJ KHALED
Record producer & DJ

“I love sneakers; there’s no negatives in sneakers. I think everybody deserves them if you want them. If there’s a release and there’s one guy with 100 pairs but they’re sold out all over the world, you have to deal with the connect — these young kids turn into entrepreneurs. I think it’s a beautiful thing [that] this young generation can love sneakers and hustle sneakers instead of hustle drugs. [And] it’s inspiring knowing that I could have a conversation with any generation about a sneaker and we’re all on the same page because we love it the same way.”

HENRY FRANÇOIS
Sneaker collector

“The lack of consumer originality bothers me. Social media is a gift and a curse — you can stay up on upcoming releases; however, you have some who watch social media to see which sneakers get the most likes to decide on their next purchase. I’m in my late 20s, so I didn’t grow up with social media. People used to make purchases based on what they liked. And you wanted to be different. If so-and-so had Jordans, then you’d get the Barkleys. I don’t have a problem with people wanting hot sneakers as long as they genuinely like the sneakers and not just the ‘likes.’”

SOPHIA CHANG
Illustrator & designer

“People ask me what’s it like being a female designing sneakers. I’m like, why does it matter? Why can’t I just be a designer? Growing up in New York, sneaker culture wasn’t male-specific — granted, there were more interesting sneakers for men than women — but it wasn’t that big of a deal. Although, as a female shopper, it’s very difficult to find shoes that fit me. What I tell women who want to see more colorways and styles for females is to speak up. Use social media to tell brands what you want. There’s power in where your money goes.”

JAZERAI ALLEN-LORD
Owner, God Bless the Fresh

“The biggest thing at this point is the ability to purchase. The market is so much bigger than it’s ever been, and yet the releases are so small. With the ‘Banned’ Air Jordan 1s, I’m not going to pay $1,000 for a pair, I’m not going to hunt down a reseller and authenticate a pair, I’m not going to try my luck at 15 different Foot Lockers — I probably just won’t have them. But if Jordan Brand released enough or at least 30 percent more than what they do, we wouldn’t be having these discussions. That bubble is going to pop because people are tired of it.”

Fabolous Sneakerhead Converse
Fabolous for Footwear News' annual sneakerhead issue.
CREDIT: Annie Tritt.

FABOLOUS
Hip-hop artist

“The re-popping, it’s out of control. It changes the experience for the regular consumer. It used to be track down the shoe, purchase it at box price and put it on. Kids are now working three weeks to a month to get a shoe that shouldn’t be that [elevated] in cost. It’s Jordans, Yeezys — anything that’s popular. Even Adidas Originals NMDs are starting to get that chase. I don’t know the solution; just give kids the chance to buy the shoes. When Kanye West first put his shoes out, he said he [wanted] everybody to have a chance to have quality. But when they came, it was the same re-pops, same markups, and Adidas didn’t do anything about it. It’s fun for the hype when you’ve got to pay $2,000 for a $200 sneaker, but [it’s hurting] the average consumer.”

VASHTIE KOLA
Music video director & DJ

“The oversaturation of the market has transitioned sneaker culture from being a niche of the inner city to the world at large. While it probably serves the sneaker business, I’m not sure how it serves true sneaker connoisseurs or preserves the original sneaker code.”

MACHE
Sneaker customizer

“You can’t get what you want. When someone buys a whole size run and no one else gets a chance to buy them, that bothers me. Infant-size Yeezys just came out; people were going crazy for them, but most people bought to resell them. They were $130 infant shoes, and people scooped them up to resell. It puts a damper on things. Shoes aren’t cheap to begin with, and the [resale] markup is crazy. It’s easy to [tell brands to] make a bunch of shoes, but how do you keep them coveted? A happy medium would be great.”

MARCUS TROY
Blogger & brand ambassador

“The sneaker world is a business, and companies have to make a profit. You can be a purist and hate the fact that the quality of this new shoe is not what it was in the ’80s, but in footwear design, things change. If a supplier has a similar material that’s cheaper, that’s what it’s going to become. I know a lot of people are ticked off, but Nike, Jordan — they’re running a business. If you want to be part of the bottom line, then buy stock in the companies. I decided to invest in the companies that are profiting off what we love so much.”

CID “THE KICKS” MERISIER
Sneaker collector

“The resale market is a huge problem. You have to camp out 24 to 48 hours before the release date if you really want your shoes. I have a job — I can’t go stand in front of a store for days to buy sneakers. A lot of people that camp out only do it to make money, not because they love the shoes. In the end, the real sneaker lovers don’t get the shoes because of the resellers.”

Shoe Surgeon Air Jordan 1 Banned Swoosh
Dominic "The Shoe Surgeon" Chambrone putting together a "Swooshless" Air Jordan 1 "Banned."
CREDIT: Courtesy of Jennifer Ro.

DOMINIC “THE SHOE SURGEON” CHAMBRONE
Sneaker customizer

“Customizers, make your shoes better. I remake the shoe the way a shoe is supposed to be made; I don’t just throw some stuff on top and call it a shoe. Some people take shortcuts: They will basically just put python on top and sew it on. I take the shoe completely apart, remake it with premium materials, and re-last it so it fits perfect to the foot like traditional shoemaking. People could buy one that’s messed up and become jaded. That’s why I’m starting to do classes, so people could do it the right way.”

JASON FAUSTINO
Co-owner, Extra Butter

“What bothers me is how the sneaker industry has become very singular in its direction and overly trend-conscious. It’s a business response — meeting numbers and the needs of the masses — but leaders need to lead. Brands need to take risks that not only add excitement to the industry but advance it. Being ‘daring’ seems like a thing of the past, with safe and easy becoming the norm. A combination of discipline and bravery is in order from all parties, from the sneaker brands to the creatives at the shops — and the consumers.”

BOBBITO GARCIA
Radio personality & sneaker expert

“I’ve been an evangelist for 10 years about supporting sneaker donations with nonprofits. There are a lot of people who have lots of shoes who aren’t wearing them and are never going to resell. They don’t have a little brother or son who’s going to wear them when they get older. Those shoes could be used in developing areas of the world, where kids play ball barefoot on hot concrete. Everyone has the right to own all the sneakers they buy, but [donating] is something people should consider.”

VADO
Rapper

“Brands need to bring back more vintage sneakers from back in the day and renew them, that’s all. They need to bring back all of them — there’s a lot more that’s classic, a lot of the Nike Air Maxes. They need to turn back to the early Air Max time. And all the Deion Sanders Nike Air Diamond Turf, and all the Ken Griffeys Nike Air Griffey Max.”

JOSH LUBER
CEO & co-founder, StockX

“I love the sneaker industry. I love sneakers and the people and the businesses and the community. But I hate the lack of transparency. There is almost no transparency in the industry, starting with the brands that don’t disclose production numbers, all the way down to resellers trying to take advantage of imperfect information. I don’t fault those actors for what they do, but I look forward to them joining the middle, embracing the movement toward a more transparent industry: transparency of data, of process and of authenticity.”

KAYCE KIRIHARA
Influencer & brand ambassador

“The thing that gets to me is the reselling and the people buying just to make money off it. I don’t want to sound like a hype beast, but I did want the Yeezys when they first came out. I knew the reselling was going to be crazy, but I didn’t think it would be as crazy as it is. That was the one shoe I was excited to see released and possibly get, but now I don’t want anything to do with them because everyone has them. Everyone wanted it because it was the cool thing on the internet, whereas I just liked the sneaker.”

Click through the gallery to see the featured sneaker influencers.

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