Sneaker Con hits the Bay Area

Mark Lindahl, Staff member

The biggest sneaker event in the nation rolled into the Bay Area on April 29. SneakerCon brought out all of the sneaker heads in the community, and the shoe fiends were out in full force getting their kicks ready to sell, trade, or just show off their shoes.

The line stretched over an hour just to get into the building. Even with the hot sun beating down on everyone as they waited in line outside, the excitement was palpable in the air.

People actually willing to wear their shoes out on the streets were showing them off to fellow patrons. Believe it or not, these “collectors” rarely or never wear the insanely priced footwear the seek.

Sneaker culture has taken off in recent years and become an integral part of pop culture.

The most popular shoes on the market right now, the “Yeezy Boost 350 v2 by Adidas x Kanye West,” retails for $220, but the resale price for these shoes shoots up to anywhere from $500 to $900. With a guarantee of at least 100 percent profit on the return, many people try to take advantage of the market.

With SneakerCon becoming so widely known, the event is used as a market place to buy and sell these highly sought after sneakers. Deals are able to be negotiated, and many sneaker heads are in the game just for the satisfaction of hooking people up with their “grails,” or a certain item they have been looking for for quite some time.

The event is much more than just a place to buy shoes, however. Sneaker heads form a community.

Many people come to advertise their shoe cleaning products, clothing brands or other gear. It’s a grand stage to showcase what they can add to the community.

One company, NuKixx, was at the event purely to sell products. Shoe cleaners, leather stain repellent and water repellent were all available.

“We have been in the shoe cleaning business for seven years, and this specific product we are selling today has been out for about a year,” NuKixx owner Bryan Waldrip said. While this was the first SneakerCon event that they have attended in the Bay Area, they have come to Oakland for other conventions before.

I asked Tommy Kates, an employee of NuKixx, whether he thought that not having shoes at their stand would hurt their chances of attracting business. “Most definitely,” he said. “We are going to get a few pairs of shoes next time to attract more people.”

They still feel like their cleaning products are going to be their main source of income based on their versatility. Not only does it keep your kicks in pristine condition, but “it works for your hats, it works for any type of vehicle, it works for the interior, it works for your carpet, or your bed, whatever you name, you got it,” Kates told me.

On the other end of the spectrum, there were companies at SneakerCon just getting their feet wet and trying to spread their name throughout the community.

At another stand just down the hall I spoke with Harrison Nevel, from Atlanta, who is attending his seventh SneakerCon around the nation. This is the first time he came as a vendor. “I’m probably in the future going to do a line, but for now I’m just sticking to merchandise just to have something to give out to people before,” Nevel said.

When I asked whether not having shoes for sale may be a hitch in getting people to his booth, his response was the same as the guys at NuKixx. The shoes will always be the driving factor at sneaker conventions like these.

In opposition to the draw of the newest trends, there was a booth selling vintage goods found from thrift stores, flea markets and garage sales. I spoke with Taylor C. of Oak Forest Vintage, one of three guys who formed the thrifting group, who is attending his fourth SneakerCon. Oak Forest Vintage specializes in vintage clothing from the 80’s and 90’s such as “NBA Champion Jerseys, high end Louie, Gucci, MCM,” he said.

Vintage apparel is indeed making a huge comeback in the world of fashion and in youth culture. The guys at Oak Forest Vintage are taking full advantage of this, especially with the growing popularity of vintage sports apparel.

SneakerCon is a great venue for brand awareness, but it will always be known for it’s consumer aspect.

Anyone can get in with a $28 ticket, and bring anything they may want to barter with the hundreds of other sneaker enthusiasts.

While speaking to Naomi Hudson, a Vallejo native and second time attendee, she said, “I really enjoy my time. [The] sell and trade and just the bonding,” Vallejo native and second time attendee Naomi Hudson said. “I like it, it’s cool.”

The next big sneaker convention in the Bay Area, Sneaker Pop-Up Event, will be held at the Oakland Convention Center on July 15, 2017.

Editor’s note: A previous edition of this article incorrectly stated that SneakerCon occurred on the 27 of April instead of the 29.