As artist and designers we're always attracted by cultural excesses. That's where the beauty and the horror of present time shines out in it's optimum. This time we found beauty behind the hidden doors of the booming world of sneakers, one of the lasting veteran icons of American consumer culture.
When I meet an attractive boy, his shoes are the first thing I look at. We all know that you can tell so much about a person by what they wear on their feet. Apparently I'm not the only one. Shoes carry sexual connotations in mainstream culture. There is nothing scandalous about stilettos being marketed as sexy. High heels are a widely accepted vanilla expression of shoe fetishism.
Yet the persuasive power of sports footwear has caused the rise of darkrooms within sneaker culture. In the dark zones of the sneaker cult, fanatics enjoy intimacy with stylish kicks on their feet and in their mouth. The iconoclastic twist of a sneakerhead making love to his sneaker could be the ultimate case of a shopper and a product becoming one, surrendered in manic mutual adoration.
We were introduced to the term sneakerslaves via a friend. After a little bit of XX-browsing we found the Tumblrs Sneaker Fetish, Sk8terboy and a Dutch sneaker fetish Wikipedia page. The page informs us that most trainer fetishists, gay men and straight men, are based in France, Germany, Belgium and The Netherlands. Common forms of sneaker fetishism are worshipping, licking and sniffing sneakers. Shoeslaves also swap each other's sneakers, or eat food out of their kicks.
These fetishists provide images that make our hearts beat faster. For once the bad boys - always dressed to kill - aren't depicted in the expected realm of a street fight, a shady strip club, or in a sweaty six-pack workout scenario. In these counter-glamour images of tough boys showing their soft side, while sensually sniffing their pricey sneakers with attention and adoration.
These boys show that shoe fetishism goes beyond thigh-length leather boots, killer heels and kinky combat boots. A special place in this list is taken by our daily hot kicks, the training shoe. Thanks to the mixture of pop culture, nostalgia, strong brand-creation, high tech designs and constant launch of new models, the sneaker reached a popularity that crossed all the lines of race and economic classes. A niche of consumers turned into sneakerheads, and a niche of sneakerheads turned into sneakerslaves.
The affection of urban youth for their sneakers is one of true love. One of the reasons they love their kicks so much is that the footwear embodies cultural and personal transcendence. The right pair of sneakers associates the wearer with extraordinary athletic accomplishments while exclusive special editions seem to have the power to establish an identity in a world where all the same things seem to be available everywhere. Rare models encourage the sneaker freaks to compete with each other.
The shoes seem worth the investment. They have the ability to retain or increase in value despite being used. Actually, many sneakerheads don't mind rocking some classics that look a little worn-in. This kind of tolerance and compassion for a pair of shoes can flame up to an extreme. The look, the feel and the smell of brand new and/or worn sneakers, can cause an adoration that blurs out the line between sneaker freaks and sneaker fetishists.