I’ve posted about this documentary here before, but during a colossal tidy up and clear out, I found my rough cut copy of ‘Sneaker Heads’ on DVD and watched it for the first time since I last wrote about it (around 3 years ago). It held up well. Only a handful of folk (and If you’re one of them, I owe you) read this blog back then, so there might be a spot of déjà vu here, but the screen grabs I posted were finger nail size. You can see the 3-minute teaser right here too. That repetition is appropriate though, because the attitudes espoused in this film are echoed in 2012. Self-hating hype folk should watch ‘Sneaker Heads’ and just appreciate what we’ve got — alas, my work loaned MacBook won’t allow me the luxury of burns or rips, so I’m strictly jpegs at the moment. What happened to the eBayers selling bootlegs of this film anyway? There used to be plenty around. At the moment there’s plenty of murmuring about new generations ruining everything with their queuing and their hoarding and their hype and their pesky fixation with limited edition, but guess what? People were doing that just under a decade ago too. People moaned about it back then too.
‘Sneaker Heads’ was a Wieden+Kennedy and Brand Jordan production directed by Israel, with production by some music industry and ESPN affiliated folks, but it never seemed to be fully completed. The copy I’ve got and the one that was bootlegged has no real credits over the CGI intro of some living Escape AF3s (though you can see the completed title sequence right here), missing statistics and no real ending, but there’s at least some semblance of narrative and some of the footage is gold. Yet ‘Sneakerheads’ got shelved. I like ‘Just For Kicks’ as a primer (salutes for getting the Run-DMC adidas cash demand too) and I thought some of the chats in last year’s ‘Casuals’ documentary (in the case of ‘Just For Kicks’ and ‘Sneaker Heads’ there was some casual and footie talk that got shelved, mainly because it’s all far odder and complex in terms of social interactions and oneupmanship than NYC culture, even though it’s equally as significant in telling the story of sports footwear) were eccentric enough to sit alongside some of the conversations in this film. Other than that, some episodes of ‘It’s the Shoes’ on ESPN aside, most attempts to tell Nike, adidas and New Balance tales on film in more than 10 minutes are intolerable. ‘Sneaker Heads’ feels like a time capsule of the sports footwear cycle just pre-peak and we’re back in the same position right now.
There’s plenty to love. Nerds will enjoy EMZ and Air Rev’s (his suede swoosh Lows are still killer) digging mission for Ellesse while the everybody else is queuing for Jordan IIIs (ring any bells?) and ESPO Air Force IIs in 2003 is refreshing in its traditional approach, the surgeon with the enviable Jordan collection, Chris Hall (who kindly gave me this copy) talking skateboarding and AJIs, cars customised to match Cool Grey Jordan XIs, AF1 disciple Christian Clancy of Interscope (now the manager of Odd Future), my Crooked Tongues mentors getting a blink-and-miss appearance, Euro-dons Edson of Patta and Thomas Giorgetti, Spike Lee, lots of old news clips, Dr J, Jordan smoking a cigar and being cryptic about the AJXX, Alan Mesa’s insane game worn collection plus DJ AM’s genuine enthusiasm and superior in-house displays proving that he was a celebrity collector with a deep, deep knowledge — it’s poignant when he mentions that he’ll never stop hoarding. I guess he never did lose the excitement for shoes during his short life. There’s A-Ron in Supreme, Martin Packer, Bobbito, Retrokid and plenty more folks who all have their own perspective on this wearable compulsion.
But who exactly was ‘Sneaker Heads’ aimed at? The teaser hinted at a theatrical release and one was apparently cited for 2004, but it’s not the greatest advertisement for the brands. As I’ve mentioned before, it’s quite bleak in its indictment of brands attempting to mould an existing culture of collectors. “They got a new pair of Dunks every fuckin’ day” and a dismissal of “Halle Berry artist series bullshit” aren’t the greatest PR, and while those queues are living, breathing testaments to the power of the product, the furious lady offing and blinding because she queued 12 hours for ESPOs is the swearier angrier side of that world. People complain about bad retros and reformed obsessives sell their AF1s because they’re jaded by the state of the industry. There’s a sense that it’s documenting a post-purity period for things, but how sentimental can we be for mass-produced tactically reissued product. Maybe it was Michael Jordan saying “Shit” that got it shelved.
As a piece of research for internal study in the development for future Nike and Jordan product directed at a then-fresh energy market, ‘Sneaker Heads’ may have proven extremely useful. When the current boom subsides and everyone’s back in brogues again for half a decade, and the whole sneaker “thing” erupts again, you’ll be able to watch this in 2021 and see parallels between kids complaining on whatever medium they’re misusing all over again, using the same arguments. It’s the same old story over and over again.
Anyway, here’s some stills, because Mr Clark Kent and Mr Steve Bryden were curious to see whether they made the final cut. I think, with a little polish, ‘Sneaker Heads’ would be relevant today. In fact, if any enterprising editor could splice the best of this film into ‘Just For Kicks’ to extend that running time it would create a classic piece of sub-culture documentation for we weirdos who still keep the faith. After that long-overdue viewing, my passion for shoes was restored — I wish I’d watched it prior to disposing of some dustier pieces of the collection. Then they’d still be gathering dust, but I’d still be kidding myself that I was going to break them out of hibernation one day.