Two Sneaker Experts Share Their 2018 Predictions
For nearly 20 years, Swedish retailer Sneakersnstuff has been at the forefront of what’s notable in the world of footwear. The company started in 1999, after co-founders Erik Fagerlind and Peter Jansson returned to Stockholm from a foray into the sneaker haven of NYC and decided to bring the culture back to their home country. It quickly became an indispensable resource for in-the-know sneaker guys the world over. And now, SNS has added locations in Berlin, London, Paris, and—bringing things full circle—New York. Oh, and there’s also that little thing where Fagerlind and Jansson have collaborated with some of the most influential sneaker brands on the planet, creating a cult of personality around their particular expertise and (damn cool) creations.
Now that the brand has a Stateside outpost, we got a chance to catch up with the guys that made it all happen. “Every shoe has a story,” says Fagerlind. That’s especially evident in the new space off of Little West 12th Street in New York, where a compacted Volvo (yes, it’s Swedish) was crushed holding some of the most sentimental sneakers the co-founders own—including the pairs they wore to paint the OG location in Stockholm. It now stands as an art piece in the new store’s front window, visible from the street. You can bet a few folks took note and stopped by to ask about it during our conversation.
That conversation, by the way, covered everything from the state of resale culture to what it takes to drive the sneaker world forward. That, and why it might just be cooler to wear completely uncool sneakers in this day and age. Here’s what the guys have to say about collecting, buying, and understanding the state of sneakers in 2018.
Big brands are starting to pay attention to what consumers want again.
Erik Fagerlind: I think it’s a very exciting time right now. Looking back over the last three or four years, a lot of brands were in a static mode. They were just repeating, repeating, repeating. Customers got kind of fed up with that. So what you see now, with the dad vibe or with the technical one, is brands responding to consumers’ needs of rejuvenation. They need something fresh and new. They can’t just sit looking at the same Superstars, the same shoes all the time. They’re still valid, but you need something else.
Peter Jansson: That’s one of the reasons why Adidas has been having a couple of great years. Because they’re bringing out newness. In the beginning, we were always looking for the latest Air Max or the latest high-tech solution that was available. But then in the early 2000s, they started making retros of the stuff that was ‘90s. It feels like it’s come back around in these 20 years. All the sudden there’s some really weird stuff coming out where people are saying, “Wow, this is what I want.” Shoes that maybe we wouldn’t have touched are now a big part of our inventory.
Sneakersnstuff co-founders Erik Fagerlind and Peter Jansson.
Priorities are shifting.
EF: From a sneakerhead perspective, four or five years ago, I don’t think anyone was really impressed with a Nike Roshe Run. But the mass market just ate that up. There was definitely a demand in the market for new silhouettes and new shoes. But it took a while for that to be tiered properly—everything was mass market. And then Kanye West comes in and does a Roshe Run for himself with Adidas and it’s the coolest shit ever—a little bit more expensive and more premium. But the past couple of years have been an eye-opener for a lot of brands that were just repeating themselves.
PS: If you ask us, 20-plus-year-old guys, we know about Balenciaga. But if you asked kids two years ago what Balenciaga was, I doubt they knew what the brand stood for. Sneakers are getting so much more attention in all corners of the world.
Product is king again.
EF: In 2018, what I predict is coming is that product starts to mean something again. For the past two years, the story or the name attached has been bigger than the product. The story is this big reason why they did it, but the product is sort of set aside. The problem with that is that a lot of brands make such great product, but if there’s not a push or a celebrity attached to it, nobody cares. It just sits there, and it’s perceived as a bad shoe. I think consumers are now getting that looped in that it’s not enough to just have the story anymore. It has to be product quality as well.
The Sneakersnstuff NMD R1 “Datamosh”
A non-special sneaker might be the most special sneaker of all.
PS: General releases used to be mass market, but now they’re actually more unique than a limited release. Because if you went to a sneaker convention–we went to Sneaker Con, and back in the day there would be a couple people wearing special shoes. Now everyone has special shoes. And the guy that doesn’t, he stands out. The guy who wears black-and-white Old Skools, it’s like, “Yeah.”
EF: That’s the whole Air Monarch vibe, too. People wearing the most accessible shoe out there as a statement. In a time when everything is super hard to get—like impossible to get—you just put on the most accessible shoe to get? That’s a statement. 20 years ago it was a big thing when brands collaborated with hip-hop artists. Now, it’s more like, “Shit, Nike should do something with a country artist.” Nobody does that.
The nature of hype has changed entirely.
EF: It used to be that the hype shoes were catering to the true sneakerhead. And the point of that is for the true sneakerhead to be talking to their buddies—the 20 or 100 people that they know who are sneaker interested but not really sneakerheads. So the sneaker-interested people will then go to the store about buy whatever general releases there are. But now, all the sneaker friends are also hypebeasts. Everyone wants the same thing. So how do you attract as many people as possible without talking to the same 100 people outside every weekend?
PS: It could be worse. It could be no one.
The world of resale is due for a realignment.
EF: I don’t see the death of reselling. I just think it has to be less dramatic. The five, seven, eight times the value, that will go away. Because you look at brands like Nike and Adidas, they’re trying to find out the scalability of things. It used to be that you made a hype shoe and then you scaled at general release. But now everybody wants the hype shoe, so if you scale there, the resale value won’t be five, six times more. It might be two times more. Maybe that’s good enough. I’m not saying that resale will go away. I’m saying that the dramaticness that makes people fight and stab one another, that has to go away. And that’s a good thing.
PS: In the long run, these kids are still wearing these hype shoes. And the age is going all the way down to less than 10 years old. They want really cool shoes. They won’t go back to wearing brown shoes. That market is going to continue to buy sneakers. So for another couple of decades, I think we’re good.
The move to New York was a long time coming.
EF: It’s been the right time to move to New York for years. It just took us a long time to execute. We’ve been trying to do this for years, but it’s difficult coming from outside. We have great connections with the brands, but we’re out of Europe, so they don’t really have influence over what’s going on in the US market. So it’s a matter of timing. It’s a matter of just finding the right vibe with brands, the city, us, everything.
PS: It’s not super cheap, either.
EF: We’re focused on being us. How can we translate SNS into New York? How do we stand out?
PS: There’s also one thing: Six or eight years ago, we started to not focus on what other people did. Sure, there’s a bunch of guys in the world that do great stuff. There’s room for us.
This story originally appeared on Esquire.com. Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.