Within the sneaker culture, there is lot of known-fact-type talk about how men and women are completely different when it comes to appreciation for sneakers. The problem with a lot of the sneaker belief system is that women haven’t been much a part of the dialog. Sneaker companies and retailers were set up to address the needs of male customers and for the most part still are. They’re also run by a predominantly male workforce, as are the the stores they sell to and the websites that write about them. And yet, despite all these obstacles, women have been an important part of the sneaker culture, both as athletes and style lovers for as long as it’s existed.
As part of the lead up to the announcement of the results for the first bi-annual Snobette Sneaker Awards, we wanted to take some time to set down some new “known facts” about women and sneakers….from the perspective of women.
1. Only men collect sneakers: False, there is a wide spectrum of sneaker collecting behavior across genders and while the more prominent sneaker collectors are men, there are also women who collect. Remember though, too, sneaker companies, retailers and internet sites mostly speak to and work to generate excitement among men, not women. If there are fewer hardcore females collecting, part of that is likely because the culture feels like a boys-only club and while that won’t deter every woman, it will discourage many. And on that note, it should be noted there are also plenty of women AND men, who have only a casual interest in sneakers and buy on impulse or because that’s what they’re friends are wearing. (It’s kind of like assuming all guys love and appreciate sports, while women only tolerate them.)
2. Women won’t line up for launch dates: False, women will line up for launch dates and do so regularly for designer collaboration and they did just that when Nike launched its Sky High Dunk City pack in 2013. However, sneaker launch lines are known for their violent incidents and women have been taught or have learned to avoid such environments. Lots of parents won’t let their sons camp out in lines and the permission rate for daughters has to be even lower. The same goes for shopping at sneaker stores with an unfemale friendly vibe, if the store feels like a hostile environment, all but the boldest females will avoid it. Trust, for the average woman, shopping in a typical sneaker store feels like shopping in Victoria’s Secret for the average guy.
3. Sneaker design and direction is dictated by men: Quasi-true, while men dominate design jobs for major athletic footwear companies, women through their choices as consumers have had an important role influencing the design and direction of sneakers. Women are judged more by their appearance and that factor combined with the greater range of fashion choices they are able to make, means they are more often focused on new trends and faster to embrace them when they emerge. When Converse Chuck Taylors first reappeared in the early ’00s, they made they’re appearance on the feet of New York’s cool downtown chicks. Women have also influenced production of youth-sized product, and their purchases of retro Jordan in pre-adult sizing has been so significant that Nike is offering the shoes in a wider range of youth sizes starting next year. As well, women buy the vast majority of sneakers for children and its their decisions that really move the design, pricing and direction of kid’s sneakers. In other words, it’s a smart idea to keep an eye on female influencers because that’s where the business is probably headed to next.
4. Women prefer sneakers featuring feminine colors and details: False, a lot of women do love pink and sneakers with a narrower silhouette, but have a look at the collage above. It’s a sneak peek of the top choices made by our Snobette Sneaker Award panel and there isn’t much pink or girly in sight. Again, women tend to be more fashion forward than men and more often appreciate current trends.
5. Women don’t care about brand name: Quasi-true, as mentioned, women are more invested in fashion and overall spend more time and money on it than their male counterparts. As such, they look less to brands to guide their purchases and prefer to create a look that mixes a single higher-priced branded item with lower-priced brand-free pieces. With sneakers, women appreciate a brand with prestige but in general are open to a bigger range of names. Since they’re buying more stuff, price matters, and also dictates what types of shoes they buy, in other words, retro Js are great but they’re also the equivalent to four or five pairs of shoes and sandals.
Stay tuned for our next article, which introduces our six international panelists and their top five sneaker choices for January-June 2014.