Whether you veer towards sandals or are a stilettos girl, you cannot deny the widespread popularity of sneakers and the culture that is built around it. Love them or hate them, the numbers speak for themselves. A study by Statista reported that the total global sneakers market revenue in 2020 was valued at approximately $70 billion, and was forecast to reach a value of $102 billion by 2025. In India itself, the revenue in the sneakers segment currently amounts to $2.60 billion (in 2022) and furthermore, the market is expected to grow annually by 11.58 per cent between 2022-2025. If the figures are to be believed, there is a vast number of people who love and buy sneakers with a passion that was previously associated only with acquiring art. We speak to five of the many in this burgeoning community to understand their ardent devotion to collecting sneakers.
Bengaluru-based photographer and filmmaker Nandith Jaisimha believes that the sneaker culture is at its peak right now. "It's like any other 'wanna be' phase where everyone is getting into it because of the herd mentality. It's a bubble and it's going to burst real soon," says the man who has been keeping up with the times when it comes to sneakers. Jaisimha credits his love for basketball and hip-hop that got him heavily into sneakers. "I was 13 years old when I represented my state basketball team for the second time and my mum gifted me my first branded pair of Adidas all flags basketball sneakers. I think this was the pair that got me into the whole sneaker game," says Jaisimha, who now boasts of having about 200 pairs in his collection. His Instagram handle 'Sneaker Stories India' gives us a glimpse into his collection, which includes Air Jordan 1s, Nike Auto Adapt 720 and Adidas T-Mac 2 sneakers. When asked about his most expensive pair in this vast collection, Jaisimha shied away from giving a number. "For me it's not about the hype or how expensive the sneakers are, but how historically significant they are and how I relate to their story," he concludes.
Vivek Ganapa has been eyeing the newest kicks from Nike's collaboration with Off-White. "They cost a bomb, hence I'm saving up first," he says. Like Jaisimha, Ganapa's love affair with sneakers started when he played basketball in school and college. "My inspiration came from the basketball players and the sneakers they wore on court, and then moved into lifestyle sneakers. Now I enjoy a little bit of both styles," says Ganapa, founder of Levitate-a music and talent management company and Doobiedo Rugs-a label that reinvents ancient carpet-making with a modern twist. His collection of sneakers, which he proudly showcases on his Instagram, includes Nike Dunk Low Scrap and Nike Air Jordan 1 Retro High Tokyo Bio Hack. But it's the Nike Dunks pack that burned a hole in his pocket. "I have 'Veneers' and 'Ceramics'. I'm waiting to get 'Plums' to close this collection," he explains. Apart from sneakers, you'll also find pictures of Ganapa in T-shirts with the quirkiest prints on his Instagram, whether they are from Brain Dead or do;be. "I've stopped buying clothes from Levi's or Flying Machine because there are now a number of streetwear brands making a statement with their unique styles," he says.
With over 16,000 followers on Instagram, Shivani Boruah, a well-known face in the sneaker community, has seen the shift from sneakers being a few collectors' prized possessions to being just a fad. "Today, a lot of people might be getting into sneakers to make a style statement. But we can't deny the true love that a lot of people share for sneakers," says Boruah, who apart from moonlighting as a YouTuber, is the head of content and marketing for VegNonVeg, India's premier multi-brand sneaker boutique. As an early adopter of the sneaker culture, Boruah's love for sneakers started in school when she bought her first pair-Converse Chucks-after being heavily influenced by music genres such as hip-hop, punk rock and heavy metal. "I would dream of owning sneakers that my favourite artists wore at that time," she says. So it wasn't surprising when she wore a pair of Jordan 4 Retro Breds with a traditional red saree for her wedding last year. With over 50 pairs of sneakers in her closet, Boruah is now being mindful of what she adds to her collection. "I've become a little picky with what I buy and if I really need it, but I would like to add a few runners to my collection, a pair of New Balance 2002R's to begin with," she says.
On Instagram, Sanjay Khemchandani and Neha Sanjay are known as Sneaker Preacher, "a #sneakercouple driving the sneaker & streetwear culture," as described in their bio. But before those Air Jordans and Air Maxes that led them to over 17,000 followers on the social media platform, Khemchandani started out with Onitsukas and Adidas' Stan Smiths. "I've always been into shoes, especially designer brands. All roads led me to sneakers and eventually the culture," says Khemchandani, who believes while the growth of the sneaker culture in India has been great, it still has a long way to go when compared to the West. "But there will definitely be more brands coming in India, while we are already seeing more sneaker drops from Nike and Adidas. This will help grow the consumer side and, with that, more resellers and stores will come in," he explains. With over a hundred pairs of sneakers in his collection, Khemchandani has a list of his next cops. "Jordan 2 is my new favourite silhouette; I'm definitely looking to add more of those to my collection. Apart from that, the Air Jordan 1 Chicago (releasing in October) and the New Balance x Joe Freshgoods are the ones I'm eyeing."
"The first pair of sneakers I copped was a very traditional black-and-white Adidas Sambas, which I really loved. But the first pair I viscerally wanted were the Reebok Pumps when they first dropped in the late 1980s. Sadly, my parents refused to spend that kind of money on sneakers, and I have spent a lifetime coveting them," says Gaurav Jain, a media professional. For Jain, sneakers were something that appealed to him even as a kid. "Once I was free from more formal work-wear situations, I dived into this culture to make up for lost time," he says. Now, with approximately 40 pairs of sneakers in his collection ("I'm afraid to do a real count"), Jain is on a sneaker-shopping spree. "I have a pair of Jordan 1 'Bred' Lows arriving soon, but I'm also trying to get my hands on Virgil Abloh's Louis Vuitton x Air Force 1s," he says.
(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)