INTRO: Whether you are someone who could care less about your feet’s or an adamant checks over stripes kinda person, the global sneaker market raked in a whopping $58 billion in 2018. With the popularity of street wear where your sneakers can make or break your fit, reseller apps such as GOAT and STOCK X have people selling shoes that once retailed for something like $160 for thousands of dollars after its release. But while companies like Nike are raking in the dough from collaborations with artists such as Travis Scott and Virgil Abloh, these in high demand shoes that can be flipped for generous profits, are still being mostly released in mens sizing. Lauren Cardenas explains how women want the cool shoes in their sizing too.
AMBI: Royalty free hip hop music
TRACK: When you walk through the entrance of sneakersnstuff you are greeted with an overwhelming amount of sneakers. From Nike air maxes to Adidas nite joggers to New Balance 990’s every table and even the meat freezer they turned into a sneaker display is filled strategically that would make any sneaker lovers wallet scream. As I pass the array of shoes and am lead to the back by assistant manager Kevin Vidal who is flexing in a pair of Dover Street Market air force ones, shelves filled with a rainbow of sneaker boxes make the tiny office/stockroom/employee break room a tad bit claustrophobic. Lauren the general manager enters the back out of breath and apologies for leaving me waiting. According to her the adidas meeting she was at went passed the time it was supposed to end and then there was the 6 train. In a Yankee fitted, a black Nike ACG vest, black hoodie, black stone island track pants and grey and white New Balance 576’s, Lauren is effortlessly cool. Like not trying to be cool just naturally wakes up like that. At the start of our interview apparently she had another one waiting for her an employee informs her while apologetically interrupting us.
AMBI: Employee ambi
TRACK: She tells everyone else to only interrupt us if it’s urgent and then goes on to recall the moment every sneaker enthusiast has; that one moment in their lives where they fell in love with kicks, for Lauren, it all began at the age of 7.
ACT: So growing up I was one of six kids, we really didn’t have money. And my grandmother took care of me, some of my siblings and this cousin I had whose Kathleen and we only a couple days apart. So we were always competitive, always fighting. And one day she got really really pissed and she pushed me in the pool. All my clothes were ruined so we had to go somewhere. My grandma had got us in the car and I had the opportunity to buy new clothes so I was hype and it was like these bootleg, I mean they were real nikes but nothing cool what would probably be a dad shoe now it would probably be cool now but it wasn’t back then but it was my first swoosh. I was like seven years old and after that, It was a wrap. I just wanted to collect shoes and i would try and get my grandmother to buy me new shit.
IMANI: So that was the start of you liking sneakers?
LAUREN: Yeah just like walking into a store and seeing how many different shoes. I wasn’t going to run in these shoes but when I put them on and I felt cool. Like every celebrities and athletes I was looking at. I played soccer at a young age. Mia Ham was like a big thing, she was like the first biggest woman in sports. Lisa Leslie, Cheryl Swoops and they were all like Nike girls. So like when I put that swoosh on, even if it wasn’t a basketball shoe when I put those shoes on, I wanted to be a better soccer player, better basketball player as a female. It was like being better at everything in life that what it was equivalent too.
TRACK: With already 250 pairs of sneakers in her Brooklyn apartment, Lauren joking gives free advertisement to the storage company she rents from thats houses the other 250 pairs of her collection.
ACT: I use make space. It’s really good storage.
IMANI: And you really wouldn’t call yourself a sneaker head with over 500 shoes.
LAUREN: I’m a hoarder. Like now i have this system because i can’t literally fit anything in my apartment that if i get a new shoe i give one away. Like in the past sb’s were really big for me so i refuse to get rid of sb’s because they don’t really make them anymore. Tinker Hatfield who is a long time Nike designer. Anything he touches i like to collect.
IMANI: You even have a signed shoe by him right. Is that your favorite memory of a shoe?
LAUREN: Meeting him was actually really cool. I actually got out of sneakers because I was tired of working in the sneaker world and I worked for the eyeglass company Warby Parker. And everyone there was like super yuppie, upper east side, suit and tie and I was the only one that wore sneakers and i guess they got this email from Nike like hey, one of our designers want to come in and get fitted for frames. No one knew who he was. So the owner of the brand sent me an email, and was like do you know who Tinker Hartfield was and didn’t even spell his name right. And i’m like Tinker Hatfield…
TRACK: You can hear her voice get a little higher when she says his name and the big smile she has on her face just shows how much sneakers can mean to a person.
ACT: and he’s like yeah come into the store and try on some frames. This was when Nike was launching the hyper adapts for the first time. So he was going to be at the new SoHo store. I stayed up the whole night before, I went through my whole closet trying to find which shoe I was going to choose and it was the Jordan 3 he designed to get Jordan to stick with/ staying with Jordan brand and Nike. And it was the first shoe I had bought with my own money. So it was crusty, falling apart, disgusting but he didn’t think it was weird. I met my hero and he didn’t disappoint me. We got in the photo booth, i’m pretty sure it smelled, there was dog hair in it and shit. It’s been around for some time.
TRACK: Lauren’s first job at 16 was at a small sneaker store and today at 30 her resume boasts big name retailers such as Nike, Flight Club and Kith. With more than ten years in the industry, Lauren explains that when women actually help create something fire, they do not receive the acknowledgement they deserve. She describes how women specific shoes aren’t at all what women want.
ACT: Women have made a huge impact but they are not being acknowledged for it. So like even the Nike design team, out of the three head designers two of them are female. But most people wouldn’t know that. People don’t even know who Tinker is. The people behind the scenes, the people who are actually producing the things we like follow story lines and we fall in love with are being produced and created by women but there is no spotlight on them and when you think of like women’s sneakers you think of something with like glitter on it, its pink, its iridescent, and its just like what that has to do with being a female, I don’t relate to and I don’t feel like any female relates to that.
TRACK: The male dominated market according to Lauren is antiquated and all they have to do instead of wondering how to win there female customers, is actually allow for women to give their feedback and make decisions for themselves.
ACT: We want the same thing that the entire market wants which is dominated by men. We have to allow women to give more feedback instead of it just being men sitting around talking about how do we win her. Allow her to just like make things for herself and just allow those women to actually make the decisions instead of sitting there and getting feedback from men about women. A man can’t tell you what a woman wants because he’s not a woman. And I think that’s the problem. It’s a male voice speaking for women.
TRACK: She expresses how while people who didn’t know better might argue that in recent years there have been various women who have collaborated with sneaker brands like Jordan and Adidas, its really not black and white.
ACT: But what you see in the media makes it seem like, you know you see like Aleali Mae, you see Olivia Kim, you see all these people. They let us get a collaboration every now and then. But there is no female equivalent to a Travis Scott. Like there is no one that could put out shoes and can sell at the value that these collector items. Because every female shoe is the same. There is no value around it. If i wanna do a shoe they’ll just put my name on it, make it pink and i would never fucking wear that a day in my life but that’s what they think women want and we’re going to continue to silcence that female “sneaker head”
TRACK: While she explains the faults with the way women are treated in the industry, she believes that change isn’t impossible.
IMANI: Do you think it could change?
LAUREN: I think it could change, I think it is changing. I think what kind of like hurts us is that there are influencers and you see these office people who don’t live life in real life, they live their life through instagram. So they see an influencer who maybe about fashion or beauty and they say oh a million girls follow her so she must gotta know what’s up with sneakers. When its like no it’s probably the girl who has a thousand followers, she probably skates and she’s probably not the most attractive because you know when it comes to women, sex has to sell. So because its not sexy, we don’t choose her. We are picking women to be in front of things but not the right women not one of this comfortable imagine of whatever it means to be a woman.
IMANI: you feel like women like Vashti like Aleali Mae and Olivia Kim, they are just these names… They want to be like oh here is a woman she’s popular she doesn’t really know about shoes but she seems cool
LAUREN: Yeah like Aleali i’m sure she knows about shoes, she’s with it but then it’s just like Olivia Kim… no one even really knows who Olivia Kim is. But like everyone is like fuck it . Oh they made a Jordan 4 and it’s close to the black cats and its a girl and i’m going to support it. These shoes mean something to people. People would sit outside and wait for a shoe for six hours and not want to flip it for $600. That’s the shift in cultures. But that’s not sustainable. That consumer will eventually get bored and move on to something else where you have these real die hard fans of quality and storytelling and then they won’t want it either and the who thing dies.
TRACK: For Lauren is really just boils down to something simple.
ACT: If you just make good product by good people with good stories, that last forever. That is why the air force has lasted so long. That is why kids are still buying Jordans but the kids that are buying Jordans weren’t even alive when he was actually playing. So those are the real stories and I think if we just stick to the basics then we’ll be able to make progress from all points.
OUTRO: While Lauren might not continue with a career in sneaker retail which she has been doing for 14 years, she cannot imagine her life not involving sneakers. She hopes that one day they realize that women who have a love and passion for them just want the same ones they release for men in their sizes and more quantity of them so they don’t have to pay $1000 for a $120 shoe. Thank you for listening to Sneaker Shawties where female sneaker enthusiast tell their stories and opinions. Tune in to episode two where Nia Spencer, a college student who has her own Nike air max 95 tells us hers ! This is your host Imani Seda.