WHY ARE TRAINERS IMPORTANT TO THE MANDEM?

In today’s society your appearance plays an important role whether you like it or not. The shoes you wear in some cases can determine whether an outfit bangs severely or does not. My friends and family go through a varied cycle of different shoes (I feel like some of my friends could even wear a different pair of shoes, for every day of a month!)

Now myself, I do not feel the need to be buying shoes constantly as I feel I have enough and would much rather get rid of them. I’m trying to adopt a more minimal lifestyle – I am struggling though. However, on the other side of the spectrum all I see is people purchasing a new pair every other week (well it feels like that anyway). This isn’t an issue or anything because you do what you want when you’re poppin’ – that is if you have the money to finance it and you’re not simultaneously struggling to make ends meet… But I am interested into why trainers are important to the mandem.

So I’ve spoken to Blair Hesson, a freelance Industrial & Footwear Designer. Than the mandem, who are re-sellers/sneakerheads. I want to know their take on sneaker culture and the ever-increasing impact it is having.

I finally got to sit down with Blair, a recent Loughborough graduate with extensive knowledge on the design, manufacturing and the history of the shoe and the culture makes him a suitable person to speak to…

“I design footwear for a living, I love doing it and want to make athletes stronger and faster. I think trainers are important to people now because its cool, a lot of people want to look athletic… you know athletes and musicians are inspiring people aren’t they? So you idolise them and you want to be them. So you will wear the clothes that they wear, you will wear the shoes that they will tell you to buy. What got me involved was playing basketball, which I think is what gets a lot of people involved, for me it wasn’t about being fashionable it was more about having the best basketball shoes to provide the best performance. I felt like if I had the shoes I would play just as good as the professional basketball players.

Blair's Design Sketch for New Balance.jpg

Design Ideas by Blair Hesson ( @bhesson_ )

I see shoes as vehicles (I laughed at this statement) especially as a young person you ain’t got no car, you ain’t got no bus – they’re your vehicle also if you got nice kicks and you dress nicely you might get girls init. People on public transport just look at shoes, in the barbershop it is a main place when you’re getting your haircut – people are looking at them. Once those companies seen it making profit (trainers) that’s when they started pushing it, they started doing all these exclusive drops and started to follow the hype and that’s what the game has become: what’s the next hype I can jump on?

A lot of people who have only just gotten into it recently they are only in it to stunt on people, breaking necks (means when you walk past someone and they look back) but the old school people who started the culture they were collecting because each shoe had a story to them it was more of a personal thing. They didn’t just buy it because of the hype, they bought it because they liked it. The market is saturated now, they bring out Jordans constantly: social media ruins it too, the resell culture is a good and bad thing, you’re basically exploiting the people but it is good as someone who is young can start a business because they’re is so much demand for it.  My all time favourite shoe… I have two, performance and leisure. Performance has to be Kobe 4’s and leisure will have to be the Nike Dunk Low.”

“…but the old school people who started the culture they were collecting because each shoe had a story to them it was more of a personal thing. They didn’t just buy it because of the hype, they bought it because they liked it.” 

Check out Blair’s work on his Instagram.

After that, I linked a couple of friends and we sat down and had a discussion about sneaker culture over chicken and chips at KFC. It would be extremely long of I did a transcript of the discussion, it ran for like 25/30 minutes and that just defeats the purpose of the blog but we covered a lot, everyone said their piece, occasionally drifting off topic but managed to get back on track. So I spoke to: Nat he runs his own successful depop store and always seems to be buying/selling a new shoe, Sean or TK as some of you may know him, Sheck & Tyrell all of them have re-sold’ before and they just stay informed about new drops and are very aware of the logistics…because that resale lifestyle isn’t for everyone.

The consensus of the group was really that: They resell to make money, it’s an easy job in this day and age plus it’s legal. Clout… Clout is a contributing factors to why it is important to the mandem. An example was raised by Tyrell explaining when he asked his girlfriend “what’s the first thing you looked at when you seen me?” it was his face, hair and shoes. All agreeing that you can tell a lot by a person’s footwear. Nat follows on saying especially when you have a pair of footwear that bangs everyone is gonna gass you “I’m wearing a good pair of shoes and all of a sudden I’m the man, nobody can corn you if they are wearing dead shoes especially in an argument with someone”. I was also told how you were more likely to sell a pair of shoes rather than an item of clothing, reason being mainly about hygiene and the feeling of someone wearing the fuck out of a t-shirt, it is harder to clean and wash in comparison to shoes –  they are a lot easier to clean up and sell in general.

What introduced Nat to the reselling culture, which was a pivotal moment, was when he first seen how much the Yeezys resold for. Sheck raised the point of when it was non-school uniform days and his mom just stopped telling him what to wear. It was clear from all of them that there was a heavy influence from the media, in particular when Skepta wore the Nike TN’s or A$AP Rocky with the Air Force 1’s. When you looked up at people wearing a certain shoe it was the idea you could embody them. I noticed there was not a lot of focus upon athletes and more upon the idea of artists becoming more of the pinnacle influence on people’s spending habits. It matters who endorses it, look at Kanye, if the shoe was priced at £230 they will still sell and if he wasn’t attached to the Yeezy it wouldn’t sell out like that. The Yeezy looks like a tubular, they are sitting on shelves. I then suggested: When Stephen Curry dropped them ugly shoes with Under Armour who was buying them? But Tyrell than said who were Under Armour though before that, highlighting how the Under Armour section in JD has grown significantly due to the influence of the celebrities.

  They said that when it comes to reselling the designers don’t really mind because once the shoe gets out to the customers they’ve already made their money, it potentially makes the designer more popular too. Sean goes on to say that social media plays a huge part, when he first seen the Yeezy he said he didn’t feel it but the more times he seen them on his timeline it had some weird effect, in turn making him like them.

They all agreed upon the Air Force 1 being their all time favourite shoe because of the versatility and how universally known they are. They also mentioned the Jordan 4’s because of simplicity and the design of the shoe.


 The discussion was ended on one of the reasons why shoes are important: people looking to others for approval. You want that self-confidence but that self-confidence is coming from other people saying you look good. I think this is an important to note especially with young teens as it is possibly one of the most insecure times of you life with pressure on constantly looking good, it could create an unhealthy perspective. 

To conclude, there are many factors that contribute to why shoes are important: girls, the  reputation of having the latest drop and being the first one to cop or the genuine feeling of satisfaction and confidence it gives…just like a trim but more lasting. I like to think it is a subtle form of expression especially with young men. It allows them to take a risk with their outfit without necessarily being penalised for it depending on the style of the shoe. It is hard to just state one big main reason as everyone is different. With that I want to know what your favourite shoe/sneaker/trainer or whatever you call it, is?

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