May 05, 2011

Sneakers as Status Symbols

new janisBy Janis Prince Inniss

I’m in the market for new sneakers--not because the ones I have are worn out but because they’re dirty. And nobody wears dirty sneakers in my world. Do they in yours? (On whom do you see old or dirty sneakers? What does that tell you?)

Sneakers used to be…well, just shoes. Today kicks are so closely associated with hip-hop that there are at least 20 hip-hops songs associated with sneakers. (I only thought of Nelly’s “Air Force Ones” and Run DMC’s “My Adidas”.) Now sneakers are status symbols for a vast variety of the population—not only hip-hop performers and those who love that music. Once reserved for sports, sneakers are standard for casual wear and are paired by many in otherwise formal attire. But they’re all so clean! Many of them are gleaming white, in whole or in part. Matching every outfit of their owners. I don’t have several pairs, but I always own one pair for gym-going. Lately, I’ve been thinking that my gym footwear is just not up to par. And why is this the case?

The story of the somewhat grimy looking sneakers goes back a couple months. As I left the bank, I heard an odd noise from the front of my car. Fast-forward three days and my mechanic declared that the car should be towed. Since my husband and I sometimes carpool to work, transportation to work is not problem. My worry, however, was getting to the gym without a car.

clip_image002Surely, this would be easy since I know lots of people at the gym and had been a member for about 15 months. As I thought about this, I realized that I only had the telephone number of one person there. I only needed one willing soul, so I called Suzie. She was willing to pick me up but would not be working out that next day. Well, I thought, it’s not that far away. It takes me about five minutes to drive there. Maybe I would walk. I remembered that there aren’t sidewalks everywhere in my city so thought about exactly where I would walk. Satisfied that I would probably not be run over, I decided to do it.

The next morning I thought about all the people I chat with at the gym and sighed in disbelief that I had no way of contacting any more than two of them; how is that for the anonymous and alienating nature of city life?

During the holidays I had gone to two social events that one of the instructors had organized for gym members. This reminded me that I had her number but I balked at calling her. I thought about the miles I walked as a high school student living in Antigua and decided that for someone interested in staying in shape, walking to the gym actually made sense. It is a great form of exercise, after all.

So I bundled up and headed outside, pleased that I didn’t let the absent car stop me from sticking to my exercise schedule. I had no idea before going out, but there was a slight drizzle. No problem. I headed back indoors for some rain gear. That’s when I remembered I store my pink camouflage hooded slicker in the car. And that my rain hat lives there too. Undaunted, I pulled up the hood of my winter jacket and went back out.

By the time I walked to the major road—that is, the short part of the walk, I was second-guessing this great idea. My sneakers were feeling a bit moist. And as I turned onto the main road, there was a patch with no sidewalk so I had to walk in the damp grass. When I finally made it to the gym I was thrilled and triumphant but stunned at how long it took me to get there. It was three quarters of an hour since I left home and I was yet to begin my official workout. Figuring that an hour and half walk (total time for both directions) was enough cardio, I did some weights and felt proud of myself. I then headed back home in the continuing drizzle. My sneakers have never been the same.


My sneakers picked up mud, grass and dirt during my trek. Back when sneakers looked like the ones pictured at left and were merely shoes, and when we walked more, neither would be odd. (Unless you’re an outdoor runner—in which case you probably don’t run in grass, pebbles and other debris.) But today sneakers are expensive status symbols that are pampered; at one extreme is a sneakerhead who has more than 2,000 lovingly displayed in a San Diego warehouse. My one-time road weary shoes are a give away at my uncool status in a gym filled with people wearing sneakers that look like they have just been unboxed; I’m giving in to peer pressure and buying a new pair soon.


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You can usually clean them in the washing machine.

I use a warm cycle, put them in a tied-closed pillowcase with the laces removed. Seems to work though I don't do it often.

It's true. Not only with sneakers but as well as clothes. Many kids in school break the bank (or their parents' bank) for name brand clothing. This isn't a necessity in life but the cooler ricker kids have all those clothes. It makes you stop and think "What if popular people wore Wal-Mart clothes? Would that be the fad? Would Wal-Mart be expensive and Hollister and Abecrombie only a hole in the wall clothing store with $15 jeans, not $80?" This just shows how true it is, that people only care what;s on the outside.

Not only are sneakers a status symbol but so are clothing in their entirety; new clothes, especially expensive ones, are apparent and give one a higher social status.

I completely agree that our society has come to only caring about whats on the outside and that, clothing, including tennis shoes are become what defines a person. If the clothing or outside isn't "cool" than that makes the person not cool, and the personality doesn't matter anymore.

I believe that sneakers are a status symbol. In high school you hear kids talking about keeping their new shoes clean. A nice looking pair of shoes makes you look "cool" or even high class in some instances. To some kids, the shoes are the most important part of the outfit and sometimes make the outfit.

It is totally true that people use things like shoes or clothes to fit in. I know this probably better than most people because I am in high school. Everyone wants to fit into a group, and what kind of shoes you wear can put you in a specific group. People want a status, and so they buy things that will put them into specific roles.
-Ashley Byykkonen

This is whats wrong with today's society! Why should it matter what brand of shoes you have on? They do nothing to elevate your intelligence or moral fiber. They can actually distract a person from recognizing a worthy friend or life partner

I think the trend in tennis shoes is associated greatly with the population change throughout the years. Even though we might not want to admit it, we are getting more and more egotistical and self centered than ever. Objects, clothes and material things are becoming more important and that's why fashion symbols that are used to express oneself, like sneakers come about. I agree 100% with this article and I believe it's a good and bad thing that's developing.

I really like how you brought up an issue that many would argue isn't true. Some people would argue that shoes are just a part of their "style". However, if you think about it, it is their style because that is a fad or trend, and they buy and wear to show it off. The trend / fad of the tennis shoes have greatly evolved because they used to "just be shoes" and now they are emphasizing the importance of the shoes and how they complete an outfit, or even be based off of them. I have no problem with shoes, but I just think it is ridiculous that people are buying more and more shoes for certain outfits or occasions because newer trends come out every season.

In my online sociology class we are currently studying the education system and its affects on society. One of the sections in the textbook talked about how a couple goals of school are to transmit culture and create a common identity. Well, in this case, the education system has definitely done its job. For example, it was mentioned how name brand clothing is a status symbol. One of the foreign exchange students that I am friends with quickly realized this so she went out and bought some Hollister clothes. This shows how our schooling system has done its job in transmitting culture. Also, the very fact that most people in school wear brand name clothing at least occaisionally shows that schools have created the common identity that they set out to do. To conclude, I would like to say that the whole concept of clothing as a status symbol begins in schooling as I have just pointed out.

I just did an assignment about cliques. If people were involved in cliques in school. People are judged everyday in school and other places by what is on the outside. That is the first thing that we see of a person and that is what causes us to make our first judgement of a person. Kids are immediately put into a certain category by what they wear. There are kids who have nothing else and have dirty clothes, but they want to have cool shoes. Shoes have gone way beyond being a necessary item to keep your feet from getting injured to part of your status symbol. It's not just the shoes worn with your school clothes but even more so the sports shoes you wear and who the popular sports figure it is that promotes that brand. It is time for everyone to say, I am going to buy the cheapest shoe to accomplish what it needs to do with worrying about whose name is on it and what company is pushing it for their profit. I have been guilty of wanting certain shoes when I play ball to make me look cool. It is getting ridiculous. School (and the gym) should be a status free zone.

I actually wear Converse sneakers all the time, and the majority of the teenagers in my school actually avoid sneakers. Well, they avoid Converse sneakers, and they prefer the bulky skater shoes instead. Although I love my sneakers, it is not because they're cool looking or "status-raising". I wear my Converse because they're comfortable. On the other hand, I do agree with the observation that most people refuse to wear dirty sneakers. I made the mistake of walking through a forest with clean pink sneakers, and they were so muddy afterward that I chose to wear my slightly dirty white sneakers over the dirty ones. I'm not sure why people at a gym would wear sneakers. That can't possibly be a healthy form of footwear for working out. When I work out, I wear tennis shoes, and not sneakers. Exercising, in my opinion, is not about looking fashionable, but about burning calories and staying healthy.

That's an interesting way of thinking about things. It is strange that shoes used to just be something that you wore to protect your feet and now they are things that somewhat protect your social status. It is true how people use those things to fit in and make themselves look cool.

I completely agree with the comment Ashley. I believe that sneakers are a status symbol! People want a status, and so they buy things that will put them into specific roles.

Sneakers are an excellent example of the power of fads. We are influenced by celebrities and then will do anything to follow that fad and look cool. Several years ago only wearing sneakers would have been seen as being uncouth and poor, someone who didn't have the class or the money to buy nice shoes. But now we all want to wear them, we see them as signs of being hip and young. But we still want that symbol of being well-off, as evidenced by always needing clean sneakers regardless of whether the old ones are still usable or not.

I understand where your coming from I'm in highschool and you are definitely judged on the type of shoes you wear. Now a brand new pair isn't good enough they need to be a certain brand and style and color. I have broke down before and bought a pair of flashy colorful Air jordans and I've only wore them three times, I just feel ridiculous wearing them you need a certain "swagger" to be able to pull this look off or else you are just laughed at and called a poser . Some fads are just crazy and this one sure is an expensive one.

Its weird how much value we put in these things that are supposed to protect our feet.

I have never been the person to feel the need to have the best running shoes. I will get a good pair and us them for track seasons and the summer for about two years. This is when they tend to stretch out. They then become the shoes I use to work outside when racking leaves, picking up sticks, etc. I usually already have a brand new pair sitting in my closet that I got for a good deal. The most I have spent on running shoes is $30 because I try to find them during big sales at Finish Line, Footlocker, etc. However, my sister is not like this. She wanted the most in style shoes that were more expensive then others that would have worked just as well. I think these shoes have become apart of style and function. Some like to splurge on these shoes well others do not. I don't feel they have become a deciding factor for status.

Your story was actually quite funny to me, because I've actually done the same thing. I got a pair of running shoes 6 months ago, decided to use them on a regular walk outside, and made the shoes dirty. The very next day I just didn't feel like cleaning them and wanted to just buy a new pair. However, I liked what you were saying in the beginning of your blog. It is quite interesting how shoes became such a fashion trend. It's interesting to look at fads in general. Shoes are one of the biggest ones among men AND women. To think that shoes weren't always around. We shall see what the next fad is going to be.

I know the feeling of having a pair of sneakers you try to keep clean due to the fact you want to keep it up to the status in which the sneakers represents. I can honestly tell you it is a losing battle. I have friends who go to the extreme to keep their sneakers safe by putting it in clean zip lock bags or keeping them in their own private room.I have uptowns and downtowns all white and when I see a small spot I run and get shout and cold water and clean it off.Shout really works but time and ware can not be avoided.Keep the shoes you know you dont want ruined for special occasions like going out and the ones you dont mind cleaning once in a while, you wear often so there are no worries.

Also sneakers are a social symbol due to the hype that try represent the person who either advertises or wears it. People buy them because they feel it makes them official or they are better than the next person. I dont feel its right but thats how people think. Why buy Jordans? Answer is because they believe Jordan either wore a pair or own something similar. Also because the name mean something of value they want it. Sneakers or no different from jewelry and they are just as expensive. My thought are simple. Buy them for the original purpose to wear not idolize them.

Society believes that one must have the latest trends in order to fit in. What used to be an original plain sneaker has many different characteristics to it in todays time. Everyone is judged off first impressions. First impression matters to people, and people judge you on what your wearing or if you have the latest fashion that has came out. Also the ad specificys on sneakers. Although everyone tends to want the most expensive, they are not always the best. Bright colors on sneakers tend to attract the eye in todays athletic stores like finish line, this does not always mean they will make you run faster. Everyone is just too caught up in social symbols and cliques.

I believe its not that serious as far as trying to fit into this world shoe fashion. All it is, is a trend. I believe even if u did want to follow everyone else with this mentality, i would say you shouldn't take it as far as dressing to impress in the gym?! Thats just ridiculous if you ask me, but then again there are some ppl if u actually buy those shoes for their personal comfort. That particular shoe may just be expensive, but thats just somethin that works for them. Just be yourself.

-Ned Nunnally

I think it is ok to be different. Showing that you are that dedicated to going to the gym shows pride and confidence in yourself. So when others see you in those worn out shoes they will relate it to your confidence and wanna try it too. Sometimes you dont need to follow others but start your own trends and see if others will follow you for it :)

Well, shoes are just one of the many apparel to humans. The shoes from Nike, Adidas, and numerous other shoe companies make people to be awed by the product by promotion, and the ones who promote it are popular individuals that are revered. Those two individuals that are mentioned above, Nelly, and Run DMC, introduce the product by their songs and profession. Other individuals who don't know these people, but are seeing other people wearing these company shoes are influenced by the trend, to fit in and look good to others.

Interesting story, I believe sneakers have become another accessory for people. I plea guilty to this because I recently bought two pairs of nike, yes, nike. For two reasons; I loved the colors and well I wanted two new pairs not one. I do use them for my daily routine. Working out, wear them out, school and so forth. I know there are tons of people who only wear sneakers to the gym or working out. I agree that most of those people who wear them still look fairly new. When I was in high school I don't know how I mannage to keep my shoes white, but I did. Now, I am proud to say that I really wear my sneakers until they wear out, for one, they are expensive and two well I don't have a need to have more than 4 pairs.

Great information, thanks for sharing

Sneakers are all the rage now. The cool thing about sneakers is that it can worn with any kind of outfit. It adds a dash of funk to the whole outfit. Thank you for sharing this helpful post about the growing importance of sneakers in today's fashion scene. Looking forward to read more posts on fashion tips and suggestions.

wow, it looks very great. I love it !!!

Without a doubt, my shoe represents my personality as well as my preferences. I don't put on just any pair of sneakers. I'm not sure what kind of shoes I should wear or where I should go. I don't think so, but I've learned a lot more about it lately. Thank you for offering your suggestions. It's advantageous.

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I just came across your blog. It is nicely done. I see you have not posted here in awhile. May I inquire about Wes?

Very informative article thanks for sharing

Wonderful story! It is really encouraging words you posted here. Especially in the last paragraph, where you discussed about the sneakers on mud. Also consider other styles like on the site. It will be really helpful to increase the range of stories. Thanks!

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Your exploration of sneakers as status symbols is thought-provoking! Sneakers have evolved beyond functional footwear to represent style, identity, and even social status. Thanks for shedding light on this fascinating aspect of sneaker culture and fashion.

Nowdays most sneakers don't see more than 2 years lifetime.

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