By James Hancock July 28th, 2015
If you’re the type of person where it makes perfect sense not to pay your rent in order to buy a pair of limited edition Retro Jordans that will never actually be worn, then Sneakerheadz is your kind of movie. Sneakerheadz is a documentary that follows the ascent of sneakers from basic athletic wear to their cultural explosion in the form of luxury brands. More importantly the film focuses on the connoisseurs, designers, and all around sneaker addicts that curate their collections as carefully as an art gallery. I rarely buy more than one pair of shoes per year so I initially thought I would not be the specific target audience for this film. But as one of the designers in the film described a journey he took to Japan in order to wait in line for days for a unique pair of kicks, I started to think about some of the extreme measures I’ve taken to see a movie before it is released in the US or attending an event like San Diego Comic Con. I’m all too familiar with obsessive behavior and I could absolutely relate to the do or die attitude these sneaker aficionados embrace as their homes and storage units continue to overflow with thousands of shoes that nobody could ever hope to wear even with ten lifetimes. These are collectors who buy one pair to rock and one pair to stock (and maybe a few more just in case) and for most of the 70 minute running time we spend in the company of these collectors, Sneakerheadz consistently keeps the viewer informed and entertained.
The documentary is at its best when it explores the roots of sneaker culture. Going back to the classic canvas Chuck Taylor All-Stars, the film traces what began as a regional movement to the first major explosion on sneaker culture in the 1980s with the release of the first Air Jordans in 1984. Suddenly the separate worlds of hip hop, skateboarding, basketball and fashion began to overlap. Many of the sneaker collectors featured in the film yearn for the pre-internet days where personal connections and knowledge of specialty stores gave collectors privileged access to limited editions. I was 9 years old when the first Air Jordans hit the market and I was obsessed with skater culture so I enjoyed the sentimental journey the movie offers through this period. Where I checked out of the movie emotionally was when the film went into a deep dive exploring today’s sneaker business, how to market luxury brands, and how to manipulate supply to the point of causing riots to break out. There’s a lot of footage of high school beat downs where kids are having their sneakers stolen and I started to get incredibly grossed out by how far the serious collectors can take their obsession when they lack the means to get their hands on all the shoes they want. It was a vivid reminder of everything I hate about materialistic superficial obsessions with wealth and status, where looking ‘fresh’ trumps every other concern in life. I love movies, comics and video games but I’ve never been arrested for participating in a riot when I can’t get my hands on the latest Dark Souls on the day of the game’s release. So maybe I was right at the beginning where I suspected that I am not the target audience for this movie. But from what I gathered while watching it, there are legions of obsessed fans out there all around the world who will absolutely love it.
Opening at Village East Cinemas in NYC on Friday, August 7 with a national release to follow.
VOD: Also available on AT&T u-Verse on August 7 and Vimeo on Demand on August 21.
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