Over six months ago I left the sneaker industry to delve into experiential interior design within retail and hospitably. My break from the sneaker world put it into perspective. Though it’s unclear if sneakers are in my future, there are aspects I already miss, and other that I just don’t. Simple as that. Before we get into it, let me just say it’s a youthful industry with bright, bold personalities you will never forget. I still smile when I think of the conversations, travels and … this is starting to feel like a break-up letter, so let’s get on with it.
I miss the incredibly nerdy (in a good way) people. My colleagues could recite model numbers, drop dates and OG colourways as if it were their personal contact information. My mind never reached that encyclopedic ability - I mean it’s all online anyhow - however I had the same awe at this information spiting as watching a breakdancer windmill into a freeze pose. Finesse.
I miss working with materials. When I started at Converse, some of my morning kicked off with material book exploration. As a fast-paced customs designer, this sort of on-hand knowledge became invaluable. After choosing a material type and supplier, I would flip through to note that supplier’s specialty and the book’s level of interest. This habit still lingers - in a way. In-store, I find myself estimating the price/square footage of a new leather handbag, and realise this love for materials will never fad.
I miss others knowing what I (kind of) do. Try to explain my current title ‘Creative Strategist’ to someone and you’ll get the same confused look as a reaction to the media’s gobbly goop over financial markets. Its taken practice and a humbling doses of simplification to get over the fact that most people will never understand my job. ‘Footwear Designer’ was much easier, as it added up to an understandable result: shoes.
I don’t miss the continual hype. It’s honestly exhausting. After sometime it starts to resemble an alternate reality - or comedy skit. Once one item or influencer becomes popular, everyone looks the other way to find something else to woo over. It never really made sense to me, and trust me when you are out of it, it still does not make sense. To recover from this continual hype, I had to delete my bookmarks and Instagram follows to such publications as Hypebeast, Highsnobiety and Hypebae. It felt so good not to know.
I don’t miss the overflowing, never-ending sneaker collections. Being a minimalist in the sneaker industry, as I was, can be difficult if not impossible. It’s always about getting the next new pair, from who and how fast after its release. Or, there are sample sales with tempting prices and a feverish immediacy. I am much more a long-term, care-taking leather shoe/boot owner. This doesn’t mean I don’t love sneakers, the culture and industry innovations, it just means they don’t need to be in my closet collecting dust and regrets.
I don’t miss cold ankles and wet feet during the winter time. Okay, one could argue I should buy the waterproof leather, shearling-lined sneakers. But seriously, who in-brand does such nonsense? Years of low-cut sneakers with no-show socks meant cold ankles and sometimes wet feet (this is the Netherlands and it rains constantly). Having the freedom from guilt to wear boots 80 percent of my winter time feels fantastic.
As any industry, there are the positives, negatives and didn’t-really-notices’s. We should always be aware of what we like and don’t like about a current profession. This is not to summon the gray clouds to celebratory confetti, but to better understand our career direction and recognise what resonates at high and low frequencies. Dear Sneaker Industry - we loved, we laughed and we sometimes face-palmed. But you’ll aways have that special place in my outsoul.