This past week marked the notorious back to the future day. The infamous day that Marty Mcfly went into the future in Back to the Future II was this past Wednesday. It was highly hoped, hyped, and expected that power-lacing Nike Air Mags would be released on the anniversary date; but that never happened. This flash back got me to thinking about sneakers in pop culture in the past. I specifically thought about in mainstream television culture in the late 80s, 90s, and early 2000s. Why is it we don’t see the same shoe heat and variety we have seen in the past? Why were there so many shows that contained dope sneakers?
You can pretty much ask any hypebeast about this topic and they will point to The Fresh Prince of Belair. Some a little more “in the know” will also mention either Martin or The Wayans brothers as major contenders for the crown. But these are not the only candidates. I was watching MTV2s morning block of reruns and Saved by the bell was on. There were a slew of dope kicks sported throughout that series. Some highly touted (like the OG Black Cement Jordan IV) and some forgotten gems (like the Nike Dynasty High and Nike Air Solo Flight 90). But, between the assortment of sneakers among the cast and the neon colored clothing, sweats and high tube socks this was definitely a heavy hitter in sneaker culture in its day.
I continued to watch this rerun block due to the ugly downpour happening outside, and as SBTB ended one of my favorite shows came on. Say what you want about Boy Meets World, but it was great to me, and one of those shows I watched from start to finish when it aired. As I watched one of the later episodes in the series I got to thinking about the heat Cory used to sport. Cory Matthews may have been one of the greatest young sneakerheads of the 90s and so many of us may not have noticed. His lineup consisted of Air Force Highs, Tailwinds, Veers, Command Forces, Maestros, Barkleys, Jordan VIIs and IXs. And these weren’t one time wears either, he actually wore these shoes in multiple episodes and throughout the earlier years of the series. Living up to the wear your kicks mantra.
Another sleeper for a few of those that don’t really know, when it came to a crazy sneaker game was Seinfeld. Jerry Seinfeld may be one of the few people mentioned who was an actual sneakerhead outside of their show; and is definitely one of a handful that still is to this day. I literally watched an episode of Seinfeld a few weeks back, where Jerry told Kramer he couldn’t really help a shoe repair business because he mainly owned sneakers; and Kramer proceeds to tell the repair owner that he has a sneaker problem. Jerry sported, Forces, Bo Jackson’s, Air Maxes, Tech Challenges, Mowabbs, Huaraches, Jordan V-VII to just name a few. There is no question that Jerry may very well be arguably the king of this category. He and a young Will Smith could definitely compare wardrobe trailers at the times of the series, and it would truly be a sight to see. As mentioned though Jerry still sports sneakers to this day; something we are sure he and Wale relate on in their many discussions. Even recently he took to Instagram showing off is his Mets themed Nike Shox Turbo VIs just in time for their playoff run.
With all this apparent greatness of sneakers through mainstream television of 1980s through early 2000’s, we are now left scratching our heads. What the hell happened? It seems that at some point in the earlier 2000s this came to a screeching halt. I believe this was for various reasons. One big reason was due to sneaker companies becoming larger as independent brands, and not needing that same publicity; so the use of a series promoting their brand was not so much necessary. The growth of these brands probably also increased the costs to networks to display their brands. The other side of that is the shows and networks are looking to keep costs and budgets down in this new age. A lot of these shows no longer involve the product placement or sponsorship for numerous reasons, with price being one of the biggest. You could argue that with how media is consumed it is not as necessary. With digital marketing, social media, podcasts and people watching media at their own convenience; it is far from as vital as it used to be. The downside is that golden era of freshness in television is dead and gone.