Not just for kicks: India’s growing tribe of sneakerheads 

The rapid rise of athleisure and the huge presence of international brands with their latest range is powering sneakerheads in the country

Earlier this month, the northeastern city of Guwahati played host to the county’s biggest sneakerheads festival, SneakinOut, an ultimate gathering for the sneaker and streetwear communities to celebrate their mutual love.

Along with the widest curation of sneakers and streetwear seen thus far, from premium global brands to fine homegrown ones, it showcased an elite line-up of over 100 exhibitors from around the country.

“The sneakers and streetwear trend has moved from being a fad to a community of serious sneakerheads that dresses feet first. Along with retail sales, it is the resale market that is pushing the numbers in the industry out of the park. Events like SneakinOut are not just a platform for these resellers, they are a celebration of sneaker culture, which has become an integral part of the community,” says Khusbu Mav, of SteppinOut which organised the festival.

Indeed, sneakerheads abound. From celebs, Harshavardhan Kapoor and Rannvijay Singh to Shahid Kapoor, Anand Ahuja, Ranveer Singh and Ranbir Kapoor, a cross-section of fashion-forward filmi closets
are heaving with superkicks. Singer Badshah confessed to possessing 500 pairs.

Twenty-year-old Abhishek Gandhi, the co-founder of All You Can Street (a festival for street fashion, art, music and culture), too has become a leitmotif of the mushrooming sneakerhead culture fast lacing up India. He has 100 carefully picked pairs stashed away in his suburban apartment in Mumbai—in racks, closets and concealed storage above his bed and cupboards.

As does Hrushrabh Patel, 34, who owns 150 pairs. “My foot size turned 12 in school; since Bata couldn’t comply, my frequent-flier dad bought me Italian sneakers, and there hasn’t been any looking back since,” he says. His favourite? “Air Force 1. My shoes are stored across my homes in the US, Pune and Mumbai. I did lose a few to humidity, and let go of pairs post-pandemic. But who wants to invest in clothes? A limited-edition pick like a Louis Vuitton Nike Air Force 1 is my investment,” adds Patel.

Besides collecting, Patel has also done a short course in customising sneakers in Los Angeles, US. “An expensive passion,” he confesses.

“This is the 28th pattern I am setting on a shoe to see if the stitch sits correctly. Customisation isn’t big here due to prohibitive costs as material needs to be imported. Exotic leather isn’t legally allowed in India,” he adds, slipping into his Air Jordan 3. All his soles are air-dried once a month, which means baked in the air and sun, and then stored carefully with silica gel packs. Some are vacuum-sealed and stored in the garage.

Shilpi Madan for The Sunday Standard

Read the Full Story