Tomboys in Coke Whites: Female Sneakerheads Are Stomping Down The Boys' Club
Women have long been a part of the sneakerhead scene, and though they are not as prominent as men, they are emerging as entrepreneurs, designers, and tastemakers.
All images by Mich Cardin
In the traditional sense, a sneakerhead is an obsessive. A buyer and seller of rare and classic kicks. A walking almanac who could describe—on demand—the interlacing history of Nike, Adidas, the NBA, skaters, and Hollywood. And sneakerheads are typically always male.
But women have long been a part of the sneakerhead scene, and though they are not as prominent as men, they are emerging as entrepreneurs, designers, and tastemakers. And with doing so, they have made the term sneakerhead a more gender-neutral moniker. I met and photographed several female sneakerheads in New York, the fertile crest of street style, and talked to them about their work, inspiration, and of course, their kicks.
Wendy Nitrolicious (Wendy Lam): Founder of Nitrolicious and Minilicious
Go-To Brands: Nike Air Jordans and Adidas
"In NYC, you can't really rock heels; you'll just fuck up your nice shoes. Unlike the West Coast where you can just get in and out of your car, we walk a lot here and take mass transit most of the time, so comfort is key. Also, I'm into unisex looks. I love my clothes oversized and I wear a lot of men's clothing. My favorite streetwear brand is Supreme, and I rock it a lot."
"I think the streetwear and sneaker industry is a bit catered more toward men. Up until now, most of the brands didn't really care about the women's market. Most of the dope collaborations are for men and not sized down small enough for the ladies. But I'm seeing a bit of change now, as there are more women's or girls-only colorways dropping and sneaker sizes being sized down to grade-school sizing. It's also dope to see women's-only collections, like the Rihanna collaboration with Puma, made especially for us."
April Walker: Founder of Walker Wear
Go-To Brands: Old-school classics like Adidas shell toes or Reebok 5411s
"I call fashion the sixth element of hip-hop—It doesn't get the justice it should. A huge part of how we express ourselves has always been through music and fashion. These elements have played such a huge role in hip-hop, and street has been the best form of that. It defines the attitude, shows your mood, vibe... and everything starts with the kicks."
Susan Boyle: Owner of Rime in Brooklyn and Manhattan, designer of sneaker collaborations with Puma and Reebok
Go-To Brands: Nike for technology, comfort, and their attention to female consumers. Puma because they are addressing products made for women by women, spearheaded by strong women like Solange and Rihanna. Reebok because they allowed her to be the first non-designer woman to collaborate with them, opening up the door for other female non-designers.
"It's very hard to break through a male-dominated industry in which men hire men. Very few women have been able to break into the boys' club, but we're making headway. There have always been females in the culture, but they were stuck in silence. The industry has finally realized that women have a place within it. We spend money on footwear and apparel, sometimes more so than men. From a business perspective, they are realizing that they need to hire females to help appeal to and cater to that audience in order to profit from it. With athletic leisure currently trending, sneakers are becoming more fashionable and trendy and creating a new form of sneaker consumer."
Gina Batlle: Photo director for Complex
Go-To Brands: Classics like Converse Chuck Taylor '70, Puma Suede, and Vans Sk8-Hi
"Growing up in the 90s and listening to hip-hop and R&B, it was always an interest and influence for me. I grew up with a bunch of older cousins, and they were always super into music and rap magazines and that style, so they put me on. They were the coolest kids I knew, and I wanted to be just like them. I always dressed sort of tomboy, but didn't really start buying sneakers until college, when my parents weren't aware of what I was spending my money on. I don't consider myself a sneakerhead. I like shoes, and I happen to have a lot of them, but I couldn't tell you the history of a specific sneaker. I just like kicks-–they're a part of my life and the culture I feel connected to."
Vashtie (Vashtie Kola): Designer, DJ;designed Air Jordan 2 Vashtie
Go-To Brands: Jordans
"Being comfortable in general is important in everything I do, so when I DJ I have to be comfortable in what I'm wearing... I was born and raised in the hood, and sneaker culture is a huge element of the culture (there). It's a lifestyle; it's a representation of me and where I come from."
Jodi Rockstar (Jodi Goldberg): Battle-winning sneaker collector, graphic designer
Go-To Brands: First go-to brands were Jordans, but now there are endless possibilities.
"Women aren't recognized in the sneaker community for a few reasons: One of the major ones is, it's always been a guy thing. I feel like women are looked down upon in many ways because it's not feminine to wear sneakers. When you walk into a sneaker store, they have walls and walls for men and a small section catering to women. I do feel like companies are trying to cross over more now for females, but they still have a long way to go."