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Milan is at the forefront of the sneaker game

A reflection on the evolution of the sneaker scene ahead of SNEAKERNESS

Milan is at the forefront of the sneaker game A reflection on the evolution of the sneaker scene ahead of SNEAKERNESS

For the second year in a row, Fabbrica Orobia will host the Milan edition of SNEAKERNESS, the biggest sneaker fair in Europe, which will take place this weekend. If the debut of the event in Italy last year was welcomed as the owed acknowledgment of the importance and of the role that Milan, and more generally of Italy, play in the global sneaker culture, this edition arrives after a year in which what changed was the perception of that very culture in Italy. 

It is no coincidence that the city picked to host the event was Milan, the city of fashion by definition, more oriented towards the future rather than the past. Milan, more than all the other Italian cities, embraced with enthusiasm the streetwear phenomenon, it made space in the official Fashion Week calendar to brands that even 10 years ago would have not been considered enough to walk on Milan's runways. Since the rise of the movement, Milan sensed the potential of the phenomenon and has been closely following its evolution. In this regard, Milan has a much more European nature, it is more comparable to Berlin, London, even to New York. 

On a global scale, the sneaker market is now valued $55 billion dollars and it's expected to reach $95.14 billion dollars by 2025: right now sneakers are the most requested men's item both in terms of research and sales (Lyst data). These are striking figures of an industry Milan wants to get its hands on. 

On one side there's the internationality, the prestige of a city that is progressively gaining a key role in this industry. Since September 2018 Milan saw the opening of different spaces that showcase the best part of the sneaker culture, allowing everyone to get to know the history that lies behind a Nike pair of kicks. I'm referring to OG stores like One Block Down, but also Dropout, the first consignment of the store, Special Sneaker Club, a refined space that represents at the highest level the sneaker culture of the past and of the present. Streetwear-wise there was the opening of Patta, just a few steps from the Duomo, and much more anticipated is the rumored opening of the Supreme Store in Corso Garibaldi. Big brands are here, ready to bet on Milan. 

When we reported on the Nike Dunk SB Pigeon story, we explained how the release of this sneaker would have gone on to radically change the sneaker world, contributing to give life to that hype, to that hunt for the latest release that is now part of this world. The turmoils of that day in NYC made headlines on the New York Post, which titled Sneaker Frenzy, basically making mainstream and accessible to everyone the sneaker game, especially its darkest side. In Milan, though in smaller dimensions and with a much smaller future reach, something similar happened last February, on the occasion of the release of the Nike Air Max 90 in collaboration with Off-White, reportedly the last sneaker to be dropped from The Ten collection designed by Virgil Abloh. Hundreds of kids gathered outside the NikeLab store in Moscova since the prior night and when the store opened its doors the next morning it was pure chaos: kids climbing on the walls, brawls, altercations and eventually the intervention of the police. 

These are ugly scenes to watch, scenes already seen and bound to happen again, but nevertheless absolutely negative for the health of the sneaker game. Those scenes reminded everyone what is wrong with the sneaker world today. As evidence of the change of perception on this reality then arrived Striscia La Notizia, with a series of sloppy and superficial specials that did not portray the sneaker world in its reality. But here goes down that change similar to the Sneaker Frenzy of the Pigeons: it was not only nss magazine to report on this incident, but it was a show that is broadcasted on Canale 5 every night. Here comes the mainstream, suddenly those scenes, quite familiar for all sneakerheads, entered the houses of millions of Italian people. As it was predictable, Rajae's reports did not cause any actual change, in fact, a few months later similar episodes went down for the release of the Yeezy Boost 350 V2 “Black Reflective", to be honest quite unusual reactions for the Kanye West-designed silhouette that has lost part of its hype. 

We must say though that there have been real attempts to bring back at the center of the debate the real passion for sneakers, besides drops, raffles, resellers. A great example was the event hosted by One Block Down on the occasion of the release of the Jordan 1 High x Travis Scott, definitely one of the most anticipated releases of the year, which could turn into real chaos. OBD has decided instead to organize a raffle different than usual, a 3-point shooting contest: everyone who could manage to dunk was then given the possibility to purchase the sought-after sneaker. We should all try to move in this direction, towards a real, actual experience, which gives meaning to the sneaker culture, taking it back to its roots. 

In Milan, New York, London or Shanghai, when we talk about sneakers we talk about reselling, a controversial phenomenon that is now part of the global sneaker game. The reason why the audience of non-sneakerheads looks at this world with such mistrust, is that it is seen simply as a way to make money (illegally). We should all reflect more deeply on this industry, putting aside the images of those kids on the walls in Milan, but focusing on the turnover of companies like StockXGOATFlight ClubStadium Goods. As customers, we must wonder what will be the future of the sneaker game, without forgetting that the reselling market is beneficial first and foremost for the biggest sportswear brands. 

An appointment like SNEAKERNESS has the merit of gathering a community of enthusiasts within a culturally-driven event, that aims at rediscussing and redefining the sneaker culture in its entirety. It will be an important occasion to figure out where we're headed, above all in Milan.