A culture born on the terraces
The UK is ripe with culture, but when you talk about footwear culture in the UK. We have to talk about where it all began, on the terraces. Football is ingrained in Britain and since the 70s the words ‘terrace’ or ‘casual’ are used to tap into a subculture both ubiquitous in its backyard and obscure to outsiders. Ultimately becoming home to the first UK Sneakerheads. In a time before all-seater stadiums and conversations about “safe standing”. The terraces were where football fans stood, and the casuals were those fans who filled them. Dedicated as much to style as the teams they paid to see.
The shoe that encapsulated these established norms more than any other was 1975s Adidas Trimm Trab. Part of a campaign to get lethargic West Germans to exercise more. By the early ’80s, the Trimm Trab had become the trainer of choice for UK football casuals. If you have ever seen films like The Firm or The Football Factory. You might have some idea of the aesthetic they look to achieve. Beyond all the violence and hooliganism that desired style is in parts maintained in pockets to this day in 2019.
Since then, the Trimm Trab has been joined by other members of the Adidas tennis shoe family like the Gazelle, Stan Smith, and Spezial in most casuals rotations. That can still be observed in most town centres. As middle-aged men have since repressed their formative years with the trainers they were the only remaining relic of days gone by.
Fashions fade but style is eternal
See in regard to UK sneakerheads more than any other place on earth. The cultures history is just as, if not more important than its present. The simplicity of the aforementioned silhouettes such as the Stan Smith and Gazelle have made them timeless. Their designs are simple, smart and classic. That has put them in an almost untouchable category, freeing them of criticism from future generations. Less, of course, can be said for the chunky trainers that dominate the broader fashion world like the Yeezy 700 and Balenciaga Triple S which will undoubtedly come under scrutiny from the next generation and won’t stand the test of time.
What I am getting at is the UK Sneakerheads are more historians than they are hypebeasts. Where in Asia branding, and high profile labels are important, and in America, the obsession remains with the newest of the new. The UK is much more concerned with what can only be described as retro designs.
UK Sneakerheads in 2019
Of course in the UK you still are inundated with fans of Yeezy and Off-White footwear. To me and many others, I would consider that more of a general trend, however, which transcends location due to those brands impressive scope. Instead, to honestly define UK Sneakerheads you must as mentioned talk about the history of some of these brands. Notable subcultures that contributed to the scene as it is today include the casuals who we have touched on. As well as Jamaican-influenced skinhead culture that shifted from music-loving and largely peaceable in the ’60s to its infiltration by the far right in the ’70s and ’80s. While the greater availability of international products as European markets opened also helped shift the tide towards a very educated trainer fanatic. The online trainers Sneakerheads aren’t a new phenomenon in the UK, and they are treated as so.