I’m getting tired of streetwear documentaries. No matter how slick they look, no matter how famous the interviewees are, they always follow the same exact format. Sneakerheadz is no different. It’s stylish as hell. The music is fantastic. Many of the interviewee’s (like Frank the Butcher, Rob Dyrdek, and our very own Wale) are brimming with fun stories and facts. That doesn’t stop it from feeling like one long Nike advertisement. There’s nothing new or interesting about a streetwear documentary that focuses on how crazy it is that grown men (and women, although that’s part of the problem too) have a thousand pair shoe collections.
I don’t want to be simplistic. Clearly this movie was made by fans and there is merit in that, but if you want to truly stand out and make a good documentary, then you’re going to have to dig a little deeper. I want to know more about sneakerheads and sneaker culture than what Wale’s first pair of sneakers were. That may be a fun tidbit of information, but it tells me next to nothing. I don’t care about your nostalgia unless you give me a good reason to care. That’s the problem.
This doc presents you with a lot of fun and breezy information and expects it to be enough. Maybe if this was the first sneaker documentary to come out, it would be enough. At least Just for Kicks tried to explain the convergence between hip-hop and streetwear. At least Fresh Dressed touched upon more difficult topics like poverty, racism, and sexism. Neither of them are very challenging documentaries, but at least they go harder than Sneakerheadz.
That’s not to say that Sneakerheadz didn’t include any new information. The doc has a couple scenes that talk about Japan’s burgeoning interest in street wear and the difference between Japanese fashion and American fashion and how the popularity of Japanese style streetwear rose in the U.S. I would love to watch an entire documentary about that. It sounds very insightful. I also enjoyed the more serious (yet very brief) looks at the violence that surrounds shoe releases and the different ways brands dealt with minimizing it.
According to the doc, “sneakers are estimated to be responsible for as many as 1000 deaths per year.” I’m not exactly sure where they got that information from, but considering how horrific it is, it’s crazy that they don’t explore the violence around streetwear further. There is a short interview with a woman whose son was killed over a pair of sneakers. At one point someone mentions that shoe releases times were changed from midnight to earlier in the morning, but it seems clear that the main problem is the shortage companies like New Balance, Adidas, and Nike create that fuels the craze. Yet, because this is a movie made by fans, the hype is brushed off onto the media. God forbid anyone insults the brand.
There’s something about Sneakerheadz just feels… so bro-y. Part of the problem is that there is that only a small handful of women are interviewed (including Samantha Ronson). The other problem is that nothing about it feels welcoming. There’s a lot of jargon dropped (everything is briefly defined for those who are unfamiliar), and it never really feels like you’re being invited to join the group. It’s almost like you’re not cool enough. This isn’t a documentary about sneakers. It’s an excuse to look a fantastically well designed shoes set to good music. It’s a really long commercial.