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What Is a Sneakerhead? Our Family’s Sneaker Collecting Hobby (and Obsession)

“I’ll never let my kids have Snapchat!”

“We’ll never let our kids charge their phones in their rooms!”

“My schedule will never revolve around my kids’ schedules!”

“Name-brand sneakers that cost more than $30? Never!”

The list of ridiculous “never” rules I made for myself as a parent is as long as the list of COVID-related cancellations our family has experienced since March 2020. 

I now use Snapchat WITH my teens, and while their phones do shut off at a certain time each night (thank you, iPhone screen time settings!), they do charge them in their own rooms for convenience sake. It’s laughable I didn’t realize how many hours I would spend driving my kids to and from various events and even more hilarious, I thought I would have my own social life.

Now, thanks to my husband’s pandemic hobby, I can cross the sneakers off the list, too.

On the Your Teen Facebook page, I recently saw a comical post stating “You know you’re the parent of a teen when you’re wearing 5-year-old Crocs and they’re wearing custom Air Force One Lows.” The comments were a mix of laughing emojis and moms saying, in essence, their kids would never have expensive shoes. 

I used to be that mom. While I never had 5-year-old Crocs, I have had the same pair of orange Chuck Taylors for going on 10 years now, and I recently had to throw a pair of slippers in the trash because I literally wore a hole in the heel. 

I’ve never been into fashion. (I’m writing this while wearing joggers from Target and a cozy cardigan sweater—my winter uniform.) Growing up on a farm in the 80s, my shoes were all hand-me-downs from my older sister or purchased from the local consignment shop or K-Mart. And I didn’t know the difference! Looking back now, I can’t name a single pair of name-brand shoes I owned until I had to purchase specific cheerleading shoes in high school and then begged my mom for a pair of Eastland boots. (Ah, the 90s!)

I stereotypically held the belief I would have to worry about future daughters and their expensive taste in clothes and shoes, and when I became the mom to only boys, I thought I had dodged that bullet. 

But then I became the mom of teenage sons obsessed with sneakers.

After enduring elementary and middle school years with school shoes bought on clearance and cheap basketball shoes with no traction, our high schoolers grew to love sneaker culture. They watched episode after episode of Sneaker Shopping with Joe La Puma, trailing along as athletes like Michael Jordan, entertainers like Lil Yachty, and even politicians like Kamala Harris picked out their favorite pairs in famous sneaker stores. On Instagram and Twitter, our sons pointed out pairs they loved, and I always responded with shock at the price tag. “But why, though?” I would ask. “I got this perfectly fine pair for just $30.”

Then the pandemic struck. 

During our lockdown time, my husband picked up a new hobby: sneakers. He became a part of an online shoe community (maybe the equivalent to my moms Facebook group) and filled some of his spare time making extra money buying and selling sneakers. Strategies for beating “bots” (software hacks that allow their users to clear shelves before others even have time to enter an email address) became a game for my husband, and he shared his adventures with my sons.

While I was happy my husband had a healthy distraction, I was even happier for the connection it built for him and sons. He used his newfound knowledge to help them score pairs with their own hard-earned money. And while I’m not sure they would verbally admit it, I think they are secretly proud that he, too, can rock some sweet kicks. 

Sneakers gave them a shared world.

The night before Christmas this year, my husband could barely sleep because he was so excited to give our sons their gifts the next morning. He had used his sneakerhead magic to get each of our sons a pair of “grails” without paying the exorbitant resale prices. (Like the search for the elusive Holy Grail, a “grail” is someone’s most desired pair of sneakers.) As they unwrapped the disguised boxes and carefully pulled back the tissue paper, their jaws dropped and unadulterated joy spread across their faces. My husband’s face mirrored theirs. 

These sneakers now sit on prized shelves in their bedrooms. When the weather cooperates, my sons will proudly put them on with a carefully selected outfit. Because in our family, we believe sneakers are meant to be worn, not to collect dust on a shelf. 

This sweet father-son connection and the healthy pandemic distraction for our whole family has made me happily swallow the “my sons will never wear expensive name-brand shoes” I once so adamantly clung to. (And I’m not complaining about the cute sneakers that were under the tree for me this year!)

Building bonds with our teenagers is way more important than some silly made-up rule. 

I think “never say never” might be one parenting rule I can agree to live by.

Kimberly Witt

Kimberly Witt is an Iowa transplant placing roots in St. Paul, Minnesota. With her husband of 17 years, she is raising two amazing teenage sons who were born in Ethiopia. She enjoys writing, running, and (surprisingly) helping her sons with math homework. Find her at https://www.wittwrites.com/

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