How the Explosion of Instagram Changed Sneaker Culture Forever

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The game has changed.

As a self-proclaimed “old man sneakerhead,” I fear change. My initial reaction to watching the game change before my eyes was to criticize. But as I’ve learned over the years, if you’re going to point out problems, you must be willing to present solutions.

At heart, sneakerheads share one thing in common: A desire to be different. Most of us feel the same pain in our hearts and souls if you walk into a room wearing the same shoes as someone else. I’ve been known to turn around and change if I find out someone else is wearing the same kicks. Ever texted your buddy to make sure he’s not rocking what you’re rocking? If so, you might be a sneakerhead.

Exclusivity fuels the desire to get that rare and coveted shoe that no one else has. Superiority may fuel the need to have better kicks than others. Nostalgia and identification with the past drives many retro purchases. Camaraderie is a great motivator in the sneaker community as well. For years, when you saw someone rocking a shoe you identified with, you shared a moment. Whether it was a knowing nod of respect, or a conversation struck up with a complete stranger about a special come-up or conquering story of how you copped your holy grail, you made a new friend instantly.

These days, the community has grown and we have an incredible medium to share our creativity in the community.

Back to “the game” for a moment.

I’ve heard this antidote on life before and it made so much sense to me. It goes something like:

“Don’t be a referee. Referees sit on the sidelines, blowing their whistles, pointing out the wrongs others have done, but never getting in the game. Get in the game.”

I decided to get in the game with my own style and love seeing how people utilize their creativity to get in the Insta-sneaker-game. Here are some of my learnings:

Tell a [short] story.

Why do you like these kicks? Where do you rock these kicks? What are you doing in them? Engaging content is usually telling a story. Instagram is a really concise medium for this, but it can be done. Since it’s so visual, I prefer not to write out long captions and let the pictures speak for themselves, but it helps people get to know you and understand why you’re rocking your shoes. It can also help to buffer the gloating aspect. Yes, we like to rock cool kicks, but it’s not just to be cooler than others. For many of us, we have great memories tied to the retros we’re rockin.

Be a part of the conversation.

Social media is a conversation about topics. Current events and sporting events dominate my feeds. When and what are you posting? Seahawks kicks for Super Bowl Sunday? BHM kicks to kick off February? Your favorite teams kicks on a big game day? Dapper shoes for Sunday? People engage with things they can relate to. Inside jokes are the opposite of what should be shared to get conversation going.

What else?

In life, in my job, and in photography, I’m constantly searching for what hasn’t been done or what can be added to an existing concept. We’ve all seen the constant flood of generic sneaker shots that come through your feed. There’s not much motivation to engage (like, comment) on those posts. But what if you show off some dope shoes in context? Examples: You have your feet up at a sporting event, you have your basketball shoes on the hardwood before or after your pickup game, you’re at a rooftop party (be careful, kids), you’re at an important meeting at a cool company. Perhaps you’re in a helicopter or walking on cool tile (@fromwhereistand or @ihavethisthingwithfloors) or at an art festival. What are the other elements you’re bringing to the table that catch people’s attention?

Do you.

What angles do you like to see your kicks? Some people prefer the side profile. Some prefer to hold the shoes (@sneakerhand), and others, like myself, prefer the straight look-down. My buddy, @kidfuture_, puts his in the same position every time. Rock your kicks, rock your style, and don’t try to be anyone else.

Me? I’m a big fan of coffee. I’m constantly drinking it and I work from my local coffee shop, @Mudsmith, quite often. Naturally, when I’m ready to post a photo, I’ve usually got a cup of coffee in my hands. The baristas at Mudsmith are amazing and occasionally entertain my requests for special designs in my cappuccinos. I’ve had a skull and crossbones, a turkey on Thanksgiving, and an Oregon Duck while wearing some Duck exclusives. The biggest success of this was the “Just Do It” with a swoosh design in my coffee while wearing my Concord Air Jordan XIs.

I encountered a quality problem on this one: The photo got ripped off and shared quite a bit without giving me credit, but hey, sometimes you have to charge it to the game.


My photography can be found at

Follow Jordan on Instagram at @JordanRogers26

all images via @JordanRogers26