Sneaker Con Cleveland 2019, March 16th Flyer

I have to admit that I’ve never been a big sneaker freak growing up. I’ve always been into what I think looks good and how it might work into my gear for the day. Honestly, It didn’t matter the brand, rareness or they hype around the shoe. Then I went to Sneaker Con Cleveland — for the first time I realized I’ve been missing out. Not necessarily the “material” side, but engaging with the people deep inside the culture. Sneakerheads, to me, has become more than a “subculture” of hip-hop.

Don’t get me wrong, your shoes have always been an essential part of your swag. However, it’s developed beyond imagination. Sneaker Con has built a deep community with a genuine appreciation of art. Plus, you can come up on some paper, trade or get a good deal (if you know what you’re doing) on hard to find sneakers and accessories.    

If you’re new to Sneaker Culture, Get Ready.

We made it out to Sneaker Con Cleveland 2019, downtown, inside of the new Huntington Convention Center. The convention center is big  — had to walk for a minute (inside) just to get to the actual event. During the walk, I noticed hundreds of people across all ages carrying boxes of shoes either for sale or trade. You could make a deal with almost anyone right there on the spot.  Once we got inside things moved very fast. It felt like I was standing in the middle of the trading floor at the New York Stock Exchange only instead of trading stocks — they were trading rare shoes, shirts, and even custom backpacks (some made to carry shoes).

There was even an area where things got even crazier. People who just popped up to sell and trade multiple items spread them out in the middle of the floor — this is where most of the action went down in my opinion. This looks like a place you really can’t mess around. If you’re knowledgable and understand the value of what’s in front of you — have at it.

Music and cameras are everywhere

Be prepared for cameras. Sneaker culture is deep into social media. As you read on you’ll find that the most notable personalities and shoe aficionados built their brands on camera. So, there’s a good chance you’ll be in the background of somebody’s footage. As they said over the PA system, being on video is “just a part of the culture.”

Vendor sets up shop on the floor at Sneaker Con Cleveland 2019

What would Sneaker Con Cleveland be without music? Cleveland’s local radio station z107.9 was in the building keeping the energy up throughout the day. The relationship between hip-hop and sneakers is no secret. I wasn’t surprised to see the longest running hip-hop station in town representing itself.

Sneakers from Sneaker Con Cleveland 2019

How Sneaker Con Got Started — Well, What I know.

Like a lot of things, Sneaker Con dubbed, “The Greatest Sneaker Show on Earth,” started in New York back in 2009. Co-Founder Yu-Ming Wu rented out a small comedy club in the center of Times Square. At the time they started with 20 vendors and drew 600 people. Things quickly grew from there with about 20,000 people showing up in other markets like London, Dallas, The Bay, Denver and Washington, DC.

How do you know a shoe is authentic?

Like I said before, I’m new to sneaker culture and one of the things, I can appreciate is the panel discussions. Experts gave tips on what to look out for when buying and trading. One guy who authentics for Sneaker Con could even identify a fake by the weight of the shoe. Now that’s some real expertise right there.

They even had a panel with content creators from YouTube sharing how you can build your audience. Another smart thing the organizers did at Sneaker Con was creating a unique tag for approved and vetted shoes. It’s designed to prevent buyers and traders from getting scammed. It’s a small circular tag that says “Legit.” All you need to do is download their app and scan the tag. Their app will serve up information like the SKU, condition, model, size and more. It’s just smart.

Sneaker Con conventions happen worldwide — having an app to help erase doubt will definitely make you more comfortable buying and trading in general on any front. You can also buy via their app with confidence. If you happen to be a reseller with a “Legit” tag on your products you can sell there too for a fee of 8%.

Famous Faces & influencers at Sneaker Con

Over the years Sneaker Con’s had famous people come through to take part in the culture, unexpectedly, according to its co-creator Yu-Ming. One year, former NBA player, Anfernee Hardaway, Chris Rock, and Fat Joe came through.  At Sneaker Con Cleveland, we saw the actor, Jeff Goldblum, best known for his roles in Jurrasic Park, Independence Day and (my favorite) The Fly was walking around with a camera crew. I’m not sure what he was doing — I heard he may have been filming for a new Netflix series. We also saw Jaysse Lopez aka @twojskicks — who’s definitely famous for moves in the sneaker game.

Jaysse’s story is astonishing. He went from being homeless to growing his business to $20 million in sales through his Urban Necessities stores. In a unique deal with Urban Outfitters in New York City,  he just opened up another shop within one of their brick and mortar stores. I’m definitely planning a visit myself next time I’m up in New York.

Another major influencer who appeared at Sneaker Con Cleveland was YouTuber Blazendary. I had no clue who he was — come to find out later, he’s a significant influencer. Blazendary had a huge booth to match his following on YouTube of over 1.5 million subscribers. His Youtube channel gives tips on trading, etc. I saw a video of him working the floor exchanging Supreme stickers for more valuable items.

Novice, don’t be intimidated. Somebody will help you.  

It can be a little overwhelming going to check out an event about a subject you know very little about. But I can’t overlook the fact of how everyone there is willing to help by answering any questions, no matter how novice they were. One guy explained to us how on Nike‘s app you can customize your own shoe design with extreme detail. There’s so much more to a shoe than looking at it for face value and saying, “Oh that’s dope.”

A vendor showed me a UK version of a shoe featuring a “burrito” tongue meant to make for a more comfortable fit. The Adidas sneaker is made mostly of suede — unfortunately, it wasn’t in my size. That’s just a part of the hunt if you’re looking to match up with something for yourself. Another stand out shoe, at least for me, was the Lebron 16 Watch The Thrones. I love the all black and gold look with those colorful laces — just figured I point these out.

Another person revealed to us what it meant when people walked around holding shoes above their head or placed them on top of a shoe box (signifying they want to trade or sale).

I had a great time, I learned a lot and so could you. Sometimes you have to get fully introduced to something to realize it IS for you. I’m excited to start a small collection of my own and get my hands on some rare kicks soon.  If you’re a sneaker freak and you’ve never been to Sneaker Con, you should go. I know that sounds typical, but it’s like nothing else in the sneaker culture — plus you never know who or what you’ll find.