Black Women Are Sneakerheads, Too.
Words: Salwa Rogers
Creps, boogs, trainers, kicks, soles, sneakers—whatever you want to call them, Black women love and wear them, too. Originally an American phenomenon, sneakerhead culture has spread across the world since its emergence in the 1980s. The success of the culture can specifically be attributed to American hip-hop and basketball; from Run DMC and their song “My Adidas” catapulting the popularity of Adidas Superstars to Mr. Jumpman himself, Michael Jordan taking it to new levels with his Jordan x Nike collab, sneaker culture has left a colossal jumping man imprint on not only popular culture but the entire world.
It’s no secret that sneakerhead culture began as an intrinsically Black movement, but even though Black culture sewed the seeds that would eventually grow to become this exciting thing, there is strangely still one group of people who have been consistently left out of historic and present conversations, and that’s Black women. As with many things in society, sneaker culture has been overwhelmingly dominated by men. Women in general—regardless of ethnicity—have historically been left out of sneakerhead conversations, resulting in brands creating walking pairs of misogyny with their ‘shrink and pink it’ versions of male sneakers that they believed women wanted. In recent times, however, some of those same companies have begun to acknowledge, celebrate, and, most importantly, listen to the voices of more women. Yet, for some reason, Black women are still not receiving adequate recognition for their contributions to this community.
Whether it’s magazines, Instagram pages, sneaker platforms or books, Black women’s contributions to the culture are seldom recognised. Books like The Ultimate Sneaker Book somehow fail to acknowledge the tireless work of Black women in this arena. Where are the stories of Black women like Whoopi Goldberg, who gave a middle finger to status quo when she wore Reebok Freestyles to the Golden Globes in 1986, or the women in hip-hop that majorly influenced fashion trends of the ‘90s, the likes of Missy Elliott, Da Brat, and Salt-N-Pepa?
After its rapid expansion beyond the States, sneakerhead culture began to take on a life of its own here in the UK. We’ve seen dedicated stores open up across London, from Mr Sneaker to Crep Select, pop up events like SneakerCon UK and platforms like Instagram that have allowed the global sneakerhead community to become more interconnected than ever. However, this global amplification only re-highlights the inexplicable disregard for Black women. Today, we’re here to give some flowers out: meet five UK-based, Black female sneakerheads who are championing, challenging and changing the image of the sneaker community in the UK and beyond.
If you’ve ever searched the words ‘trainers’ or ‘sneakers’ on Pinterest or Instagram, then you’ll have definitely come across Sherlina Nym. Originally from Germany but now residing in London, Sherlina has become one of the most popular sneakerheads in the world. She’s mastered the art of matching nails with her creps, and continues to stun with her footwear closet where she stores fly kicks in the hundreds. Signed to the Unlocked Branding Agency for a number of years now, Sherlina also has a popular YouTube channel, which has over 355,000 subscribers. In addition to that, she also created the ‘WhatsUrGirlWearing’ movement on Instagram, which resulted in the hashtag #WhatsUrGirlWearing being used in over 200,000 Instagram posts globally.
Teacher by day, sneakerhead by night: Shanice Marie aka ShansGotSole is a presenter and influencer who has devoted her platform to empowering, educating and entertaining women sneakerheads, especially women of colour. Shanice uses her Instagram to offer styling tips, school people on the history of specific sneakers and also review some of the latest releases. But it doesn’t stop there: Shan also started a YouTube channel this year, where she uploads fun sneaker reviews, hauls and unboxings. Tune in.
Coco Mell is a stylist, sneakerhead and podcaster who lives and breathes this thing. Having worked as a stylist for a number of brands—including Adidas, Converse and Footlocker—not only does she give us stylish content, she also uses her platform to challenge the fashion industry and has been particularly vocal during the recent Black Lives Matter movement, where she called out brands for their performative behaviour. Coco Mell also co-hosts the Sole Intent podcast with fellow sneaker appreciator Joelah Noble, which focuses on sneaker culture through the lens of women of colour.
Writer, model and sneaker/street style connoisseur, Jess Lawrence—who also works as a social media manager for Vogue Business—uses her platform to champion diversity in fashion, challenge the industry at large, and bless us with some pretty amazing visuals. During lockdown, her following grew rapidly when her IGTV video “Racism, sneakers and my rundown quarantine skin” went viral. In the video, Jess reads an essay she wrote to educate people on the significance of sneaker culture within the Black community and challenges the sneaker community to do better when it comes to racism and ignorance within the community.
Serena Pink effortlessly blends her love of trainers and body positivity with her life as a mother of two boys. Creating content that empowers plus-sized women to step out of their comfort zones when it comes to style, she also openly shares her sons—who, by the way, probably have a better collection of sneakers than most grown folk! Serena shows us life through her pink goggles, whether it’s discussing body image, the latest releases, race or even raising awareness of sickle cell. Ms. Pink is one to know.