Interview: Julie Adenuga on Sneaker Culture

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Buying sneakers has changed a lot in recent years, mostly due to the growth of resale culture and more brands leaning into raffles and limited editions for exclusive drops. eBay is trying to change that, with the launch of its new “OG Drops” platform that allows sneakerheads to shop coveted silhouettes at their original price. Hoping to lessen the drastic impact of resale culture (especially during the current cost of living crisis) and rebuild a sense of community, the platform seeks to provide true sneaker enthusiasts with a opportunity to get the kicks they want without losing bots or spending exorbitant amounts of money in the process.

Presenter and avowed sneaker enthusiast Julie Adenuga is working alongside eBay to help refocus attention on the community and inspire a new generation of sneakerheads. We caught up with Adenuga to learn more about eBay’s “OG Drops” initiative and the future of sneaker shopping.

Scroll down to read more of our conversation with Julie Adenuga below.

Would you describe yourself as a sneakerhead? What does this word mean to you?

I recently learned that I was actually a sneakerhead, I didn’t know I was a sneakerhead. I wouldn’t call myself a collector, I just buy sneakers that I like. I realized that you don’t have to be the person who collects a specific type of sneaker or dedicated your life [to it] and I have a room at your house for your sneakers. A sneakerhead is just someone who is passionate about shoes. For me, being a sneakerhead is having a specific style or a specific way to wear your sneakers, whatever that means to you. I think it’s different for different people, but that’s what it is for me.

What was your very first pair of sneakers?

I grew up with three brothers and my mom and dad didn’t have a lot of money, so I think my first pair would have been from Shoezone in Edmonton. It was probably a pair of Ador sneakers, which I wouldn’t want to wear in public because I would have been really embarrassed not to wear an expensive pair.

Tell me a bit about your current collection. What are your best pairs?

[Holding up a pair of black Nike Air Max] These are my favorite pairs of sneakers. I think these are the best sneakers in the world. They are so beautiful. These are the most amazing shoes I have ever seen in my life. I bought them and then realized they were going to die one day so I have now tried to find them. I do this thing where if I like a pair of shoes, I buy them twice. Then the Patta x Nike collab, it’s my second favorite.

How do you maintain your favorite sneakers?

It must be a super special occasion. I have to go somewhere where I know no one will step on my shoes. I wear the Crep Protect before leaving and as soon as I get home I take them off right away and put them back in the box. I actually have a pair of white Air Force 1s, the Supremes and I came home and put them straight in the dust bag. Funny, I have a Pretty Little Thing dust bag for the shoes, but I just threw the shoes away and used the dust bag. Personally, I don’t believe in wearing white Air Force 1s, I wouldn’t even wear them to drive where I was going. I would have my cursors and I would put [the Air Force 1s] on when I get out of the car. I take them very seriously.

What do you remember from your experience of buying sneakers when you were a child?

For me personally, I always used to save up and buy sneakers. I’ve only ever worn two or three styles of sneakers. Air Max 90s have always been my thing, then Nike TNs. I got my first job when I was 16 at IKEA and it was the best job in the world. I was making quite a bit of money and I remember saving everything and going to buy some sneakers.

How do you think that has changed?

I think the most important thing is that it’s no longer fun to buy sneakers. I loved driving by Niketown and seeing queues outside. I enjoyed that, it was like a community. It was like being a music fan or if you go to Comic-Con and you’re surrounded by people who have a shared love for something.

Now with the way people buy, every story is sad. No one enjoys the experience of shopping for sneakers more. At the time, we were always in common spaces. You went to school and even though you weren’t allowed to wear sneakers, you put them on in PE class or you put them on the playground and then changed them. It was about that experience of being around people, saving money, and being like, “Look, I’ve got these things.” I remember when that was what it was about. People really cared about getting the shoe, when now the only thing I hear from everyone is bots and raffles.

Why do you think it’s so much harder to get access to new loot?

I think everyone blames the internet for everything, but there is an element of it. I remember blogs, pages like “Better Never Than Late” and “Pigeons and Planes” and all those music and culture blogs. I remember watching these pages really grow and everyone wanted to be first. It was more about what you could do to be the first person to post this and I think the culture created and grew reselling into what it is. You’re trying to get your hands on something fast so it’s more exclusive than anybody else, whereas before you wanted to be part of the group of people who all have the thing as a team, not as a singles. It’s the opposite of community, it’s not bringing people together but it’s every man for himself.

You worked with eBay for the release of ‘OG drops’, how do you think this is changing the game of buying sneakers?

With the “OG Drops” platform that eBay has created, it’s like we know we live in the digital age, so it doesn’t make sense to force anyone into stores physical. Also, being able to buy sneakers from people who live in different parts of the world, to me, is great, but how do we maintain that sense of community?

Over the past two years, money has been a big topic on everyone’s mind, whether it’s because they’re losing it, making money, or trying to find new ways to generate it. Having a platform like “OG Drops” means you can actually just pay for something at the right price without adding any extra bits. Being able to do this is so important because every person, no matter who you are or how much you have in your bank account, you are thinking about money right now.

People put down an amount for a down payment on a house in sneakers, we care about shoes and it’s something we really love enough to spend so much money on. We should be able to get it in a way that is not unethical. Everyone is working through a situation right now and many of us are in the same place when it comes to how we are trying to manage our money and what we are spending it on. Why take advantage of it? If there is one thing that we can achieve and something that we are passionate about and just let us enjoy that one thing, in and among all the things that are going on in the world right now.

What do you think the future of sneaker shopping looks like? What can be done to level the playing field?

I think there will always be purists, people who will always want to defend physical spaces. I think if we put our minds together, there is an innovative way to continue building community, but in a digital space. I want to know what someone in Nigeria wears on their feet and what turns them on. I don’t want it to just be like you’re in London, that’s great and if you’re not then you’re not. We must not hide the fact that we can connect with each other and we can connect with people who do not live in the same cities and countries as us. I would like to see a happy medium. In an ideal world, there would be a way for us to talk to people in different parts of the world while still feeling like a community.

When the ‘OG Drops’ event was opened to the public, Lily, who handles authentication for eBay, was asked which pair of sneakers she didn’t receive and was sorry she didn’t get. bought. She said it was the Nike Shox with the red bottom and I have a pair and we are literally the same size. I sent them to her and she was so, so happy. I love the idea that we can share things we don’t need, sneakers that were given to me and that I was able to pass on. To me, that’s something we should see more of, people saying, “Okay, I got this, but I don’t need it,” because it’s all communal. Giving someone else the opportunity to have something they really, really want and maybe you don’t want as much, I think is important.

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