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Luke Furman

Amplified Observations: Origin of the 'sneakerhead' theme in music

Luke Furman takes us back to the 20th century to observe the origins of the modern "sneakerhead" themed tunes.

In our modern age, it seems as though everybody knows at least one “sneakerhead.” We all have that one friend — or friends of a friend — who camps outside the mall all night to make that 4 a.m. release of the new Jordans, who has a bottle of Jason Markk shoe cleaner on deck at all times, and who will spend most of their waking hours scouring or like it’s their goddamn job.

And although we support them in their capitalist addiction, some of us fail to see what all the hype is about. However, sneakerheads have existed long before the era of millennials. One way of proving this is through music.

When you think of songs mentioning shoes, you may consider recent hip-hop joints like Mike WiLL Made-It’s “23,” Mac Miller’s “Nikes On My Feet,” or even Macklemore’s “Wing$,” but the subject matter of those tracks was being flaunted long before any of those artists spit their first bars.

Throughout the 20th century, many famous musicians spent their days rocking some dope-ass “Breds” while they lounged in their asbestos-insulated mansions, crafting songs to make their fans aware of the level of flyness to which their kick game has risen. They singlehandedly paved the way for modern "sneaker enthusiasts" — is this the politically correct term?

One of the most famous and pioneering musical sneakerheads broke out onto the sneaker scene in the 1950s — that being Elvis Presley. In 1956, Elvis covered fellow sneakerhead Carl Perkin’s laced-up jam “Blue Suede Shoes.” Everyone knows Elvis was sporting his Blue Suede 7’s for the duration of his stardom. After his death in 1977, many attempted to cop a bit of his swag by picking up the limited edition Graceland Ghost 5’s.

And while I’m on the subject of Graceland, I’ll mention another one of rock’s biggest sneakerheads: Paul Simon.

Simon released “Diamonds On the Soles of Her Shoes” on his seminal 1986 record, Graceland. The song is an obvious ode to girls who bling out their J’s, Adidas’s, and Vans with all the ice they can afford. That’s probably why in 1988 Simon released the rare "You Can Call Me Al" Jordan 7’s.

The Garfunkel 3’s did not sell as well.

Many other artists made musical forays to show off their mad kick game. The Beatles kept it plain with their “Old Brown Shoes,” along with their “Blue Suede Shoes” cover as well. Joe Walsh — mastermind behind the gangsta rap genre — and The Eagles penned the 1972 song “Those Shoes,” while Johnny Cash put on his “Rock and Roll Shoes.” Hint: the shoes were probably black.  

These are just a few influences that have led to the prominence of “sneakerhead” culture in today’s music.

So next time you lace up those high-tops, just remember that you’re following in the legendary footsteps of Elvis, John Lennon, The Eagles featuring Lil’ Walsh and many other guitar-wielding hypebeasts whose kick games will forever be on point.

Luke Furman is a freshman at Ohio University studying journalism. Email him at or find him on Twitter @LukeFurmanOU

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