Two years into a global pandemic, it has become clear that controlled movement has become synonymous with the new normal. Having nowhere to go leaves us with little reason to have too many shoes. As one user, @unclejackwah, responded in our latest poll, “too many sneakers, too little time, due to WFH & [and being] stuck at home on weekends.”
At the same time, digital iterations of sneakers that make use of augmented reality (AR) and non-fungible tokens (NFTs) are becoming more commonplace.
So the thought crossed our minds: could this be the start of a sneaker-free future?
If flexing is the goal, and many people like Bobby Hundreds and Mr. Sabotage who have waded into this conversation have said that flexing is the goal, then NFT sneakers do the job.
In fact, NFT sneakers give us access to more exclusive sneakers than we might otherwise be able to buy in real life. For example, one of the most notable NFT sneaker drops was Jeff Staple’s collaboration with digital artefact and sneaker manufacturer @rtfktstudios which saw the release of two “Meta-pigeon” sneakers in May 2021. Only 100 editions of the purple colorway were for sale. If these were actual sneakers, a production run that small would most likely be a friends-and-family exclusive, yet this NFT was released to the public, making it more accessible, yet no less covetable and flex-worthy.
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Following in the footsteps of Staple’s “Meta-Pigeon MK”, SBTG partnered with Binance NFT to release his first digital sneaker, the SBTG Hi-Top, in June this year. Both digital sneakers were released in limited numbers, though Staple’s sneaker NFT was sold at a fixed price while SBTG’s was sold via an auction.
He’s not all talk: SBTG releases his first sneaker NFT with Binance
Sneaker NFTs are becoming a common occurrence, which means they’ll become more accessible and enjoy greater legitimacy over time.
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As NFT sneakers are legitimized, expect to see more integrations between sneaker NFTs and other digital platforms like social media and games.
Better integration with the social media platforms would allow for us to superimpose digital sneakers onto our feet. AR applications aren’t new to Instagram, Snapchat and more – think of all of your favorite filters. So it’s entirely possible to “rock” your kicks with a full outfit.
Integration with gaming platforms could offer an entirely new digital platform for sneakerheads to flex on. Gamers already invest in skins to dress up their characters and avatars, especially in games like Fortnite and League of Legends. It’s entirely possible that as soon as you score an NFT of the Air Jordan 1 ‘85, your character would gain a matching skin in the game.
Our new normal is one that is lived equally online as it is offline. Even before the pandemic, the introduction of social media had shifted the sneaker game online. In this context, could it be that all that’s needed to flaunt Ws are digital sneakers?
There are upsides to digital incarnations of sneakers too. They could help to resolve practical challenges that come with collecting sneakers such as dealing with space constraints and even reducing how many shoes we buy, which could possibly help to ease our ecological impact.
An experiment with the sneaker-free future: Gucci drops a US$12 sneaker
Still, we know widespread acceptance of digital sneakers has some ways to go. In our recent poll, 73% of sneakerheads would not buy an NFT even if it means they could “wear” the sneaker in social posts.