Friday, March 24, 2006

Beholden to the Big Boys

It's not exactly a news flash that the sneaker giants are not making money off of their exclusive designs, which are distributed to few dozen lucky boutiques worldwide. In fact, it's likely that given the way companies like Nike are set up--to produce massive numbers of shoes--creating exclusives costs more than it brings in. However, I wouldn't be surprised if the cost of creating rare shoes is figured in under advertising costs given that shoe companies more or less use collectors as a marketing tool to create brand cache.

Not that this bothers collectors. In fact, the relationship between sneaker freaks and big name brands is basically a symbiotic one. The hunters get the shoes they crave and in return, the brands get back the coolness quotient they need to make their brands legitimate. Everyone is happy.

The trend that disturbs me is the lack of objectivity on sneaker sites and in magazines devoted to rare sneakers. I can't help but wonder what would happen if publications that have insider relationships with the major brands, and thus are fed images of rare shoes and events, started becoming more critical of styles and programs by giants like Nike? Would they suddenly find themselves cut-off from content from image conscious corporations who spend a lot of time, effort and money creating a chink-free brand image?

Certainly the sneaker fan sites and magazines wouldn't be the first to succomb to the influence of industry overlords. Fashion magazines have long been criticized for featuring advertisers in both their editorial shots and stories. What's a shame though is seeing the new media upstarts accept the major brands' status as king without so much as a peep.

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