In Sneakerheadz, a breezy documentary that plays like an extended episode of MTV Cribs, sneakers are fetish objects. The film quickly traces the history of the footwear from its utilitarian beginnings up to the 1980s, when sneakers started to come into their own as a uniform of the burgeoning hip-hop scene, as evidenced by Run-D.M.C.’s 1986 track “My Adidas.”
There is much to be said about how something so simple as a covering for our feet can give rise to questions of gender identity, class, and power. In its 70-minute runtime, Sneakerheadz offers only the briefest glimpse of issues larger than what’s in the shoebox — an interview with a mom whose son was murdered for his sneakers illustrates the dark side of the consumerist frenzy the film otherwise celebrates.
That mother is black, and it’s hard not to wonder about appropriation in the way many young white men have devoted themselves to sneaker culture. But the filmmakers are content to show us elaborate sneaker storage closets (the ultimate paradox: Sneakerheads rarely wear their sneakers, instead keeping them as art objects or reselling them for thousands of dollars) and talk to a variety of men (and only two women) in music, sports, and fashion about sneaker love.
All of the interviewees are aware that their obsession might come off as odd, but are affable as they wax nostalgic and lovingly describe favorite pairs. To those who don’t already have a vested interest in the subject matter, though, Sneakerheadz may well come off as a glossy paean to consumerism.
Directed by David T. Friendly
Opens August 7, Village East Cinema