Young boys with sneakers slung around their shoulders and pockets full of cash, huddle in hotel ballrooms and high school gyms, shouting and bartering as if they were on a trading room floor. This latest sports footwear craze, this teenage marketplace for high-end sneakers, has spread across the US. These teenage traders know their stuff; they recite resale values and spout debut dates for new lines.
One of the 14-year-olds already has 81 pairs in his sneaker collection, costing $11,000 but worth probably $20,000 if he sold them all. But that’s a small corner of the market: basketball sneaker sales made up $4.5 billion of the total $21 billion athletic shoe business, according to Princeton Retail Analysis.
At a Manhattan event, one young vendor turned away $98,000 in cash for his Nike Air Yeezy 2 “Red October” sneakers, designed by Kanye West and signed by the artist himself onstage at the Nassau Coliseum in February.
Article by Dave McGinn, The Globe and Mail, May 12, 2012.
2. He Says “Sneakers” and… She Says “Tennis Shoes”
Josh Katz, graphics editor at the New York Times and PhD student – http://www4.ncsu.edu/~jakatz2/ did an online questionnaire on specific word choices across the USA. This map shows the concentration of the use of “sneakers” as a vocabulary item.
On June 15, 2012, in elk-suede-soled slippers Nik Wallenda hopped onto a tightrope that stretched over Niagara Falls from the US to Canada. With his father’s encouraging voice in his ear, he balanced himself with a 30-foot pole and praised Jesus Christ with each tiptoed step.
The 33-year-old Wallenda follows in the footsteps of a funambulist family. In the last seven generations, several have perished during their daring acts. In this tradition that continually raises the stakes, he became the first person to walk directly over the falls.
He began like a ballerina with cautiously pointed footwork. It was a spectacular promenade over 1,800 feet of wire. Near the end, he threw caution to the wind and raced to the open arms of his waiting family. The Canadian authorities (gleefully) stamped his American passport. Nik Wallenda declared that he hadn’t brought anything with him, apart from his passport and a balancing pole.
“When I was cleaning out my grandmother’s attic after her death, I found a dusty box stuffed with aged yellowed envelopes. I was intrigued when I lifted out the first envelope; it had a German stamp postmarked 1947 and inside were two paper foot tracings. The next envelope also contained foot tracings and the next and the next. Some were cut out in the shape of feet, others were drawn on paper, tracing the outline of an entire family’s feet…
I carried the box downstairs to show my mom. She reached for the envelope I held out to her. “You found the tracings,” she said. “I thought Mother had burned them.”
Mom held the tracings like treasured belongings. “We searched everywhere to find shoes for them all,” she said. She remembered piles of shoes when she was a little girl, and boxes filled with clothes and food to send to people starving in Europe after World War II. She remembered they sent soap and candles too, even toys and sweets for the children. And they knitted socks to fill the shoes they sent.”
As many Americans gave shoes, post-war Europeans stepped into them. Each tracing identified a person and a size. Cut by desperate hands and sent in envelopes to the US, the tracings put feet to international reconciliation. One pair at a time.