Friends Embraces Sneaker Culture

New apps and limited-edition drops are transforming shoes and how we get them.

Roshan Rao, Contributor

It’s 9:58 AM. I’m sitting in Mr. Polyak’s room, phone in hand and Nike app open. My thumb is hovering over the button that will read “Buy now” in two minutes, and then “Sold out” in a matter of seconds after that.

9:59. Mr. Polyak is talking about our homework for the weekend. I probably should be paying attention to this. I’m getting nervous now. What if I don’t get them? Oh. Yeah. Quiz coming soon, too. Wonderful.

The bell rings. It’s 10:00. I slam my finger down onto the screen and autofill my shipping information with my fingerprint. I walk out of my physics class with my fingers crossed, watching my phone nervously as it says, “Your order is pending” on a white loading screen. And as I exit the Science and Math building, I breathe a sigh of relief as my phone tells me what I was hoping to hear: I just bought my first pair of Air Jordans.

Sneaker culture is becoming especially prominent nowadays, with the rise of online shopping. Retailers are able to increase the demand for certain shoes by making them limited-edition drops. Nike’s SNKRS app posts the sneakers and their release dates, and when the day comes, an online raffle is opened for 10 minutes, in which participants can enter their information to get a shot at the exclusive sneakers.

After this, resale apps like StockX and GOAT give resellers an opportunity to track prices and sell those same exclusive shoes for remarkable price premiums. Collaborations with popular fashion house Off-White, or rapper Travis Scott, boost the price significantly, sometimes upwards of 544% higher than retail price.

For my size, about a 10-10.5, a pair of Off-White Nike Blazers cost about $130 when they were released in 2018. Immediately following their release, their resale value was about $1,500. Nowadays, it goes for about $850. Likewise, nearly every sneaker that bears Travis Scott’s name and signature resells for between $1,100 to $3,000. 

But sneakers aren’t just all hype culture taken to footwear.  There are still considerably affordable shoes that are regularly released by the big companies like Nike, Adidas, FILA, among others. Sneakers are still used for their intended purpose, whether that be basketball, skateboarding, or running.

Consider the Oreo Air Jordan 5, originally released in 2013 and re-released earlier this year. The price increase really isn’t that drastic, considering the hype around it. It ranged from $190 on release to $220 for resale. Many Jordan 1 Mids, like my own, are between $100 and $200.

On our Friends School campus, with such a diverse student and faculty body, there is an equally diverse range of sneakers worn around 5114 North Charles. I spoke to four students about their shoe choice and what they mean to them, the story behind a particular pair, or even just what they like about them.

First, I talked to Noah Moylan. An avid gamer, Noah collects video game memorabilia and is always looking for the next cool RPG to play. He’s especially fond of Demons Souls and the Mario games. Naturally, he was very excited to talk about his Super Mario 64 Puma RS-Dreamers. Like with any limited-edition drop, there was a lot of excitement, especially for a collaboration so unique. With the Super Mario logo on the tongue, and a red-blue gradient and a Puma swoosh dropped on top, they’re a clean, but detailed pair of shoes. When they first dropped, on September 4th, 2020, Noah signed up for the midnight drop almost immediately. Unfortunately, his excitement was crushed by disappointment; he didn’t get them. 

Despite being angry, all hope was not lost: Noah signed up for the re-release in November. Now, all hope was lost. He missed the second draw as well, and took to StockX to find a good resale price. Sadly, the resale price was around $300, and Noah wasn’t willing to pay that much for the sneakers, so he gave up. Now, all hope was lost. However, as time went on, the resale price slowly dropped, unbeknownst to Noah. And his older brother, the ever-loving Josh Moylan, bought him those Super Mario 64 Puma RS-Dreamers for Hanukkah last year. Oh, and he’s also proud of his Puma Animal Crossing Wild Riders–those, unlike the Mario shoes, were a midnight-online-drop success story. These are a bit more reference-heavy, sporting little motifs of each of the beloved Animal Crossing villagers’ faces printed on the sides, and a strange, green, grass-like felt material on the heel that looks like the grass in the game. Video games are represented quite well in modern media, and having sneakers that homages your favorite games, for Noah, is a very endearing feeling. So for sneakers on the more niche side, with video game collaborations that are a bit out of the box, Noah Moylan’s your guy.

Image courtesy of Puma

Image courtesy of Puma

After Noah, I tracked down Mike Ma, recent star of the She Kills Monsters fall play, to ask him about his Off-White Grey Jordan 5’s. Mike’s a new international student, joining the class of ‘23 from China. Usually soft-spoken and a bit reserved, his acting debut–and his taste in sneakers–are anything but. The first time I saw Mike in my history class, I immediately noticed the pair of grey and tan Air Jordan 5’s on his feet, with the distinctive “SHOELACES” written on the shoelaces in the Off-White font. I did a bit of research, and discovered that these particular shoes, released on Valentine’s Day 2020, resold for approximately $1,500 in my size. Wow. What a price. He bought them at a sneaker shop in China that his friend runs. His friend has a collection of sneakers that he sells. He bought them in a size 10.5 for roughly 6700 Chinese yuan, so about $1100. His favorite sneakers, however, are the CLOT Air Jordan 13s. CLOT is a Chinese designer, their motto is “bridging East to West.” That’s quite meaningful for Mike, because it’s quite literally his identity as an international student. The 13s have a distinctive terra-cotta pattern and color, plus a giant golden CLOT logo on the tongue instead of the iconic Jumpman. They retailed for $200 upon release in December 2018, and now cost about the same. Sneaker culture in China is pretty prevalent–Mike tells me a lot of Chinese kids are very into it, constantly searching for the newest SB Dunks and Jordans to drop. The flip side, however, is that a lot of kids are purely concerned about the price tag and the “flex factor.” To Mike, and myself, the story behind the sneakers and the care that went into designing them, the aesthetic and the design choices are important. 

Finally, I talked to my fellow Quill writer, Nile Joyner-Harris. He’s the varsity boys’ basketball captain and a budding engineer, with a kind, excited demeanor that lights up any room he’s in. We talked about his favorite basketball shoes, the Kyrie 5s, what to prioritize in a good basketball shoe, and the fine line between utility and fashion. Nile’s top things that matter for a court shoe are color, the grip on the sole, the ankle support and the feel. Good grip is extremely important, especially for jumping, because you don’t want to land and slip off a jump. Similarly, ankle support is crucial, because you can overextend your ankle really easilyThe brand and overall appeal of the design are less important, but still nice to have. His favorite shoe is the Kyrie 5, released in 2018 and retailing for $130.


A new Jordan 6 Retro colorway dropped earlier this November, called the Bordeaux, and Nile was seen wearing them around campus. I asked him whether he’d ever wear them on the court for a game, and he shook his head no. In his mind, the Jordan Retro collection is more of a fashion statement than a functioning basketball shoe. Sure, Michael Jordan wore all of them back in the day, but Nile says you’d be hard-pressed to find someone actually wearing them on the court. Maybe for practice.

There’s much more to Friends and sneaker culture, and there’s a lot more people to speak to and cool, rare sneakers to see.  This is just scratching the surface, but at a campus as large and diverse as ours, it’s refreshing to see more than just the same pair of dirty white Air Forces. The patchwork quilt of sneaker styles and colors is representative of some of our school’s best qualities, like its diversity, and its emphasis on each person’s individuality and freedom to wear what they like. Truly an incredible school. Next time, news from the sneaker store backroom: the death of Virgil Abloh and what that means for the fashion and the most anticipated sneakers of the year: the Cool Grey Air Jordan 11s. Thanks for reading!