Help. My teenage son is obsessed with sneakers. No, really, it's a nasty and expensive habit, and it is out of control. My life is a maze of models, names, and numbers (not to be mistaken for the names and numbers of models). Ultra Boost, NMD, EQT, KDX, Dame 4, Lebron Soldier XI........it's the language of our youth. Comprehend or go home.
In the library now, I don't look at faces--I look at feet. I have earned a little librarian street cred by striking up conversations with all the teens about their shoes. They are amazed I can identify what they are sporting; they are touched someone noticed. Aren't librarians supposed to be hapless dorks? I say to them, "You think I know shoes well--you should see how I command books!" Truth is, I wish I could wear some sleek, trendy sneakers to work, but I can't afford them on a teacher's salary. And whatever money I have, goes to help my son look cool. Talk about a fad that has a firm hold on your wallet!
Anyways, as they say, you have to meet teens on their turf. That's why I want to tell you about a book I just got that might fit your sports shoe obsessed teen patrons well. Sneakers by Rodrigo Corral, Alex French, and Howie Kahn dropped (you'd be wise to familiarize yourself with this word) in late 2017 and already has had an impact on my patrons. If you look on Amazon, you will find a summary that reads:
The book’s carefully-curated list of participants takes readers to the center of the action. Edson Sabajo, owner of Amsterdam’s seminal sneaker boutique, Patta, leads a sneaker hunt that starts in the back-alleys of Philadelphia and ends in the Middle East. Jeff Staple, designer of a pair of sneakers that resells for $6000, recalls the sneaker riot his design kicked off on the Lower East Side of Manhattan in 2005. Jim Riswold dishes on making commercials with Michael Jordan. Ronnie Fieg explains the collaborative magic of KITH. Adidas’s Rachel Muscat and Jon Wexler get philosophical about their star collaborator, Kanye West. Nike’s legendary Tinker Hatfield takes a glimpse into the future. Professional tennis player Serena Williams shares an exclusive reveal. And much, much more. From its arresting cover design and thought-provoking interiors to the unprecedented depth of its first-person accounts, Sneakers is an absolute must-have for sneaker lovers and anyone who is interested in design, creative process, street culture, branding, entrepreneurship, art and fashion.
If you don't know what the hell any of these references mean, don't worry--your teens will fill you in, and the book will do the rest.
I have to admit, this book requires a bit of technical background. I'm not sure just anyone could pick this up and immediately connect. It would be helpful to know the sneaker market, or at least spend 4 hours a day on sneaker shopping sites like my son does. I'm a runner, so I was able to connect with a decent amount of the technologies, but I can't hold a candle to what my basketball loving son knows. Clearly, hoops drives the sneaker train--it's the golden cow. Runners, like librarians, are pegged as awkwardly utilitarian. I am unlucky enough to be both. We don't browse stores, we order online. Most runners,(minus the posers) are all function--we're looking for fit, not eye candy. Still, I could recite to you a great history of running shoes and a cult history of various brands and models that would define a clear and storied running shoe culture. Nobody would've predicted years ago that Adidas was going to be one of the hippest shoes on the market. If I would have brought home a pair of low cut Adidas basketball shoes for my son's season 5 years ago, he would've run up to his room and wept. Now, it's the gold standard.
Let's face it, Sneakers is amazingly cool! Visually, it is highly engaging and graphically powerful. In fact, it could almost function as a picture book alone. Still, that's part of the magic. The pictures draw you in and invite you to know more, and then the next thing you know, you're reading! A little history, a little culture, a little design background, and suddenly we have context. The authors lend lots of credibility to the content. Corral has a fabulous resume in art and design. Together with French and Kahn, journalists who are able to frame the narrative in very readable, digestible, and engaging text, you get a very accessible package for any level reader.
This book could be on a shelf, or it could be on a coffee table. You could read it as a complete work, or you could read it in chunks. It's probably what will make it even more popular for teens--to be able to browse through and dig a little deeper into specific areas that pique an interest.
I would say with certainty this is a must-have book for any library serving teens. It is Important for teens to know about the history of a culture or a trend. That pair of new NMD's doesn't exist in a vacuum, there was a groundwork laid generations before. There was vision by designers, there were risks taken, norms pushed, and lines crossed. All great stuff for kids to appreciate the next time they swagger into Foot Locker hoping to score their latest favorite sneaker version.