The ‘good old times’ has a new commercial implication in 2022, especially in the sneaker sphere

Everyone complains about how things are changing fast, and the newer set doesn’t do it (or make them) like they used to. The good ol’ times that make us nostalgic. However, in 2022, this idea has a whole new commercial implication.

Gen Xers are now hitting their mid-thirties. With their settled lives and inherited property, they have all the time and money in the world and little to derail it. 40, for them, is the new 25. This generation of men and women has always been a prime target for product marketers. And of late, they have found a great unique selling point — nostalgia.

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Sneaker makers have been particularly successful in marketing nostalgia. Instead of spending on R&D, the idea of revisiting a past silhouette or models with slightly improved (modern) materials and colours has made it a lot easier to appeal to the old but young-at-heart set. This is a category of sneaker buyers who remember their trainers from childhood, an era when their only access was by route of NRI cousins or relatives returning from foreign trips. Think of today’s popular brands, like Nike Air Max, Air Jordan, Adidas Forum, Puma Clyde, and chances are their first iteration was released sometime in the ’80s or the ’90s. They were coveted back then, and they are making a comeback to tug at the hearts of the generation that still remembers them, except that the access and means to acquire both exist this time around.

If someone had gone to sleep in 1985 and woke up today, they would find themselves smack in the middle of a street fashion show. It would be hard to convince them that more than 30 years have passed. Retro has never been more contemporary than now, and brands are milking it for all its worth. Barring a few models (Yeezy comes rushing to mind), nothing is new. 

A big part of this nostalgia sneaker marketing exercise is to up the hype quotient by inducing scarcity. Limit the number of each style to further their appeal and fuel a mad race to acquire them. There is no logical reason for the brands to limit their numbers except to make nostalgia suckers scurry to their phones and laptops every time a new shoe is launched online, leading to crashing websites and servers. 

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This world of nostalgia-driven sneakers is also where the resellers have carved a brilliant niche for themselves. They mostly use two ways to acquire these coveted shoes before selling them on Instagram. One relatively straightforward method goes by the euphemism of backdoor-ing, where the brands or retailers sell the shoes to their preferred group of resellers. 

In the other method called boting, the resellers procure their booty by employing bots to bombard the seller’s site with buy requests where the shoe goes up on sale. While these methods are not illegal, both are unethical. The irony is that sneaker culture was built on the foundation of rebelling against corporate capitalism, and now this senseless consumerism is pretty much fuelling it.

So, what does a sneaker lover like me do? Succumb to this mad rush for sneakers that now cost as much as handmade brogues, or revolt? The answer lies in returning to the root of the street culture movement, which was about self-expression. ‘You do you’ is an excellent motto to get behind. Wear what makes you happy, as long as you can afford it. It doesn’t matter what the world thinks. Fashions come and go, but style is what you cultivate and nurture over time. 

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I, for one, am not throwing away any more shoes and jeans; instead, I am going to hang on to them irrespective of the cut and design, for when these styles come back around, I will sell them for a tidy profit on Instagram or on Ebay.