By Sindiso Dube
For Bulawayo sneakerheads and fashion consultants Leroy Waps and Davison Feliate, the footwear is much more than athletics or dressing up, but turning over ideas about culture, national identity, class, and other formulae of social meaning.
Sneakerhead is street lingo for a shoe fanatic who collects and trades sneakers as a hobby or business. That person typically is knowledgeable about the history and evolution of sneakers.
In collaboration with Mlamuli Moyo of Woodies Shack and Mthulisi Moyo of Wood Affair, the duo hosted the inaugural Bulawayo Sneaker Expo, held in May, with the next one set for next year.
The expo is a gathering of sneakerheads who showcase their collection and learn the basics on how to clean and take care of sneakers. The event also sees participants customising their footwear, and most importantly others will be selling their sneakers.
“The turnout was good, we had over 100 attendants and it was during a time when gatherings were restricted to a maximum of 150. We love sneakers and we want people to grow interested and grow a love for sneakers, to have an understanding of the footwear and know where to get their sneakers,” said Feliate.
“After the expo and the move, we are pushing in the city, we can safely say that people are embracing the culture. We are getting inquiries from people and not only for the purchase of sneakers, but people wanting to know more about sneakers and how to take care of them.”
Waps said sneakers can reveal a culture, a social meaning or mood of a person at a particular moment.
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“Sneakers are not necessarily a culture but they are part of an ingredient or a catalyst of culture because cultures differ with places,” Waps said.
“For example, how people dress in Bulawayo is different from those in Harare, but you know that there is certain footwear that’s favoured based on how people dress, so it’s an element that adds to fashion and culture.
“One can align someone to a certain culture based on their sneaker collection and how they wear them and how they are feeling on a particular day.
“I have seen some people mixing footwear, one day you are wearing Converse Allstars then you are associated with Pantsula, the next day wearing sneakers associated with hip-hop, it’s all about how they are feeling and their mood at a particular moment.
“Others will have a same styled sneaker collection, those ones you can classify them under a certain culture.”
Describing his shoe rack, Waps said his collection was a mixture of everything and he was not sure how many pairs he owns.
“It’s a mixture of everything. I love different sneakers based on different things, some are memorable,” he said.
“Growing up there were sneakers I couldn’t afford and I wished to own them. Some I buy for memory’s sake, some I buy because they are comfortable.
“Some sneakers can’t be worn every day since they fit differently, then there are those everyday ones. Then there are those that you wear when you want to make a statement, the feel-good ones.”
Waps admitted that the fight between fake and original sneakers will never end.
“Fake and original wars will never end. The imitation culture is huge and the people who are pushing it do so well and people are easily lured,” he said.
“However, if you love a product you will research it and get to know its value. It’s just like car lovers, they do thorough research on their product and know the value and the difference between original and an imitation.
“It also comes down to what you believe in, some people don’t mind putting on fake products, but on my side, I personally wouldn’t want to spend real money on fake sneakers,” he said.
The duo has gone a step further to promote by sponsoring local artists such as Asaph, Ntando Moyo, Mawiza, Rockie DoUb, and many more with good kicks to keep them looking good.