Rolling Out

SOLEcial Studies co-founder Sean Williams teaches the history of sneakers

Sean Williams wants you to know more about your favorite shoe

Sean Williams is the co-founder of Obsessive Sneaker Disorder and SOLEcial Studies. Williams is dedicated to teaching the history of sneakers and created OSD to educate people about the athletic footwear business. That led to the creation of SOLEcial Studies, which is a class to educate and empower more minorities and women to pursue a career in the sneaker industry.

Williams spoke with rolling out about the history of sneakers, his platforms, and what he thinks about the current state of sneaker culture.

What should people know about sneakers that they probably don’t?

I want people to look at sneakers differently than how they have before. Especially for our young people, because sneakers are made for young people. They’re not made for anybody my age. The only shoes being made for people my age are walking shoes, golf shoes, and some running shoes. Sneakers are generally not made for anybody anywhere close to my age, by  and large.

They want to put flashy colors on them and they want to have the hype and marketing behind the product and put it in the hands and on the feet of the people who get attention on social media, or they do something phenomenally athletic but there’s an entire machine and movement of people professionally behind those shoes. I want kids and people of all ages to start looking at a sneaker and not just see it for the color and the material and the costs but see the number of jobs and opportunities that go into making that shoe and getting it on the shelf and see if there’s a place there for you.

What do you think about the current state of sneaker culture?

I think that there’s good and bad to it. Some young people want to use sneakers as the new lemonade stand as opposed to going out and selling drugs. I’m OK with that because they found a legal medium by which they get to make some money. On the flip side of that, they could care less about the product, history, or people related to it. I’ve had talks with young people who are the current crop of quote-unquote sneakerheads, which is a term I hate, who don’t even know who Tinker Hatfield is. For us coming up, he was a design god for the entire industry. Then you have the newer generation who has no clue who he is, but yet, they can go around the sneaker conventions and resell outfits and try to peddle their work for hundreds of dollars. There’s a disconnect between the history of the culture and the people who have made some of these amazing products and the new generation, but on the flip side of that, I would rather them have the time still left on their side to figure all that out, as opposed to being on a street corner slinging crack, which they don’t even know where that came from either.

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