South Africa is known for it’s scintillating safaris, basking in brilliant beaches and… sneakers!?!

For the entirety of Western culture, the streetwear scene has been digitized and migrated online. Every major city involved in streetwear culture, most notably; Los Angeles, New York City and London, among many others, each have their own recognizable styles and hold unique cultural aspects that are immortalised in its city’s culture. A name no one in the game would associate with sneaker culture, Cape Town, is emerging as the most extraordinary and unprecedented sneaker hot spots in the whole world. They generate hype without the internet and play to get out of poverty.

I asked Twitter what place they most associated with streetwear and sneaker culture and this is what the people had to say:

NO ONE thought Cape Town and sneakers had any link at all. South Africa is an up and coming streetwear scene that forces to be reckoned with! A culture incomparable to anything else I know in the game right now…

The revolution will be… un-televised..?

Fairly undocumented and un-televised; underground and often illegally operated sneakerheads have formed communities within the poorest districts and societies with some of the most enthusiastic and devoted sneakerheads to resist against the powers of aristocracy to create a sense of belonging in such dangerous societies. We investigate this subversive and truly exceptional South African sneaker scene phenomenon and the impact of highly influential Western street culture on some of the poorest societies in Africa.

White Painted House in Poor Neighbourhood

Image from pexels.com (no attribution required).

Identity is important.

Born in South Africa, running around with no shoes on at all, I understand how immersive the Afrikaans culture can be and how important and inclusive communities are within poor neighbourhoods. For low income residents, it’s important to have an identity that communicates and articulates the image and energy you want to portray of yourself. For many people in these societies, who spend the majority of their income to partake in this culture, the community they’re involved with are structured like families and they are able to express themselves in like-minded societies.

Woman dressed in yellow

Image from pexels.com (no attribution required).

South African Empire.

Cape Town may house some of the richest people in South Africa, but is also home to millions living in the Cape Flats shanty towns, a symbol of the apartheid era segregating people by colour and ethnic origins. A brief look into the history of apartheid in South Africa is an indication to the cultural importance of having communities in times of suffering and hardship. The sneaker culture is an emerging and highly influential culture that provides so much for these smaller communities.

Woman in colourful clothes carrying child

Image from pexels.com (no attribution required).

The emergency exits are marked here, here and here.

Sneakers are used as a way to ‘escape’ the Cape Flats. You don’t have to be a product of your own environment. Dressing and curating your own appearance is a way people avoid turning to gangs and violence. Fashion, clothes and sneakers are a way in which you could curate status among communities where the only thing that separates you from the poverty stricken lifestyles is your appearance. This may be an ugly truth as we don’t encourage focus on our appearance but in these circumstances it allows you to join communities and escape from the Flats.

Man in White shirt standing by blue wall

Image from pexels.com (no attribution required).

How does it survive without the internet?

Resale culture is still present in South African sneaker culture, although the internet is not used as the primary source for sneakers or used at all in the culture. All deals are made in person and with cash, and that’s how most people aim to make it out the Cape Flats. Building a reputation without brandishing yourself with an online presence is difficult but is the only option for some whose only hope is to make it out, without entering gangs. This means that the internet doesn’t influence or manipulate the image of these people, giving them the freedom to construct their own images and wear what makes them feel good. This is unlike any street culture I know or have been involved in. This is something that offers so much freedom and possibility in a world dominated by the internet.

3 women in colourful outfits posing

Image from pexels.com (no attribution required).

Sneakers are the highway to escape.

Sneakers destroy barriers and make communities of people that bring together different cultures and encourage equality on the basis that they enjoy the same things. In a place with so much history of inequality, it is hugely important for newer generations of people to come together and build a stronger society. They have the mentality of ‘if you make it out of South Africa, you can make it anywhere.’

Friends laughing in a group on the street

Image from pexels.com (no attribution required).

How important is sneaker culture in communities like this?

We have to ask ourselves the question whether or not sneaker culture actually helps the cause, or if the cause is lost and masked by this culture. Is it ignorant to think everyone will make it out the Cape Flats through sneakers and it’s as simple as that? Does it benefit a greater release other than the benefit of community value and does it harbor a positive atmosphere for children and teenagers to aspire to? Does it help escape poverty or does it mask the inevitable and foreseeable future of those involved? Does it help educate children and keep them away from gang related crime and violence?

What do you think? Is sneaker culture good for poorer communities or does it push them further into poverty? Let us know in the comment section and make to check the rest of the blogs and give our Twitter follow! Much love, peace out.