Keeping it UNreal: A Question Of Sneaker Authenticity

Is it a must to know the origins?

BY Jonathan Fong | Feb 15, 2018 | Shoes

Image by Jakob Owens

“South of Heaven!” I yelled, while throwing up devil horns in the direction of the lady wearing a Supreme x Slayer tee shirt at a recent sneaker launch event. She reciprocated with a look puzzlement and confusion, clearly unaware of the extreme thrash metal band’s catalogue of work and the relevance of Supreme reworking their graphics into a 2016 Fall/Winter capsule. Her date for the evening was rocking a pristine white (possibly ironed) “Skate and Destroy” Thrasher tee, whom I later find out a) doesn’t skate, b) has never read a copy of Thrasher and c) doesn’t know that Thrasher tees were something you’d get free when you signed up for an annual subscription

“I saw Rihanna wear this so I thought it was cool” he laughed.

In 2018, fashion is still deeply smitten with random aspects of streetwear and the associated sub-culture influences that have nourished and inspired the identity of these once cult, underground brands. Both high-end and fast fashion brands continue to “co-opt” (some might say rip off) the perceived secret sauce of cool, while the flock of social media led fashionistas to continue on the journey atop the bandwagon.

In the primitive dawn before the emergence of the internet, the popular slur “poser” was the bridle in ensuring authenticity and the importance of knowing your shit. You were compelled to seek more knowledge and information to avoid embarrassment if ever called out. 


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Decades-long Supreme collector Lewis Seah (also of Kevin Seah Black) recalls a natural, instinctive curiosity and desire to discover, rushing out to the nearest Chua Joo Huat CD shop to uncover musical references and pour over international print magazines at Tower Records. “I recently met a young kid who referred to Sade as SAGE and could not even name 3 of her songs” he laments, in reference to Supreme’s recent photo tee that featured the singer. “In a time where you can access the entire catalogue of her music literally at your fingertips, you just don’t bother?” 


Supreme Sade tee and striped logo windbreaker tracksuit 😎 @gullyguyleo @runnerwally

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To assume, however, that all who currently ride the wave of streetwear fanaticism as vapid and lazy is to be marginalizing and dismissive. Earn Chen, founder of multi-brand e-commerce platform The Salvages acknowledges the general acceptance of people wearing garments with references that they do not understand. “There are plenty of people who don’t speak a word of English but love Hip Hop” he notes, “it’s always positive to share culture even if people do not understand it.” 


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Keeping a focus on the positive might be the wisest advice. Let go of the angst you hold towards the corruption of your dearly beloved band graphics, film references, design and art! Accept things for the way they are! Move on from the negativity! The simple truth of the matter is that there are more worrying, messed-up things going on in the world right now than to sweat the authenticity of your neighbourhood fuccbois. I am certain that somewhere out there is a generation looking towards gatekeepers of cool—like Supreme—to introduce deeper cultures across realms of music, art, film and design and be inspired to discover more. The message will be received, to those who are willing to listen.