No One's Having a Better Comeback Than the Pink Sneaker
Undeniably the color of the moment.
Picture it — it’s the early aughts and you have just enough money in your Delia’s shoulder bag to splurge on a pair of sneakers. The internet is in its early stages and your exposure to sneaker releases is limited to online forums, a handful of websites and the Eastbay catalog your brother hoards with a vengeance.
Walkman in tow, you catch the bus (Uber isn’t a thing yet) to the local mall to pick up something, but of course, the Air Jordan you’ve been waiting for since it was previewed on your retro card has long sold out. Resale culture is extremely risky (think buying out of a trunk of the neighborhood bootleg movie guy) and your mom won’t let you camp out for shoes so it’s the general release wall for you.
You’re a high schooler so size-wise you’re somewhere between big kids’ and men’s sizes. A precarious spot as men’s sizes are twice the price, but big kids lack premium materials and often have a more bulbous toe shape. (It’s a little thing but it’s a big thing.)
You wander over to the women’s sneaker section, a minuscule offering scrunched between baby’s shoes and the very back of the store. Your gaze trails from floor to ceiling. Everything is pink.
Make no mistake, there has never been a time when women were not part of sneaker culture. Reduced? Restrained? Underserved? Yes. But while women’s exclusives are currently on the rise, it is an extremely late measure to put it kindly.
Back in the days of burned CDs and dial-up modems, the women’s category subscribed heavily to the “pink it and shrink it” ethos assuming if a woman wanted a t-shirt it had to be a baby tee, if a woman wanted a basketball jersey it was fitted and cropped, and if a woman wanted a pair of sneakers she most assuredly wanted them to be pink.
The relationship with pink is a strained one for Millennials specifically who had the hue forced upon them. To this day, when a female collaborator launches a silhouette in pink you can open the comments and there are bound to be complaints regarding the shade. Poor pink. Poor, poor controversial pink.
As Y2K fashion began to reemerge, along with it came a fresh perspective on color and femininity as a whole. Thanks to purveyors of pink like Tracee Ellis Ross, designers like Balenciaga and Valentino, and the introduction of Barbiecore, pink reemerged as something off-beat and cool. A hair flip in the face of season after season of neutrals.
In the world of sneakers, pink has seen a rapid increase in cool factor. On Hypebae alone, the last several footwear posts featuring pink colorways have been some of our best performers across social and editorial, including a Valentine’s Day-themed New Balance 550, hairy suede Nike Dunk High and a monochromatic Nike Dunk Low — all earning tens of thousands of upvotes from our community.
The pink sneaker wall of the early 2000s would be welcomed today by all genders, people given the choice to don the shade as opposed to the specifically young female Millennial footwear enthusiasts who had very few other options.
To quote a Neanderthalian commenter, “Women don’t know what they want.” Yes, we do. Options.