Thirsty for Sneakers

Posted by Julia Rappaport on September 3, 2013

Facing History in New York, in partnership with WNYC Radio’s Radio Rookies program, helps public high school students develop digital storytelling skills through the Neighborhood to Neighborhood project. Each year, students in the program tackle complex questions about identity, race, education, and crime and violence in their communities. Using interviewing skills and multimedia tools, the students produce original visual and audio pieces. This post is the fourth in a five-part series introducing their finished pieces. Each post will include connection questions you can use in your classroom to discuss the works or to start your own project. This week: a group of teens talks about how their fashion reflects their personality. Check back next Tuesday for the final installment in our series, a look at the "English-only" movement. Follow along!

They call themselves “Sneakerheads” - teenagers who love sneakers so much they spend hundreds of dollars every season, sometimes waiting overnight to be the first to buy a limited edition pair of Jordans.

Facing History students Josh and Kyrie routinely try to convince their mothers to shell out $200-$300 for a new pair of kicks, which are walking markers of status for many teens. Facing History student Gibran finds the whole thing over the top.

Get an inside look at the world of Sneakerheads as these three Rookie Reporters investigate the shoes that are walking markers of status for many teens.

thirsty for sneakers radio rookies image


Connection Questions:

  • How do sneakers impact the narrators’ identities? What do sneakers mean to them?
  • The Rookie Reporters in this story disagreed about whether shoes with shackles attached to them looked like “slave shoes” that “were going to be marketed to African American men who would wind up walking around with chains on their ankles.” Should people have to think about the way their clothing might be perceived or about the messaging behind what they wear? Why or why not?
  • In the “sneakerhead” world, terms like “hypebeast” and “follower” are used to describe those who want to own popular sneakers because others have them. Why do you think people would want to “follow” or “conform” to others? Why would someone want the same sneakers as everyone else?
  • The story underscores sneakers (especially expensive sneakers) as a status symbol. Why would sneakers (or any material item) determine or reflect social status?
  • Rookie Reporter Kyrie says, “I feel good that most people don’t have the sneakers I have.” Why might he feel this way?
  • Do you have any clothing or accessories that you feel passionately about and that communicate something about your own identity?
  • The Rookie Reporters reflected on the economic implications of having a sneaker obsession. In response to the admission by one interviewee that he had chosen to buy sneakers instead of paying his light bill, Rookie Kyrie said, “I don’t think it’s crazy to spend all of your money on something you love, but I don't want to be like that.” Rookie Gibran chimed in, “It’s all about prioritizing, I mean, what are sneakers worth to you guys?” What do you think? Would you spend all of your money on something you love? Do you feel a responsibility to prioritize bills and other financial obligations?
  • Who else do you wish the Rookies had interviewed? What else would you like to know about the world of sneakers and “sneakerheads”?
  • All of the stories in the “Neighborhood to Neighborhood” project are available in two formats: audio only and audio-visual. Try listening to the story in both formats. How do the images (or their absence) shape the way you experience the story?
  • Why do you think the series is called “Neighborhood to Neighborhood”?
  • How might this story be different if reported by adults?

thirsty for sneakers image

How To: Create Stories Using Digital Media

The Neighborhood to Neighborhood Project was made possible by the Hive Digital Media Learning Fund in The New York Community Trust and The MacArthur Foundation.

Radio rookies logos


Check out the rest of the "Neighborhood to Neighborhood" blog series!

Topics: Art, School Culture, Media Skills, Neighborhood to Neighborhood, Facing Technology

At Facing History and Ourselves, we value conversation—in classrooms, in our professional development for educators, and online. When you comment on Facing Today, you're engaging with our worldwide community of learners, so please take care that your contributions are constructive, civil, and advance the conversation.


Welcome to Facing Today, a Facing History blog. Facing History and Ourselves combats racism and antisemitism by using history to teach tolerance in classrooms around the globe.

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